Former USA Gymnastics president arrested, accused of tampering with evidence in Nassar investigation

By Phil Archer - Reporter, Cory McCord - Digital News Editor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The former president of USA Gymnastics is in the custody of the U.S. marshals in Tennessee and awaiting extradition to Walker County.

Steve Penny was arrested Wednesday, according to the United States Department of Justice, ending a three-week, multi-state manhunt.

Penny is accused of tampering with evidence during the investigation of sexual assault allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar, the former team doctor.

“Deputy U.S. Marshals and task force officers from the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District (of) Tennessee worked tirelessly to locate Penny,” stated David Jolley, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Tennessee. “Good police work ensured that Penny was swiftly and safely apprehended. He will now face the charges against him.”

Court documents said Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County that were related to the activities of Nassar at the ranch.

“There were no documents from USA Gymnastics at the Karolyi Ranch.” Walker County D.A. David Weeks said Thursday. “Pretty much literally.”

Court records assert the removal of the documents was done in order to impair the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents, according to court records.

Several sources said Penny ordered the removal of the documents from the ranch after learning that an investigation was underway, according to officials.

Officials said the investigation revealed that the documents were delivered to Penny at the USAG headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. To date, those records have not been recovered, and the location of the records is unknown.

The Texas Rangers and other authorities believe the records are material to their investigation and that the removal of the records by Penny prevented them from reviewing documents that would have helped in their investigation of Nassar, as well as assisted with the investigation of other offenses that may have occurred at the Karolyi Ranch, according to officials.

Penny resigned as head of USA Gymnastics under pressure last year. In June, he repeatedly pleaded the Fifth when called before a Senate committee investigating the Nassar sex abuse scandal.

The U.S. Marshals Service for the Southern District of Texas began to search for Penny immediately after receiving a request for assistance from the Texas Rangers earlier this week. The investigation into Penny’s whereabouts by the Texas Deputy U.S. marshals and members of the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force developed information placing Penny in East Tennessee. Further investigation by Deputy U.S. marshals in the Eastern District of Tennessee then resulted in Penny’s apprehension in a cabin in Gatlinburg.

Penny was booked into the Sevier County Jail and is currently awaiting extradition to Walker County to face his charges.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

In February, Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting 10 girls in Michigan and was sentenced to 125 years in prison. He’s accused of assaulting hundreds more.

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