GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Steve Penny, the former USA Gymnastics president and CEO who resigned in March 2017 amid the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Wednesday.
He is currently being held in Gatlinburg at Sevier County Jail and awaiting extradition to Walker County, Texas.
Walker County, Texas District Attorney David P. Weeks’s office stated in a press release that Penny was arrested on a warrant for tampering with evidence, for which he been indicted by a grand jury in late September.
Penny was the president and CEO of USA Gymnastics from April 2005 until March of last year.
His resignation occurred amid the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal that brought forth allegations and testimony from multiple Team USA gymnasts against former national team sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting athletes under the pretense of giving them medical treatment.
Nassar plead guilty last year to federal child pornography charges. He was sentenced 60 and an additional 40 to 175 years to federal prison earlier this year.
Testifying athletes, including Olympic gold-medal gymnasts, accused USA Gymnastics of ignoring the abuse.
In late September 2018, a Walker County, Texas grand jury convened to continue their ongoing investigation of the Karolyi Ranch and those individuals who may have committed offenses related to the conduct of Dr. Larry Nassar at that location. The grand jury indicted Penny for tampering with evidence in the third degree.
Upon indictment, the 278th Judicial District Court issued a warrant for Penny’s arrest. If convicted, the range of punishment is two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
According to the indictment, Penny is alleged to have tampered with evidence during the investigation of sexual assault allegations against Nassar.
The indictment alleges that Penny ordered that documents be removed from the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County, Texas that were related to the activities of Nassar at the ranch. The indictment further alleges that the removal of the documents was done for the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents.
The Karolyi Ranch was the official training camp of the USA women’s gymnastics team. It is located in unincorporated Walker County, Texas, which is north of Houston.
During the investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, several sources reported that Penny ordered the removal of the documents from the ranch after learning that an investigation was underway. 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 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 arrested at the Gatlinburg cabin and booked into Sevier County Jail, where he is awaiting extradition to Walker County, Texas to face his charges.
“Deputy U.S. Marshals and task force officers from the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District 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,” he added.
Members of the U.S. Marshals-led Smoky Mountains Fugitive Task Force that were instrumental in Penny’s arrest include the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, and the Knoxville Police Department.