Steve Penny arrest: Former US gymnastics chief 'destroyed documents detailing information about Larry Nassar'

Sarah Harvard
Former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny: AP

Former USA Gymnastics (USAG) Chief Executive Officer Steve Penny has been arrested for allegedly destroying documents detailing information about Larry Nassar, the former doctor for the gymnastics team convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing hundreds of women,

A Texas grand jury indicted Mr Penny for allegedly tampering with evidence at the Karolyi Ranch training facility in in the state.

The Smoky Mountain Fugitive Task Force of the United States Marshals found and arrested Mr Penny at a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He is currently held at Sevier County Jail until his extradition to Walker County. His attorney, Edith Matthai, told CNN that Mr Penny was not aware of his indictment charge in Texas and was in Tennessee for a family vacation.

“If Mr Penny had any idea he was sought in Texas this would have been appropriately handled through counsel without terrifying his family,“ Ms Matthai said. She added that the facts will show Mr Penny did nothing criminal.

According to Walker County’s District Attorney’s office, if Penny is convicted with felony charges of evidence tampering, he could face two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

The arrest comes three weeks after Mr Penny was indicted by the grand jury. The indictment claims that the former chief executive ordered for the documents to be removed from Karolyi Ranch and shipped to Indianapolis where USAG is headquartered. The records have not yet been found.

The grand jury indictment claims that Mr Penny ordered the shipment of these documents with “the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents“ after learning an investigation on Nassar’s sexual assault allegations had already begun.

The Walker County District Attorney’s Office believe the missing documents could have “assisted with the investigation of other offences that may have occurred at the Karolyi Ranch.”

Since 2001, Karolyi Ranch — owned by renown gymnastic coaches Martha and Bela Karolyn— has served as the USAG training center and as the US Olympic Training Site in 2011. Nassar served as the team doctor throughout many of those years. Throughout his time as the national gymnastics team doctor, Nassar sexually assaulted at least 250 women at Karolyi Ranch. Some of these women include 2016 Olympians Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman. In January, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for his sex crimes.

In a statement posted in March 2017, USAG said Mr Penny resigned from his role as the organisation’s president. “We support law enforcement's efforts and have fully cooperated with the investigations by the Texas Rangers, Congress and others, and will continue do so to help the survivors and our community heal from this tragedy,” the organisation said.

The organisation had two CEOs since Mr Penny, with both stepping down. The most recent chief executive, Mary Bono, resigned on Tuesday after publicly condemning Nike’s support for Colin Kaepernick. She served as USAG’s CEO for less than one week.