Strampel to stand trial on sex-related charges

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

East Lansing — After testimony from three victims and explicit photos admitted into evidence, an Ingham County judge on Tuesday bound Larry Nassar's ex-boss over to Circuit Court to face trial.

 William Strampel, former dean of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, will be tried on charges that he used his position to harass, discriminate, proposition, intimidate and sexually assault female students.

William Strampel watches as Prosecutor Bill Rollstin speaks in Judge Richard Ball's court Monday, June 5, 2018.

"There has been misconduct in office," said 54-B District Court Judge Richard D. Ball, who started off his ruling by binding over Strampel on a charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, a high court misdemeanor. He also ordered Strampel to be tried for misconduct in office, a five-year felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Strampel also will be tried on two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty.

Afterward, he and his attorney, John Dakmak, declined to comment.

But in closing arguments, Dakmak argued that the evidence presented did not rise to the level of a crime.

"People may not like someone’s statement," the defense attorney said. "They might find it crude, they might find it boorish, completely inappropriate. But that’s not criminal. That is something else." 

But William Rollstin, a prosecutor with the Michigan Attorney General's office, said that Strampel's attorney is trying to portray the facts presented during the hearing as some misunderstanding -- and nothing could be further from the truth.

"Dean Strampel is not a victim here," Rollstin said. "Dean Strampel had too much power and too much ego and attempted to use those things in a corrupt fashion (with) young ladies that are coming come into his office who are having some academic issue." 

Strampel's next appearance is June 20 in Ingham County Circuit Court.

The ruling came after nearly two dozen explicit photos and videos found on Strampel's computer were described, discussed and admitted into evidence during his preliminary hearing.

Among the images were bare breasts and vaginas of young women. Some included Michigan State logos.

Dakmak objected to admitting the photos into evidence.

"They are irrelevant," he said. "What someone may deem to be pornographic does lend itself to any criminality, even a misconduct in office charge."

But Rollstin argued that the photos were part of a broader pattern of conduct that would support the charges against Strampel.

"Pictures that were found on Dean Strampel's MSU computer, coupled with the testimony you will hear from some of the witnesses, rises to the level of relevance," Rollstin said.

Three witnesses affiliated with the osteopathic medical school testified, including a woman who said Strampel grabbed her buttocks at a scholarship dinner.

That witness, an MSU osteopathic medical school graduate who is now a resident, testified that Strampel once made a comment to her when she walked by, saying, "nice rack." 

When she was summoned to a meeting with him, he told her to turn around slowly twice.

"I did that because Dean Strampel is a very powerful person," the witness said. "He has told us on more than one occasion he was very well-connected and he could destroy (our careers)."

He also grabbed her buttocks at the scholarship dinner, the woman testified. During a luncheon, while she was talking with Strampel's wife, he approached and his eyes traveled from her breasts to her crotch, the witness said.

When she asked him to look at her face, the witness testified that Strampel replied, "Eye candy is eye candy."

When Rollstin asked her why she didn't report Strampel, the witness said this was common behavior. 

"It was very well-known among the female students that Dean Strampel did these kind of things," the witness said.

Another witness, an MSU osteopathic medical student, said she went to see Strampel to discuss a committee's decision that she could not take a national medical board exam because she did not pass a preliminary exam.

She was there for an hour, even though within the first five minutes he denied her request.

During the rest of the time, the witness testified, Strampel talked about a meeting that he said he had with a female medical student who got a DUI. He said he didn't end her career, and later she ran into a friend and told her how she was able to stay in medical school.

"How did you get off the hook with Dean Strampel? the witness testified that Strampel told her. "Oh, I gave him a blow job."

Strampel then asked the witness what she thought of that, the student testified.

"I said, 'What do I think about the woman getting a DUI?'" the witness testified. "He said, 'No, what do you think of that?' I said, 'I'm sorry, I'm confused. I don't understand what you are asking."

The witness also said Strampel told her, "'You'd be surprised what people are willing to do when they are in stressful situations.'"

She said she replied: "Yes, if you don't have morals."

He then moved on to talk about something different, the witness said.

Yet another witness, who is also an MSU osteopathic medical student, testified that she also went to Strampel to get a waiver to take a national medical board exam because she did not pass a preliminary exam.

During the meeting, he told her within five minutes he would not grant her appeal. But the meeting lasted over an hour, during which he talked about many other things.

Among the subjects he talked about was his career and how he had worked with young people throughout his life, the student testified. She said Strampel asked her age and then told her he knew of young women who had relationships with older men. The student said Strampel told her such women only had to have sex for 20 minutes with an older man and in exchange they could travel, have clothes, jewelry and more.

"He said, 'My buddies, they have these young women in their life,'" the student said. "'It was like a sugar daddy-type relationship ... yeah, all a 26-year-old has to do is put out for 20 minutes and the old man falls asleep and she gets whatever she wants.'"

The witness also testified Strampel also spoke of nude photos and how easy it was easier to send them before technology could trace them. She testified that he told her if he ever saw her with a naked photo, she was in big trouble.

"I thought he was suggesting that if I gave him a picture, I could continue on with my education," the witness said.

During a redirect, Dakmak asked her if Strampel ever directly propositioned the student.

"With him saying putting out for 20 minutes ... I felt it was suggestive," the witness said.

More:MSU officials were warned about Strampel years ago

More:Schuette targets medical license of Nassar’s ex-boss

In court documents, prosecutors say Strampel failed to monitor patient care requirements placed on Nassar, a longtime MSU doctor convicted of sexually assaulting patients under the guise of medical treatment.

The requirements were ordered after a 2014 Title IX complaint cleared Nassar of sexual misconduct, resulting in more assaults on patients.

Nassar, a former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor, has since been sentenced to a de facto life term in prison for molesting scores of young women over more than two decades.

Strampel went on a medical leave from his position as dean in December. 

Prosecutors allege that Strampel also recruited clinical skills models, paid them in cash, penetrated one of them with his fingers during a private exam, took the other out to dinner alone and told her that she made him “hard.” But Bell ruled those witnesses will not testify during the preliminary hearing.

MSU Interim President John Engler is trying to terminate Strampel through tenure proceedings expected to begin this summer.

Strampel, who remains an MSU faculty member, is being paid his $217,903 salary while on medical leave, which ends this month.

At least three times since 2004, colleagues of Strampel alerted MSU's administration about multiple reports of inappropriate sexual comments he made toward students and others, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News.

A Detroit News investigation found Strampel was among 14 MSU staff members who received reports of Nassar’s sexual abuse over two decades, and the latest revelations about the former dean illustrate a troubling lack of oversight at Michigan’s largest university, Nassar’s accusers say.