The former president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics was detained by U.S. marshals Wednesday, authorities announced, in connection with criminal charges of tampering with evidence relating to convicted serial pedophile Larry Nassar.
Steve Penny was taken into custody in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and is awaiting extradition to Texas, according to a news release issued by the district attorney of Walker County, home to the Karolyi Ranch, where America's top female gymnasts trained until earlier this year. A grand jury in Walker County has indicted Penny for tampering with evidence, the district attorney said, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison.
The grand jury alleged that Penny - after he knew a law enforcement investigation of Nassar's abuses of young gymnasts had begun - ordered the removal of documents relating to Nassar's treatment of gymnasts from the Karolyi Ranch "for the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents," the news release stated.
The documents were delivered to Penny at USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis, the release stated, and have never been recovered.
In a statement released early Thursday, Penny's lawyer denounced the use of U.S. marshals. Penny, who lives in suburban Indianapolis, was on vacation in Tennessee with his wife and three daughters, wrote attorney Edith Matthai.
"If Mr. Penny had any idea he was sought in Texas this would have been appropriately handled through counsel," Matthai wrote. "Mr. Penny has not and would not have attempted to avoid the service of a summons."
"Mr. Penny is confident that when all the facts are known the allegations against him will be disproven," Matthai wrote.
Penny was indicted by a grand jury examining Nassar's alleged abuses at Karolyi Ranch, the facility near Huntsville, Texas, run by famed former Olympic coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, who have declared their innocence of culpability for Nassar's abuses and have not been charged with a crime.
Penny oversaw the Olympic sports organization from 2005 until 2017, when he resigned under criticism for his handling of complaints about Nassar two years earlier. Nassar, the longtime team physician for USA Gymnastics women, continued to treat young girls and women at Michigan State - where he worked full time - until September 2016, when a woman filed a complaint with police and told her story to the Indianapolis Star.
More than 330 girls and women have alleged sexual abuse by Nassar, who is serving an effective life sentence for pleading guilty to child pornography crimes, as well as abusing nine girls and women in Michigan.
The fallout over the handling of earlier complaints has caused a series of leadership changes at Michigan State, the U.S. Olympic Committee and at USA Gymnastics, which saw its most recent interim president, Mary Bono, resign Tuesday before formally taking the job because of criticism, in part, of her work for a law firm that has been accused of failing to alert law enforcement of suspicions about Nassar.