Report: Detective’s contact with USA Gymnastics not a breach

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An internal Indianapolis police investigation has determined a detective didn’t violate department policies by working with USA Gymnastics’ former chief executive to deflect criticism of the organization’s child abuse reporting policies.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department conducted a months-long probe into the actions of Lt. Bruce Smith, the Indianapolis Star reported. The police supervisor, an acquaintance of ex-USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, formerly ran the department’s Child Abuse Unit.

Aliya Wishner, an IMPD spokeswoman, called the internal affairs probe “detailed,” but noted investigators were “unsuccessful in obtaining all of the statements sought in this instance due to the unwillingness of external individuals with knowledge of the situation to cooperate with the investigation, as well as indictments in other jurisdictions.”

“Absent additional information, Internal Affairs found no violation of IMPD policy or procedure,” Wishner said.

Penny, who resigned as CEO in 2017, was indicted last year in Texas and accused of ordering the removal of documents related to former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s activities at Karolyi Ranch, the elite national team training center near Huntsville, Texas. Penny has pleaded not guilty.

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in 2018 after hundreds of girls and women said he molested them during treatment.

IMPD Chief Brian Roach ordered the internal affairs probe after the newspaper revealed the possible collaboration between Smith and Penny in November.

The U.S. Olympic Committee commissioned a report in December showing Smith and Penny conversed throughout the summer of 2016. Penny contacted Smith for his help to “kill the story,” according to the report. One text message stated: “We need to body slam the other sources.”

Emails the newspaper obtained from IMPD through a public records request revealed that Smith wrote a press release defending USA Gymnastics, and sent it to Penny for review and recommendations. Smith also helped a Virginia attorney USA Gymnastics had hired to combat undesirable media coverage. IMPD never officially published the release.

These discussions happened around the time Smith contacted the newspaper’s reporters via text before their first USA Gymnastics story appeared in 2016. In the text, Smith said the journalists were “barking up the wrong tree.” He also dismissed one of their sources as “disgruntled.”

Facing dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in December.

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