MSU dean, Nassar boss Strampel accused of preying on students
Attorney John Dakmak says former MSU Dean William Strampel intends to fight new charges stemming from the Larry Nassar scandal. Jonathan Oosting
Lansing — Larry Nassar’s former boss used his position at Michigan State University to harass, discriminate, proposition, sexually assault and solicit pornographic videos of female students, investigators said Tuesday as they announced criminal charges against William Strampel.
Strampel, the 15-year dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine who took medical leave in December, is also accused of failing to enforce or monitor protocols put in place for Nassar in 2014 after a female patient alleged inappropriate sexual conduct. Authorities say he allowed Nassar to return to work one month before MSU completed a Title IX investigation into his treatments. The internal probe cleared Nassar of wrongdoing.
Special Prosecutor William Forsyth announced the first charges in what he called an “ongoing investigation” into MSU’s handling of the Nassar scandal. Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed Forsyth in late January after a request from MSU trustees.
“What they wanted us to do was find out how MSU failed the survivors of Larry Nassar and how he was able to prey upon and victimize so many young women and girls for so long,” said Forsyth said, who took no questions. Schuette was not present.
The charges, if true, suggest that not only was MSU harboring a serial sexual abuser in Nassar, but his celebrated supervisor was also manipulating female students for his own gratification. Strampel, who was one of at least 14 MSU representatives who were told of abuse complaints against Nassar, remains an MSU faculty member.
It was a stunning fall from the top of his field to a jail cell for Strampel, who just five months ago was honored as a master fellow for his contributions to osteopathic medicine by the American College of Osteopathic Internists.
Nassar, a former sports doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics, is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of sexual assault and child pornography charges. He is accused of sexually abusing more than 250 women over more than two decades under the guise of performing medical treatment.
Judge Richard Ball earlier Tuesday authorized a criminal warrant against Strampel on four charges, including misconduct by a public official, a five-year felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Strampel was arraigned by video feed Tuesday afternoon in East Lansing. Ball said Strampel did not appear to be a flight risk and allowed for his release from Ingham County Jail on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond with conditions, including a prohibition against initiating contact with current or former MSU medical school students.
Defense attorney John Dakmak said Strampel intends to fight the charges and expects to prevail in court. A preliminary exam is set for May 3.
“My client denies that he ever engaged in any inappropriate touching with anyone, a student or otherwise,” Dakmak said. “He denies there was any quid pro quo for sexual favors in exchange for any type of standing within the university or medical school.”
Dakmak also maintained that Strampel followed proper protocol with regards to Nassar and had discussed his return to work with MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, which was leading the Title IX investigation.
John Manly, an attorney who represents more than 150 women in civil lawsuits against the university, said Strampel’s arrest shows that Schuette’s office is serious about investigating the systemic misconduct at MSU and holding those responsible for it accountable.
“We now have clear and convincing evidence of gross sexual misconduct at the highest levels of the university,” Manly said. “This is hopefully the beginning of the end for those who enabled Larry Nassar.”
Michigan State Police Lt. Ryan Pennell outlined the case against Strampel in an affidavit, which includes accusations by four women. Investigators discovered pornographic videos on Strampel’s work computer at MSU and a video of Nassar performing his “treatment” on a young female patient, according to the document.
Authorities say Strampel abused his authority by using threats or manipulation to solicit, receive or possess pornographic images “of women who appear to be MSU students” in violation of his statutory duty as a public official.
One of the videos discovered by investigators, which they suspect was filmed on an Apple iPhone 5 in October 2013, “depicts a female masturbating at a very close perspective.”
Dakmak denied Strampel had romantic relationships with any students and told reporters the video he had of Nassar on his computer is “most likely” the same video Nassar used around the country to show his technique for treating patients.
“We do not know the context of what the government is alleging about my client’s possession of that as dean of the medical school,” Dakmak said.
