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The FBI Agents Who Halfassed the USA Gymnastics Abuse Case Belong in Jail With Larry Nassar

Graeme Jennings. Shutterstock Images.

Investigating crimes is hard. Law enforcement officers are human beings and therefore fallible. Even when they've got the full resources of the federal government at their disposal. 

Sometimes you can't solve a case. Sometimes there's not enough evidence and a trail goes cold. Sometimes the same rights to probable cause and due process that all individuals are entitled to act as a shield for the actual wrongdoers. Unfortunately the price you pay for living in a free society sometimes involves bad people get away with doing bad things. Despite the best effort by those sworn to protect, to serve, and to uphold the law. 

But sometimes the reason the perps get away is just straight up incompetence. Or worse. 

Take the case of Team USA gymnastics, and the congressional hearings. The testimony from the gymnasts who were repeatedly and systematically sexually assaulted should have everyone in the country seething with rage. Not just because trainer Larry Nassar is a sadistic pedophile - that's old news - but for the way the FBI botched this thing. Or perhaps were complicit in the coverup. 

Source - The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing centered on a Justice Department report, released this summer, that found the FBI had botched its investigation into Larry Nassar. … The four gymnasts who testified Wednesday—Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman—have all said that they were abused by Nassar.

“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing,” Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, told the senators. …”

Maroney, who is not named in the report, spoke with a FBI agent about her experience with Nassar, but that agent didn’t properly follow up, according to the report. More than a year after speaking with Maroney, the agent drafted a summary of her interview that included statements she did not make, per the report

Then there was Aly Raisman's testimony, which was even more direct. And she named names. 

Her testimony (via CBS Boston):

 • The FBI failed to interview pertinent parties in a timely manner. It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them.
• The records established that [CEO of USA Gymnastics] Steve Penny, FBI agent Jay Abbott and their subordinates worked to conceal Nassar’s crimes. …
• I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar’s plea deal. The agent diminished the significance of my abuse and made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing.
Special agent in charge of investigating Nassar met Steve Penny for beers to discuss job opportunities in the Olympic movement.
• Another FBI agent worked with Steve Penny to determine jurisdiction without interviewing the survivors.
• I’ve watched multiple high ranking officials at USAG, USOPC, and the FBI, resign or “retire” without explanation of how they may have contributed to the problem, some of whom were publicly thanked for their service and rewarded with severance or bonus money.

I highlighted those two passages because they are the most damning. That's beyond incompetence. At best it's gross negligence. At worst it's straight up the filthiest kind of corruption. It's the 21st century. Nobody tanks an investigation by bribing the investigator with a suitcase filled with unmarked bills any more. You do it with a job offer. And in Washington, it's a tradition that goes back centuries. The Kennedys were legendary for getting cushy jobs for low-level law enforcement operatives who miraculously couldn't crack the cases of their various crimes, misdemeanors, as sex scandals. And just as importantly, kept them out of the papers. 

If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that there's a ton of money to be made in "amateur sports." And by that I mean the sports where no one is participating for no money besides the athletes. Money equals power. The kind of power that can make a federal agent bow to the will of the guy overseeing the very operation the fed is supposed to be investigating. Imagine for a hot second an EPA agent looking into a company dumping chemicals into a town's water supply having beers with the CEO to talk about a job. While another sits down with him "to determine jurisdiction" without ever interviewing any of the families who just gave birth to three-headed babies or whatever. It's unimaginable in a system where integrity matters and the protection of these athletes is the top priority. 

Again, you can understand if they'd turned over every stone and couldn't make a case. Even incompetence could be somewhat forgivable. Though from Barney Fife to "Super Troopers" to "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," there's a tradition of bumbling idiots still managing to crack cases. This feels like something far, far more insidious. Powerful assholes who don't want to see their cash cow sent to the slaughterhouse, so they say to the investigators, "Working for the FBI must be a real grind, huh? Going through all those phone records and documents trying to catch some white collar crooks. YAWN, amirite? You know, once this silly little molestation thing is cleared up, we could really use a guy like you on the Olympic Committee. …" And you shudder to think how many more sessions on Nassar's training table these gymnasts - these girls - would've saved from if the adults did the simple, decent, moral and human thing instead of trying to get rich at their expense. There's not a prison nasty enough, with walls high enough, or a hole deep enough to throw them into.