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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Justice Department Nears $100 Million Settlement in Nassar Case

The Justice Department is on the brink of finalizing a settlement nearing $100 million over its initial failure to investigate Lawrence G. Nassar, the former U.S.A. Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing girls under his care, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Expected to be announced in the coming weeks, the settlement would mark the conclusion of one of the last major legal battles stemming from a harrowing sports scandal that victimized around 100 individuals.

The imminent settlement comes two and a half years after senior F.B.I. officials publicly acknowledged the bureau’s failure to promptly respond to complaints about Nassar in 2015, when he was a revered physician renowned for his work with Olympians and college athletes. Nassar has faced accusations of abusing over 150 women and girls throughout his career.

While the broad parameters of the settlement have been outlined, finalization is pending, as per several sources familiar with the ongoing negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier reports on the details of the settlement were first covered by The Wall Street Journal.

This settlement would be the latest in a series of substantial payouts reflecting institutional failures to safeguard hundreds of athletes, including renowned Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman, from Nassar’s predatory behavior disguised as medical treatment.

In 2018, Michigan State University, Nassar’s former employer, established a victim compensation fund and paid over $500 million, marking one of the largest settlements by a university in a sexual abuse case. Three years later, U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee agreed to a $380 million settlement.

Many of Nassar’s victims have grappled with severe mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, with some attempting suicide as a result of the abuse they endured.

A 2021 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general highlighted significant shortcomings within the F.B.I.’s Indianapolis field office, where officials failed to address the allegations with the urgency they warranted. The investigation only gained momentum after media coverage shed light on Nassar’s abuses.

Former members of the national gymnastics team delivered poignant testimony, recounting how the F.B.I. disregarded Nassar’s abuse while the investigation languished, leaving children to suffer. Some, like Aly Raisman, criticized the bureau for its sluggish response even after being presented with damning evidence.

In response to these revelations, F.B.I. Director Christopher A. Wray issued a heartfelt apology, expressing regret for the repeated failures that allowed Nassar’s abuse to persist. He vowed to take measures to prevent such oversights from occurring again.

The pending settlement is one of several the Justice Department has reached in recent years, including compensations for victims of mass shootings. Families affected by the 2017 church shooting in Texas received $144.5 million, while those impacted by the Parkland, Florida shooting were granted $127.5 million.

Currently serving a 60-year sentence in a federal prison in Florida, Nassar survived a stabbing incident by another inmate in July, resulting in a collapsed lung. Despite his injuries, Nassar remains incarcerated.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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