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Former USA Gymnastics CEO pleads Fifth at hearing

Former USA Gymnastics CEO pleads Fifth at hearing
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Former USA Gymnastics President and CEO Steve Penny on Tuesday invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify at a Senate subcommittee hearing about the sexual abuse of young Olympic athletes.

Penny held the top post in the organization during a period when former USA Olympics doctor Larry Nassar allegedly assaulted hundreds of women and girls.

Penny declined to participate in the hearing voluntarily but was subpoenaed by the committee last week. 

Before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security on Tuesday, Penny sat among the audience and declined to answer questions.

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“I have been instructed by my attorney to assert my right to the Fifth Amendment,” Penny said six times in response to questions from lawmakers. 

The panel's chairman, Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) Moran'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Electoral College fight splits GOP as opposition grows to election challenge Hillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation MORE (R-Kan.), asked if he would continue to plead the Fifth in response to future questions.

“Yes,” Penny said. 

Moran then excused Penny, who immediately left the room with his attorney.

A former gymnast who has also alleged abuse, Amy Compton, yelled "shame!" as Penny left the hearing.

Penny’s exit followed an opening statement from former USA Gymnastics Women’s Program Director Rhonda Faehn, who said she reported allegations of Nassar’s misconduct to Penny. Faehn alleged that Penny did not contact the proper authorities. 

“Each time I immediately reported these incidents, I was told by Penny to not say anything to anyone for fear of possibly impeding any investigation of Nassar,” she said.

Faehn teared up when she talked about Nassar’s victims.

“[Their] concerns should have been reported to law enforcement at the earliest possible moment, as I assumed was being done at the time,” Faehn said. 

Penny allegedly waited over a month before taking gymnasts’ reports about Larry Nassar to police, did not notify Michigan State University about Nassar’s sexual abuse, and instructed the gymnasts not to talk about their allegations.

An email from Penny submitted to the congressional committee shows him instructing board members and USA Gymnastics officials not to tell anyone about allegations against Nassar. 

"You are instructed not to have any conversations with anyone concerning this issue until further notice," Penny wrote in a July 21, 2015, email. He did not report Nassar to the FBI until July 27.

"Mr. Penny declined to testify before the subcommittee while the matters that attempt to wrongly shift blame for Nassar's crimes remain open," Penny's attorney Robert Bittman said in a statement.

Penny stepped down from his position at USA Gymnastics last year with a $1 million severance package. 

Faehn was testifying alongside former President of Michigan State University Lou Simon, who has also been accused of mishandling allegations about Nassar's sexual abuse.

National team coordinator of USA Gymnastics Martha Karolyi and former CEO of the US Olympic Committee Scott Blackmun could not attend the hearing due to medical concerns but both submitted testimony.

--Updated at 5:17 p.m.