Larry Nassar's MSU Boss Arrested Amid His Own Assault Allegations
By Kristen Jordan Shamus
Looks like the fox was guarding the henhouse.
That's clear if the accusations are true about William Strampel, the former dean of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Strampel was charged Tuesday in East Lansing District Court with misconduct in office, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with the Larry Nassar scandal.
As Nassar's boss, Strampel appears to have turned a blind eye to years of sexual misconduct involving Nassar, a renowned sports medicine doctor who abused hundreds of student athletes and Olympic gymnasts in the guise of medical care.
Worse, the allegations against Strampel suggest he did more than look the other way when it came to Nassar's decades-long pattern of sexual assault. He might also have been a willing participant in the abuse of young women at MSU.
Bill Forsyth, a retired Kent County prosecutor, was hired in January by state Attorney General Bill Schuette to serve as a special prosecutor to investigate how Nassar was able to prey on girls and young women on the East Lansing campus for so long. He has built an investigative team that includes the Michigan State Police and several assistant state attorneys general.
The first thing Forsyth did was ask MSU to provide Strampel's computer, cell phone, work-issued calendar and documents, he told journalists Tuesday at a packed news conference in Lansing.
"Before Michigan State was able to respond, ... we received a credible tip with respect to Dean Strampel, which we felt to be time-sensitive," Forsyth said. "In response to that, we issued a search warrant and took them."
Discovered on Strampel's computer was a pornographic video of Nassar performing a so-called treatment on a young female patient.
Investigators also found "approximately 50 photos of bare vaginas, nude and semi-nude women, sex toys and pornography. Many of these photos are what appear to be 'selfies' of female MSU students, as evidenced by the MSU clothing and piercings featured in multiple photos. Forensic examination shows someone attempted to delete some of the photos contained in a file folder on the computer's hard drive."
Three female medical school students also told investigators of instances when Strampel assaulted them, solicited nude photos or harassed them.
"As dean of the college, Strampel abused the authority of his public office, through threats and manipulation, to solicit, receive and possess pornographic images of women who appear to be MSU students in violation of his statutory duty as a public officer," the affidavit reads.
And that's a big, big problem for one of the state's largest and most prestigious public universities, which now faces lawsuits brought by dozens of girls and women who say MSU knew or should have known Nassar was sexually abusing them, and failed to protect them.
According to the affidavit, this case appears to offer evidence that someone high up in the university's administration knew about Nassar. And not only did he fail to take action to protect women and girls, he may have engaged in similar behavior.
In April 2014, when a patient complained about Nassar's sexual misconduct during a treatment session in his MSU office, the university's Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives opened a Title IX investigation of the complaint.
Strampel told Nassar he couldn't treat patients during the investigation, but a few months later -- and before the investigation was complete -- Nassar was back to work.
Strampel authorized it, saying, "If you do have a patient scheduled, please be sure you have someone in the room with you at all times."
Following the 2014 Title IX investigation of Nassar's conduct, Strampel put some measures in place to protect patients, requiring that Nassar have another person (medical resident or nurse) in the room when performing a procedure "close to a sensitive area" and that he avoid skin-to-skin contact in those regions of the body. "Should this be absolutely necessary, the procedure will be explained in detail with another person in the room for both the explanation and procedure," Strampel wrote in an e-mail to Nassar.
However, Strampel didn't enforce or monitor those protocols involving Nassar, the court documents show. Strampel also didn't alert other employees at the Sports Medicine Clinic about the new requirements, Forsyth's affidavit suggests.
Forsyth noted the investigation into wrongdoing at MSU continues, though he didn't offer any clues about whether more charges are likely.
It's also unclear whether MSU will face sanctions from the NCAA, although the latest allegations against Strampel certainly won't help the university's case.
The NCAA launched an investigation in January of the MSU athletic department's handling of claims of Nassar's abuse. Its board of governors enacted a new policy earlier this month requiring presidents, athletic directors and Title IX officers fill out forms that show they are educating staff members and students about sexual violence.
And perhaps that's the only bit of good news in this ordeal: The Attorney General's Office and the NCAA, are taking sexual assault on campus more seriously.
They're talking about it, and they're taking steps to ensure that people understand all the foxes will face consequences for what they knew and failed to act upon.
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