One of Strampel’s alleged victims claims he approached her from behind and grabbed her rear end during a College of Osteopathic Medicine annual ball in 2010 at the Henry Hotel in Dearborn. Earlier in her career, she said, Strampel suggested it was good when women got drunk because then it was easy to have sex with them.
The woman told investigators she “was not surprised Nassar had been able to victimize so many women under the supervision of Strampel,” according to the police affidavit.
Another former student, identified as Victim No. 1 in the affidavit, said she was 26 when she visited Strampel to appeal a test score and he noted that some of his friends had had sexual relations with young women and specifically mentioned that some 26-year-old women “put out.”
Strampel also made unprompted comments about nude photography, she said, which she interpreted “as a request to send him nude photographs in exchange for special consideration” at the university.
A third alleged victim said she was summoned to Strampel’s office after falling asleep in class. He directed her to sit in a chair and turn around twice so he “could observe her body,” Pennell wrote in the affidavit.
The former student said Strampel also suggested she’d have to dress sexier to make it in the medical profession, and grabbed her behind during a scholarship dinner in 2013.
Another alleged victim said Strampel agreed to let her retake an exam if she agreed to do anything he asked, which she interpreted as a sexual request. He had previously suggested she consider working as a centerfold model, she said, telling her another female student had worked as a stripper to pay for medical school.
Survivors of Nassar’s assaults were thrilled to hear of Strampel’s arrest.
Morgan McCaul, a University of Michigan student who was abused by Nassar, said she was happy to see accountability for Strampel.
“This is what survivors have been waiting for, for years,” said McCaul, 18, of Lake Odessa. “This man created an environment within the MSU Osteopathic department in which the most prolific pedophile in sports history was allowed to thrive.”
Rachael Denhollander, the woman who was the first to publicly accuse Nassar, leading to his downfall, agreed.
“I am so grateful to see justice coming for some of the people who helped create this culture of abuse at MSU,” she said.
At the same time, Denhollander said she was disgusted that Strampel’s arrest comes soon after MSU filed another motion to dismiss all claims of liability for Nassar’s ability to abuse women and children for decades.
“There is a reason Larry was able to perpetrate the worst sexual assault scandal in sports and campus history. We are seeing some of these reasons,” Denhollander said. “We’ve been seeing them for 18 months. MSU continually refuses to acknowledge responsibility for a culture that allowed men like Larry and Strampel to abuse and harass with no consequences.”
In a Tuesday statement, Interim MSU President John Engler noted he sought in February to revoke Strampel’s tenure.
“Some of the allegations about his personal conduct, especially conduct toward students, are disturbing,” Engler said. “Today’s charges confirm our belief that he has fallen short of what is expected and required from academic leadership. They are not in alignment with this university’s values and they never have been.”
Strampel was appointed MSU’s osteopathic medical school dean in 2002 with a base salary of $180,000, university documents show.
Last December, more than a year after Nassar’s conduct was publicly disclosed, Strampel said he would take a leave of absence for medical reasons. He planned to remain a faculty member, according to the university. His salary at the time was $412,000, said MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant.
Last month, Engler submitted a request to the Office of Provost beginning the process to revoke Strampel’s tenure. He also announced that MSU would not cover any of Strampel’s legal expenses related to the Nassar sexual assault scandal.
Strampel has been named in lawsuits filed against MSU and Nassar.
It remains to be seen if the criminal case against Strampel could hurt the university’s position in settlement talks with victims.
Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State, said he assumes Strampel’s arrest would not impact the civil suits because one of the key issues is MSU’s claim that it is a state agency that enjoys sovereign immunity.
“There is no reason to assume there is some connection between what Strampel is being charged with and the facts in the civil suit,” Sedler said.
Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison in Ingham County and another 40-125 years in Eaton County. He already was serving a 60-year federal sentence for possessing child pornography.
The case against Strampel
William Strampel, the former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, was arraigned Tuesday on the following charges:
■ Misconduct by a public official, a five-year felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
■ Fourth-degree criminal sexual misconduct, a high court misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a $500 fine.
■ Two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty, punishable by up to one year in prison or a $1,000 fine.