An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.
Michael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.
A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his former boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.
At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.
Langeman declined to comment on Tuesday, as did the FBI and the inspector general’s office.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, who became director after the FBI bungled the Nassar case, is due to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to answer questions about the investigation. He has already pledged to make significant changes to how agents pursue investigations involving sex crimes against children.
Wednesday’s hearing will include what is expected to be emotional testimony from four current or former gymnasts: Biles, Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, all of whom say Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when they were girls and he worked as a doctor for elite athletes.
Biles, the world’s most accomplished gymnast, won a bronze medal in balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics this summer but withdrew from most of the competition, citing mental duress.
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John Manly, a lawyer who represents many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the agent’s firing “long overdue,” but added, “I can’t help but wonder if this is because of the Senate hearing, and the timing seems cynical.”
Manly argued that everyone who participated “in what we believe is a conspiracy by the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the Olympic committee to suppress the Nassar investigation should be criminally charged. The fact that Mr. Langeman perjured himself and lied to investigators, both of which are crimes, sends a message to others at the FBI that you can get away with it.”
A person familiar with Wray’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said Wray is outraged by the handling of the Nassar case, “and wants to make clear that this is in no way acceptable, should not have happened, will not happen again, and is not reflective of the agency. Accountability is important to him, and he wants employees to know that they will be held accountable for misconduct.”
The inspector general’s report found “numerous and fundamental errors” in the FBI’s handling of the case, that agents violated multiple FBI policies, and that the Indianapolis office never opened an investigation or assessment of Nassar when the allegations were brought to them.
The report found that although the supervisory special agent interviewed a gymnast in 2015 about her claims of Nassar’s abuse, he did not write up a formal report of that interview, known as a “302,” until 17 months later. Maroney’s lawyer has said even that report is fundamentally inaccurate.
Nassar was arrested by authorities in Michigan in late 2016. The report found that in the time between the FBI being alerted to the allegations and his eventual arrest, Nassar went on to abuse about 70 more victims, though lawyers for those victims say the figure is more like 120.
Horowitz also found that while the FBI was dealing with the Nassar allegations in late 2015, the head of the bureau’s Indianapolis office, Abbott, talked to Stephen Penny, then-president of USA Gymnastics, about getting Abbott a job with the Olympic Committee.
The inspector general said Abbott applied for the job but did not get it, and when confronted later, falsely claimed he never applied. Abbott retired from the FBI amid the internal investigation. Both he and Langeman lied to the inspector general agents about their roles in the Nassar case, according to Horowitz’s report, but Justice Department officials declined to prosecute them for false statements.
The internal review of the FBI’s handling of the initial allegations against Nassar was launched in 2018, after Nassar — who also was a doctor at Michigan State University — was sentenced to decades in prison on state charges. He is in federal prison in Florida, serving a 60-year term for child pornography crimes. The Post reported this summer that Federal Bureau of Prisons officials allowed Nassar to spend more than $10,000 on himself while paying only $300 of the more than $60,000 he owes to victims.