Thursday, September 16, 2021

Director Christopher Wray admits FBI botched sexual-abuse case regarding USA Gymnastics, which fits with his ties to Russia and various Alabama political thugs

USA gymnasts Simon Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Ali Raisman


The United States might soon be in need of a new FBI director after Trump nominee Christopher Wray admitted before a Senate panel yesterday that his agents failed to protect scores of female gymnasts who were victims of sexual assault at the hands of serial predator Larry Nassar. Four gymnasts testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the FBI mishandled their reports, flatly falsifying victim statements in some instances.

Wray, who has connections to the Deep South (including Alabama) was a dubious choice to lead the FBI from the beginning, considering his professional ties to Russia and to the "Alabama Gang" of right-wing bad actors, which includes former Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Wray even could have roundabout ties to Alabama's 2022 Republican Party primary for the U.S. Senate if Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) chooses to make a run, as he reportedly is considering.

Multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Riley and Wray have been chums since their time together at Yale Law School, with Riley serving as senior law journal editor in 1990-91 and Wray graduating in 1992. If Wray's directorship at the FBI turns into a scandal -- one marked by mistreatment of sexual-abuse victims -- would that be an impediment to a possible Rob Riley U.S. Senate run?

That's a probing question, given that Riley has significant ethical baggage on his own. In 2008, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined him $10,000 for his role in a campaign-finance ethics case. In 2013, Riley sought my unlawful arrest and incarceration over a civil case of alleged defamation, which received national and international news coverage for its blatant trampling of First Amendment principles. I was arrested because Riley sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, both of which have been found to be unlawful prior restraints under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. (See Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). It makes you wonder what Riley and Wray learned at Yale about constitutional law -- and if either one of them even supports a free press. Sara Rafsky, of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote an insightful analysis of Rob Riley's trampling of free-press rights and even spotlighted press statements he made that are plainly false.

As for Christopher Wray, if his FBI botched the U.S. gymnastics case, how many other cases has the bureau screwed up or ignored completely? Consider two cases of what appear to be attempted murder in the Birmingham area:

(1) The Bert Newsome vehicle crash -- In September 2020, Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome was hit head-on by a large SUV as he was engaged in litigation involving powerful corporate and legal entities -- Balch & Bingham, Alabama Power, Drummond Company -- in Alabama. From our report on the crash

The questionable ethics of the Balch Bingham law firm have been unmasked for the public, most prominently in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery case; perhaps most stunningly in the head-on vehicle crash that nearly claimed the life of attorney Burt Newsome, a recent courtroom adversary of Balch and its clients (Alabama Power, Drummond Company).

Evidence from the scene suggests the crash might have been staged, perhaps designed to intimidate, injure, or even kill Newsome. He did, in fact, sustain grave injuries, but is recovering from emergency trauma surgery and has even made a few trips to the office. 

[We invite you to check the crash-scene photo (below) and note the SUV's wheels are turned sharply right, directly into the driver's compartment of Newsome's vehicle; a similar turn to the left might have missed the Newsome car altogether, or at least, placed the impact on the passenger's compartment, which was vacant. Does this mean the SUV driver meant to hit not only Newsome's car, but the area where Newsome was seated?]

Two big questions: If the incident was staged, who staged it? Why was a Norfolk Southern employee driving the SUV, many miles from the company's local HQ in Irondale? We do not have the answers at this time.

(2) The shooting into David Roberson's vehicle on U.S. 280 -- In late February 2021, former Drummond executive David Roberson was driving south on 280 when someone fired a shot into his vehicle. From our report on the incident

The plaintiff in a $75-million lawsuit against Drummond Company and the Balch Bingham law firm was driving south on U.S. 280 near Birmingham on Friday when someone fired a shot into his vehicle.

Former Drummond executive David Roberson escaped shaken, but apparently unharmed. Details about the incident are scarce at the moment, but Roberson reported it to law enforcement. This marks the second time someone connected to the lawsuit has met with violence that apparently was designed to intimidate, severely injure, or kill. Burt Newsome, attorney for Roberson and his wife Anna, was hit head-on in a crash where the driver of an SUV appeared to veer directly into Newsome's Volkswagen Jetta. Newsome sustained a broken leg, which required insertion of a titanium rod during trauma surgery at UAB, along with other injuries.

Our research indicates that Christopher Wray's FBI has shown little or no interest in either case -- and the same goes for local law enforcement. Why? The USA Gymnastics case indicates Wray's FBI doesn't take much of anything seriously -- even child sexual abuse, of girls who went on to become athletes with world-class skills. From a report at Axios

Before a rarely unified Senate panel, the head of the FBI apologized for his agents failing to protect scores of U.S. gymnasts who were victims of sexual assault. 

"I am deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you," said Director Christopher Wray.

Four gymnasts — McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols — testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and detailed how the FBI mishandled their reports.

  • Maroney said the FBI "chose to lie about what" she said about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar and "protect a serial child molester rather than protect, not only me, but countless others."
  • Raisman said agents told her "to keep" her reports "confidential and not tell anyone."
  • Biles also blamed "an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”

The bottom line: "I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed," Wray told the victims. 

Nassar is serving 40–175 years in prison. The FBI fired an agent accused of failing to properly investigate the sexual assault allegations, Wray said.

That Wray's FBI has proven to be incompetent and crooked should be no surprise to those who know about the director's previous associations, including those in Alabama. We will address those in upcoming posts.

(To be continued)


Burt Newsome crash scene


Anonymous said...

