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Ex-MSU dean Strampel gets 1 year for using post to 'manipulate, oppress' women

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine will spend at least one year in jail on convictions linked to his supervision of serial molester Larry Nassar and sexually explicit comments he made to female students.

William Strampel listens during his sentencing Wednesday morning in Lansing.

Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk sentenced William Strampel to 11 months in the Ingham County jail on a misconduct in office charge and a year in jail for each of two misdemeanor counts of willful misconduct in office.  Although he was sentenced on three separate counts, Strampel will serve all of the jail time concurrently for a total of one year in jail.

Draganchuk rejected excuses portraying Strampel's comments to female students as "locker room talk" or "unfiltered frankness."

“You were not convicted of sexual harassment and that needs to be heard loud and clear,” Draganchuk said."You were convicted for using your position as the dean of the College of (Osteopathic) Medicine to proposition, manipulate and, in my view, oppress women."

Strampel declined to make a statement at sentencing beyond the one made by his lawyer John Dakmak, who asked the judge to consider Strampel's record of service in the U.S. Army and at MSU when considering his punishment. 

"The jury has spoken and we’re not hiding from that verdict," Dakmak said. "...But to answer for that doesn’t mean that we disregard the lifelong service that he’s provided to his nation and to Michigan State and to the state of Michigan."

Draganchuk chided Strampel for his refusal to speak at the sentencing. 

"You could at least express sorrow for the impact that it's had on the people that have testified," she said. "...You don’t have to admit criminal conduct to do that.”

In June, a 12-person jury found Strampel, 71, guilty of two counts of willful neglect of duty linked to his supervision of Nassar and one count of misconduct in office related to inappropriate comments he made to female students. The jury acquitted Strampel of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Strampel’s misconduct in office charge carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, while the misdemeanor neglect of duty charges both carried a year in jail. 

“Today’s sentencing sends a resoundingly clear message to public officials: If you brandish your power to demean, insult, harass, objectify and abuse women, you will be held accountable," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement.

"We appreciate the court’s decision and commitment to ensuring justice in this case was served. While Mr. Strampel’s sentence will never give back the years of pain and suffering his victims had to endure, the persistence of these courageous survivors made certain that he could no longer hide behind the title he once held to escape the reach of justice."

Prosecutors said Strampel, who was dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine from 1999 to 2018, allowed Nassar to see patients while the school investigated a 2014 sexual misconduct claim and did not ensure Nassar followed proper patient protocols in the wake of the 2014 investigation. 

At the Wednesday sentencing, Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark estimated roughly 45 people were abused by Nassar between the 2014 investigation and his 2016 firing. 

"I believe that this man should receive a maximum sentence," she said.

Strampel had “absolute power and control” over female students, Hagaman-Clark has said, when he made comments about women who “put out” for older men, remarks on a doctor’s breasts, the need to “dress sexier” to make it in medicine and a student who “stripped her way through school.”

Dakmak contended at trial that Strampel’s conduct, while offensive, never rose to the level of a crime and was part of the gruff personality he developed over years of university leadership and time in the U.S. Army. He also argued that his client could not be held wholly responsible for Nassar's conduct. 

"To suggest that it was simply my client who alone held the gate open” for Nassar’s conduct is an injustice, Dakmak said. Michigan State and police investigations in 2014 and even earlier “didn’t admonish Larry Nassar back then for what we now know is decades of abuse," he said.

Strampel's sentencing came as former MSU President Lou Anna Simon awaits a decision on whether her case will proceed to trial. Her preliminary examination related to charges that she lied to police in 2018 about her knowledge of the 2014 complaint against Nassar ended in July with Eaton County District Judge Julie Reincke asking both sides to submit legal briefs outlining their arguments.

Shortly after Strampel's sentencing, former head MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages appeared before Draganchuk to ask for the quashing of Klages' bind-over for trial on charges of lying to police.

Klages' lawyers argued she wasn't informed of the specific crime police were investigating, an element her attorneys argued is required to be charged with lying to police about her knowledge regarding complaints against Nassar. 

Draganchuk denied Klages' motion, noting that police officers don't have to cite a specific crime at the beginning of the interview, only that they're conducting a criminal investigation. The judge's ruling means Klages' case will proceed to trial. 

When Strampel retired from MSU last year, he signed an agreement that deprived him of emeritus status and other benefits typically awarded to high-level MSU officials when they retire.

The agreement, which sidestepped a drawn-out tenure revocation procedure,  guaranteed health care coverage for Strampel and his wife, access to his 401(k) retirement savings plan and a settlement of $175,000 to make up for the salary he would have received during the tenure revocation proceedings. His salary at MSU was $217,903 a year.

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