Disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexually abusing Olympic and college female gymnasts, was stabbed multiple times during an altercation with another inmate at a federal prison in Florida.
Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press the attack happened Sunday at United States Penitentiary Coleman. The people said he was in stable condition Monday.
One of the people said Nassar had been stabbed in the back and in the chest. The prison was experiencing staffing shortages and the two officers assigned to the unit where Nassar was held were working mandated overtime shifts, one of the people said.
The people were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the attack or the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.
Nassar is serving decades in prison for convictions in state and federal courts. He admitted sexually assaulting athletes when he worked at Michigan State University and at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. Separately, Nassar pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.
The federal Bureau of Prisons has experienced significant staffing shortages in the last few years, an issue thrust into the spotlight when disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein took his own life at a federal jail in New York in 2019.
An Associated Press investigation in 2021 revealed nearly one third of federal correctional officer positions were vacant nationwide, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates. The staffing shortages have hampered the response to emergencies at other prisons, including suicides.
Other AP investigations have revealed sexual abuse and criminal conduct, among other problems, at the Bureau of Prisons — the Justice Department’s largest agency, with more than 30,000 employees, 158,000 inmates and an annual budget of about $8 billion.
The bureau’s new leader, Colette Peters, was brought in last year to reform the crisis-plagued agency. She has vowed to reform archaic hiring practices and bring new transparency. But problems have persisted, as shown by the the recent suicide of Ted Kaczynski, known as the “Unabomber,″ at a federal lockup in North Carolina.
On Sunday, one of the officers in Nassar’s unit was working a third straight shift — a 16-hour day, one of the people familiar with the matter said. And the other officer was on their second straight shift, the person said.
Several athletes testified in 2018 that — over the course of Nassar’s more than two decades of sexual abuse — they had told adults, including coaches and athletic trainers, what was happening but that it went unreported.
More than 100 women, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, collectively are seeking more than $1 billion from the federal government for the FBI’s failure to stop Nassar when agents became aware of allegations against him in 2015. He was arrested by Michigan State University police in 2016, more than a year later.
The Justice Department’s inspector general said in July 2021 that the FBI made “fundamental” errors in investigating the sexual abuse allegations against Nassar and did not treat the case with the “utmost seriousness.” More athletes said they were molested before the the FBI swung into action.
The inspector general’s investigation was spurred by allegations that the FBI failed to promptly address complaints made in 2015 against Nassar. USA Gymnastics had conducted its own internal investigation, and the organization’s then-president, Stephen Penny, reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis. But it took months before the bureau opened a formal investigation.
At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. Officials at USA Gymnastics also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of inactivity from agents in Indianapolis.
The FBI acknowledged conduct that was “inexcusable and a discredit” to America’s premier law enforcement agency.
Michigan State, which was accused of missing chances over many years to stop Nassar, agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who were assaulted by him. USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee made a $380 million settlement.
In June 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected a final appeal from Nassar. Attorneys for Nassar said he was treated unfairly in 2018 and deserved a new hearing, based on vengeful remarks by a judge who called him a “monster” who would “wither” in prison like the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“I just signed your death warrant,” Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said of Nassar’s 40-year sentence.
The state Supreme Court said that Nassar’s appeal was a “close question” and that it had “concerns” over the judge’s conduct. But the court also noted that Aquilina, despite her provocative comments, stuck to the sentencing agreement worked out by lawyers in the case.
More than 150 victims spoke or submitted statements during an extraordinary seven-day hearing in Aquilina’s court more than four years ago.
“It’s over. … Almost six years after I filed the police report, it’s finally over,” said Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar.
Denhollander tweeted Monday that none of the women she spoke with are rejoicing that Nassar was attacked. “We’re grieving the reality that protecting others from him came with the near-certainty we would wake up to this someday.”