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US justice department to pay abuse survivors $138m

The US justice department will pay $138.7m (£110m) to survivors of disgraced national gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

In a 2022 lawsuit, some of Nassar’s victims alleged that the FBI mishandled credible complaints of sexual assaults and failed to take them seriously.

The 139 claimants included US Olympic gymnastics gold medallists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney.

Nassar is currently serving up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault.

In 2021, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, which serves as a watchdog for the FBI, concluded that the agency disregarded allegations about Nassar and made a raft of errors.

The FBI investigation into Nassar began in 2015, but the inspector found mistakes in the inquiry, including a failure to formally document meeting with USA Gymnastics officials after they concluded their own five-week internal probe into Nassar’s behaviour. It also cited a failure to contact state and local authorities about the potential risk he continued to pose to athletes.

Nassar continued to see patients for over a year after allegations against him were first made to the FBI.

Most of the claimants in the lawsuit said they were assaulted after Nassar’s abuse was first reported in 2015. The majority were athletes with the USA Gymnastics programme or with Michigan State University, where Nassar maintained a clinic.

“For decades, Lawrence Nassar abused his position, betraying the trust of those under his care and medical supervision while skirting accountability,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C Mizer in a statement announcing the settlement – among the largest in DOJ history – on Tuesday.

“These allegations should have been taken seriously from the outset,” Mr Mizer said. “While these settlements won’t undo the harm Nassar inflicted, our hope is that they will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing.”

In a 2022 statement, Ms Maroney said that Nassar’s victims were “betrayed by every institution that was supposed to protect us – the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, the FBI and the Department of Justice.”

“It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process,” she added.

In total, legal pay-outs stemming from Nassar’s actions and their aftermath have totalled more than $1bn.

Those payments included a $500m settlement between Michigan State and hundreds of survivors in 2018, as well as a $380m settlement with athletes from USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

In 2021, FBI Director Christopher Wray apologised to the athletes. The FBI also fired one of their agents involved in the investigation.

In total, more than 330 women accused Nassar of sexual abuse. He is serving up to 175 years for various sexual assault convictions, and others relating to images of child sex abuse.

Nassar was stabbed by another inmate at a Florida prison last year, narrowly escaping with his life only after correctional officers provided medical assistance.

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