Ex-USA Gymnastics president reportedly sought 'cover' from FBI during Nassar sexual assault probe

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A day after former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny was arrested for tampering with evidence in the investigation of now-imprisoned team doctor Larry Nassar, The New York Times reports that Penny also asked the FBI for "cover" amid the scandal.

 According to The Times' Serge F. Kovaleski and Juliet Macur, Penny, a longtime veteran of USA Gymnastics administration, "sought to cultivate a close relationship with federal investigators, going so far as to ask for their recommendations on the wording of public statements about the investigation." He reportedly wrote in one email, "We need some cover," and even "discussed the possibility of a top security job at the United States Olympic Committee with" an FBI agent investigating Nassar.

Penny resigned in March 2017, less than a year after suggesting his organization "was not obligated to report allegations of sexual misconduct by coaches to authorities," as The Indianapolis Star reported. On Wednesday, per CBS News, he was "arrested by a fugitive task force in Tennessee and awaits extradition to Texas" after a grand jury indicted him on allegations of removing documents relating to Nassar's activities at USA Gymnastics' Karolyi Ranch.

According to the Times, Penny also made efforts to gain a helping hand from the FBI during the investigation of Nassar, who was sentenced to life in prison for his serial sexual abuse of underage girls and young women while serving as team doctor for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics athletes.

... the discussion about the security job points to the aggressive efforts Mr. Penny made to develop close relations with investigators and preserve the image of an organization as it drowned in scandal, an effort that becomes clear in a series of emails between Mr. Penny and F.B.I. employees.

Penny's lawyer, Edith R. Matthai, is quoted in the Times story and denies any "conflict of interest" between Penny and FBI agents. The report also notes that most of the emails between Penny and the FBI "were copied to several other F.B.I. officials and a lawyer representing U.S.A. Gymnastics" during communications about the investigation and how USA Gymnastics might proceed from a public-relations standpoint.

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