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More abused gymnasts are suing the FBI over its handling of Nassar

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and about 100 others were sexually abused by former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Now they're seeking more than $1 billion in damages from the Department of Justice. They claim the FBI's failure to properly investigate Nassar seven years ago allowed his abuse to continue for more than a year. Michigan Radio's Kate Wells reports.

KATE WELLS, BYLINE: If it feels like the Nassar case never ends, you should try being Kaylee Lorincz.

KAYLEE LORINCZ: I still feel like we're living in this, like, nightmare. Is this seriously still, like, happening?

WELLS: Lorincz is 23 now. But this started for her as a 13-year-old girl doing gymnastics in Michigan. That was when Nassar began sexually abusing her under the guise of medical treatment. Her last appointment with him was when she was a junior in high school. She doesn't even have to look up the date.

LORINCZ: February 2 of 2016 - that was a year after the FBI had already knew in 2015.

WELLS: Here is what the FBI knew in 2015. USA Gymnastics had already reached out to the FBI field office in Indianapolis, where USAG is based. They said three USA gymnasts may have been sexually abused by the team's doctor, Larry Nassar, when they were underage girls. But the agents in Indianapolis barely investigated. They didn't even interview all the victims. Their entire investigation amounted to some emails and eight pages of notes, according to the Office of the Inspector General. Then the Indianapolis field office told USA Gymnastics that they would refer the case to Michigan. But that never happened either.

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CHRISTOPHER WRAY: People who engage in that kind of gross misconduct have no place in the FBI.

WELLS: That's FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before Congress last year about the FBI's mishandling of the case. Because the FBI didn't stop him, Nassar was able to keep abusing an estimated 100 women and girls for more than a year before his eventual arrest. Director Wray apologized to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WRAY: And I'm especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we're doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.

WELLS: The former FBI agents involved in the case are not going to be criminally prosecuted. But these new claims are happening in the federal government's version of civil court, where claimants have to prove that they have suffered because of a federal employee's negligence. A small group of about 13 survivors filed a claim in April, and now roughly 100 others are doing the same, seeking total damages of more than a billion dollars. A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on today's filing. But for those like Kaylee Lorincz, it's one more fight in what feels like a never-ending battle.

LORINCZ: My dad literally said it to me this morning. It was like, why? Why put yourself through this again?

WELLS: She knows people hear $1 billion and they think that's the motivation here. But Kaylee says this has been years of her life - through high school, college, young adulthood - that have been defined by this.

LORINCZ: This can't happen again. And if people aren't held accountable for it, whether there's money involved or not, it will keep happening because people can get away with it. And if we don't do something, more little girls and little boys will continue to get hurt.

WELLS: It is one thing to hold big public hearings or have an investigation or even get an apology and promises of reform. But Kaylee Lorincz and others feel this may be their best option to try to make that change happen, even at the FBI.

For NPR News, I'm Kate Wells in Michigan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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