An Indianapolis attorney with a background in child abuse and sex offense litigation has been selected to conduct a review of USA Gymnastics’ policies and procedures for reporting and responding to allegations of sexual misconduct.
USA Gymnastics announced Thursday that Krieg DeVault LLP managing partner Deborah Daniels would lead the independent review of the organization’s sexual abuse reporting practices after it came under fire for allegedly covering up allegations of abuse against its gymnasts.
A media investigation revealed in August that USA Gymnastics, an Indianapolis-based organization, had failed to report complaints of improper conduct toward young gymnasts by more than 50 coaches between 1996 and 2006. USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny had said in 2015 that he believed there was no duty to report the allegations unless they came directly from the victims or their parents.
Last month, a lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles accusing Dr. Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor, of repeated sexual abuse, and also alleging that husband-and-wife coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi had intentionally ignored alleged molestations.
Daniels’ independent review will take a closer look at the gymnastics organization’s bylaws, policies, procedures and practices related to handling sexual misconduct matters and will also include consultations with experts in law enforcement, child welfare and the gymnastics community, as well as state and local officials.
“Deborah’s background makes her the right choice to lead this important effort because the well-being of our athletes is paramount,” USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny said in a statement released by the organization. “We believe Deborah’s review of our current practices against today’s standards in this critical area, coupled with interviewing members of the gymnastics community and authorities in related areas, will generate recommendations on what needs refinement to further promote athlete safety.”
Formerly a U.S. Attorney and U.S. Assistant Attorney General, Daniels’ background includes work related to the prevention and prosecution of child abuse for the U.S. Department of Justice. She also served as the first National Amber Alert coordinator.
In Indiana, Daniels supervised the sex offense and child abuse units as chief counsel in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. She has also been featured as a keynote speaker at the National Conference on Human Trafficking.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of all athletes and young people,” Daniels said in a statement. “This evaluation is intended to review and strengthen the existing USA Gymnastics process, in addition to likely yielding important insights for other youth-serving organizations.”
After her review, Daniels will make a final recommendation to the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.