Attorney: Ex-USA Gymnastics head didn’t know of indictment

Ryan Tarinelli
Associated Press
In this Tuesday, June 5, 2018, file photo, former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny invokes his right under the Fifth Amendment not to answer questions during a Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill in Washington. In a statement late Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, the Walker County district attorney's office in Huntsville, Texas, said that Penny has been arrested after a Texas grand jury indicted him, alleging he tampered with evidence in the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Penny now awaits extradition to Texas.

Dallas – Former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny was arrested while in Tennessee on a family vacation, unaware a Texas grand jury had indicted him for allegedly tampering with evidence in the sexual assault investigation of imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, an attorney for the former top official said Thursday.

The Walker County district attorney’s office says Penny was arrested Wednesday by a fugitive task force after the Sept. 28 indictment. Penny’s attorney, Edith Matthai, said in a statement that her client was arrested at a vacation cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, while he was with his wife and three children.

Penny, who was named the organization’s president in 2005 and resigned under pressure in March 2017, awaits extradition to Texas and was listed on a Tennessee jail roster Thursday afternoon.

Matthai said authorities made no attempts to order Penny to Texas before the arrest.

“If Mr. Penny had any idea he was sought in Texas this would have been appropriately handled through counsel without terrifying his family,” she wrote in the statement.

The attorney added that Penny is “confident that when all the facts are known it will be shown that he did nothing criminal.”

The indictment alleges Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch near Huntsville relating to Nassar’s activities there. It alleges Penny acted after learning that Texas Rangers and Walker County authorities were investigating the ranch, which was being managed by USA Gymnastics.

The documents were delivered to Penny at the USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis, according to the indictment. Authorities have not recovered them.

Investigators do not know whether the documents were destroyed, Walker County prosecutor Stephanie Stroud said Thursday. She declined to comment on the nature of the documents.

More than 250 women and girls say Nassar, who worked for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical treatment. He’s now serving up to 175 years in prison for molesting women and girls and possessing child pornography.

In June, Nassar was charged with sexually assaulting six minors in Walker County.

A former sports medicine trainer, Debra Van Horn, was also indicted in Walker County on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Prosecutors said Van Horn was charged as “acting as a party” with Nassar.

Numerous other people have been criminally charged, fired or forced out of their jobs during the investigations into Nassar.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement that it has “fully cooperated” with investigations from Congress and Texas. The organization said it would continue to do so “to help the survivors and our community heal from this tragedy.”

Angela Povilaitis, former Michigan assistant attorney general who led the case against Nassar in the state, posted on Twitter that Penny’s arrest was “long-awaited & welcomed news” for victims.

“Steve Penny put money & medals over child protection,” she wrote. “When he had the opportunity, he did not do the right thing.”