I thought FBI agents were supposed to be professionals. Guess not.

Anonymous said...

This was maybe the most gross sexual abuse of young females in our nation's history. If you can't take that seriously, what do you take seriously?

Anonymous said...

Is the Senate going to be satisfied with Wray's "Mr. Clueless" routine? Is Biden paying attention?

legalschnauzer said...

If Wray doesn't have an answer for such a serious problem, maybe the FBI needs new leadership.

Anonymous said...

No wonder Simone Biles is struggling with mental health problems. She's been through a horrible trauma. It's a wonder she can perform at all.

legalschnauzer said...

From NPR: Headline --

Gymnasts Blast The FBI's Mishandling Of Their Allegations About Larry Nassar

In vivid and emotional testimony at a Senate hearing Wednesday, four elite American gymnasts testified about the abuse they had suffered by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and their feelings of betrayal by investigators, including from the FBI which they say let them down.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles tearfully said she blames Nassar and also "an entire system that allowed his abuse," including USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

"The scars of this horrific abuse continue," Biles testified, saying that "the impact of this man's abuse will never be over."

legalschnauzer said...

More from NPR --

McKayla Maroney said Nassar "turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor."

She recalled sitting on her bedroom floor in 2015 telling the FBI on the phone "all of my molestations in extreme detail." She said that after describing instances of abuse by Nassar, including before her winning the team gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012, "I cried, and there was just silence" on the part of the FBI agent.

She said the FBI then falsified her statement, said the agents involved should be indicted and criticized Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for not appearing at the hearing.

"I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing," Maroney said.

Advocates for the women say as many as 120 athletes may have been abused by Nassar after the FBI first heard of the charges against him.

The Justice Department has not brought charges against either of the former FBI agents most closely involved in the case. The FBI fired Special Agent Michael Langeman in the last two weeks, FBI Director Christopher Wray later told the panel. Langeman's supervisor, Jay Abbott, previously resigned.

legalschnauzer said...

More from NPR:

Aly Raisman, also a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, called for an investigation of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. She said the victims of Nassar's abuse have "been treated like adversaries."

Raisman said that all she and her fellow gymnasts are asking for "is when a child goes to gymnastics or goes to school or does anything that they can be spared abuse." She told the panel, "We've been victim-shamed online over and over again."

She said that the FBI "made me feel my abuse didn't count." She recalled sitting with an FBI agent and him "trying to convince me that it wasn't that bad."

Raisman said that it took her "years of therapy to realize my abuse was bad, that it does matter."

She later added that "all we needed was for one adult to do the right thing."

legalschnauzer said...

NPR (cont.)

In his opening statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin, D-Ill., called the FBI's handling of the case "a stain on the bureau."

"In the 15-month period that FBI officials shirked their responsibility, Nassar abused at least 70 young athletes," Durbin said. "For many of them, this was a continuation, but for others they were abused for the first time while the FBI sat on the case."

The four who testified Wednesday, including Maggie Nichols — who was the first to report Nassar's abuse to USA gymnastics in 2015 — are among hundreds of women and girls who said Nassar sexually abused them while claiming he was treating them. Nassar, who is serving an effective life sentence in prison, has admitted to abusing girls and women who were receiving treatment from him.

The panel also heard from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who in a recent report found that the bureau failed to investigate the abuse charges against Nassar adequately.

The July report by the inspector general's office found that senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis field office failed to respond to allegations of sexual abuse of athletes by Nassar "with the urgency that the allegations required." The inspector general said the Indianapolis field office also "made fundamental errors when it did respond to the allegations" by failing to notify the appropriate FBI field office in Lansing, Mich., where Nassar was employed by Michigan State University, or state or local authorities of the allegations, and "failed to take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar."

legalschnauzer said...

In Jan. 2021, Biden said he intends to keep Wray on as FBI director. In light of this latest information, Biden might want to reconsider that. From NPR:

Christopher Wray is staying at the helm of the FBI.

Less than 24 hours after President Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki, generated speculation about Wray's future after giving a noncommittal response when asked whether Biden had confidence in the FBI director, Psaki made clear that Wray will remain at his post.

"I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday so [I] wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray on in his role and he has confidence in the job he is doing," Psaki wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Wray, a low-key lawyer and former Justice Department official, is less than four years into his 10-year term atop the FBI. He was hand-picked by former President Donald Trump to lead the bureau after Trump fired James Comey.

But Wray quickly fell out of favor with Trump, who considered him disloyal and frequently speculated about firing him.

Trump and his allies attacked Wray for what they perceived as his unwillingness to root out alleged bad actors within the FBI.

Wray also infuriated Trump and his inner circle during the 2020 presidential race for refuting Trump's false claims about voter fraud, and for reiterating that Russia was interfering in the contest to try to hurt then-candidate Biden.

Since he took over the bureau in August 2017, Wray has tried to remove the FBI from Washington's bruising political fights.

In public statements and congressional testimony, he defended the integrity of the bureau and its employees. If mistakes were made, he said, they would be addressed and corrected.

He also defended the special counsel's Russia investigation, repeatedly saying it was not a "witch hunt," as Trump called it.

Internally, he reminded FBI personnel to "keep calm and tackle hard," and stressed that the bureau and its 35,000 employees must do everything by the book.

That earned Wray the respect and support of those who work for the bureau.

The FBI Agents Association, which represents more than 14,000 active and retired special agents, released letters the week before the election to both Trump and Biden, urging them to let Wray finish his 10-year term as director.