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The FBI mishandled Larry Nassar's case. Now the DOJ is focusing on victim support

United States gymnasts Kaylee Lorincz and Simone Biles hug after a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation on Sept. 15, 2021.
Saul Loeb
/
Pool/AP
United States gymnasts Kaylee Lorincz and Simone Biles hug after a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar investigation on Sept. 15, 2021.

The Justice Department is directing prosecutors to coordinate with state and local authorities in cases where federal charges won't be brought, part of a broad new push to support crime victims.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco outlined the new steps in a pair of memos Friday, days before she's scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. President Biden has called that law one of the most important legislative achievements in his long Senate career, and Monaco worked on the legislation as a young staffer before she attended law school.

"When considering whether to initiate federal criminal charges, we must never forget the people who put their trust in the Department to keep them safe," Monaco wrote. "Preventing violence or harm must be our top priority. Nowhere is this obligation more important than when vulnerable populations — including minors — are at risk."

The memo follows blistering criticism of the FBI for failing to do more to investigate disgraced former physician Larry Nassar, who sexually abused Olympic gymnasts and hundreds of other girls and young women before he was convicted and sentenced to decades behind bars. The Justice Department's Inspector General concluded that Nassar abused at least 70 victims after the FBI first received reports but failed to act promptly or to flag the concerns for local law enforcement authorities in Michigan.

Gymnast McKayla Maroney told senators last month that after she poured her heart out to an FBI interviewer about her abuse by Nassar, including details she had not shared with her parents, the agent replied, "Is that all?"

In a second memo, Monaco announced she would relaunch a working group for crime victims and update attorney general guidelines for victim and witness assistance, which she said have not had a comprehensive overhaul in a decade. She asked for recommendations within 120 days.

"The Department is committed to protecting crime victims' rights and treating victims and witnesses with respect in all of our interactions," Monaco wrote.

Early Friday, Monaco, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta attended a virtual listening session with members of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

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