Jury to resume deliberations Wednesday in Strampel case
Lansing — A 12-member jury in Ingham County will return to the courthouse Wednesday morning to continue deliberations regarding misconduct and sexual assault charges against the former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The charges of misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty and second-degree criminal sexual conduct stem from sexually explicit comments William Strampel allegedly made to several female students, his alleged grabbing of a student's buttocks and his handling of complaints against former MSU sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar.
Strampel served as dean of MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine from 1999 to 2018 and retired in July after being charged by then-Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Strampel's trial began May 30 and concluded Tuesday after roughly three hours of closing statements in which prosecution and defense largely differed on whether or not Strampel's conduct, while offensive, actually rose to the level of a crime.
The former dean had “absolute power and control” over female students and took advantage of that role by making sexually explicit comments during professional meetings in his role as dean, Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark told jurors Tuesday.
His alleged comments to students and young women included statements about young women who "put out" for older men, the difficulty of sending nude photographs, comments about a doctor's breasts, a student who "stripped her way through school" and the need to "dress sexier" to make it in medicine.
His behavior toward the students was so “disturbing” three female students brought their fathers to later meetings with the dean and another alleged victim recorded her meeting with Strampel, Hagaman-Clark said.
"We know why these women didn’t report," Hagaman-Clark said. "They were scared about the defendant's ability to control their careers. ... He is standing between them and their dream of becoming a doctor.”
But the defense painted a different picture of the longtime MSU dean, who served in the U.S. Army prior to his time at the university and was known for his gruff, direct speech.
Strampel’s lawyer John Dakmak said his client was not the only one responsible for overseeing Nassar at MSU and questioned the accounts of Strampel grabbing the buttocks of two female students.
The testimony so far leaves jurors with “locker room talk” and no proof of corruption or a direct solicitation of students, Dakmak said.
"Don’t take shock and awe and boggle that up with criminal intent, with criminality," Dakmak told jurors. "Don’t make something that may disturb you to hear … and in this room say that equals a crime.”
If made at a bar or outside a professional environment, Strampel’s comments may not rise to the level of a crime, Hagaman-Clark said, but Strampel’s role of authority over the students and the timing of those comments during professional meetings make him guilty of misconduct in office.
"Should these women have to listen to his sexually inappropriate language and the sexual innuendo?" Hagaman-Clark asked. "They all felt threatened by it."
In addition to misconduct in office, Strampel has been charged with willful neglect of duty for allowing Nassar to see patients while the school investigated a sexual misconduct claim and for not ensuring Nassar followed proper patient protocols in the wake of a 2014 Title IX investigation.
"He had a duty to supervise Nassar and he did nothing to fulfill that duty," Hagaman-Clark said.
Strampel also is charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with allegations that he grabbed a female student’s buttocks while taking photos at a school reception.
Hagaman-Clark alleged that Strampel's alleged misconduct in previous dealings with the student allowed him to later grab the student's buttocks "and know that he can get away with it." In that sense, jurors were told Tuesday, the second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge builds on and relies upon the misconduct in office charge.
In addition to the testimony of nine former students and several MSU officials, jurors also will consider in their deliberations university email communications and a series of five images found on Strampel’s work computer that show nude or semi-nude women with MSU logo piercings or clothing.