The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 20, 2021 1:00 am

Reporters uncover FBI failures

News of the Indianapolis FBI office's failure to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is a reminder of the vital watchdog role of local newspapers. Where law enforcement failed, investigative journalists at the Indianapolis Star pulled through.

Nassar is serving a sentence of more than 100 years after pleading guilty to federal child pornography crimes and sexual assault. More than 330 girls and women accused him of sexual abuse, often committed during a medical exam.

Now we have learned the accusations of abuse were first made in 2015, but the FBI did not follow through. According to a report released last week by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice, W. Jay Abbott, then the agent in charge of the Indianapolis office, and another unnamed agent made false statements and omitted key information in a 2017 report. They later lied to investigators looking into the report, with the agent in charge providing false information to cover for errors made by his field office.

Abbott also violated ethics guidelines by negotiating for a job with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee during the investigation.

An investigation by Indianapolis Star reporters Mark Alesia, Tim Evans and Marisa Kwiatkowski published in September 2016 finally exposed the sexual abuse allegations. But Nassar had continued to work with athletes for more than a year as the FBI investigation languished. Seventy or more young gymnasts were allegedly abused during that time.

The FBI's failure is as stunning as the first-rate investigative journalism that finally exposed Nassar.

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required