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Larry Nassar wasn't the only sexual predator at Michigan State, prosecutors allege

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

At Michigan State, it was one sexual predator managing another, prosecutors now charge. It was two pathetic doctors who saw women (or girls) as little more than objects to be used for their sexual desires.

Dr. William Strampel and Dr. Larry Nassar committed different crimes, prosecutors say. Nasssar, the employee, was a serial pedophile of desperate young athletes. Strampel, the boss, was a predator using his status as Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine to “harass, demean, sexually proposition and sexually assault female students,” according to court documents. That included pressuring desperate med students into providing sexual “favors” and nude photos, as well subjecting themselves to grabs, gropes and inappropriate comments in exchange for retaken exams, recommendations and the chance to get ahead.

Strampel, 70, was arrested Monday and has been charged with four counts. Two, both misdemeanors, deal with “willful neglect of duty” in overseeing Nassar. Two others, including a felony charge, shed even a brighter light on the culture of the College of Osteopathic Medicine that Nassar used as his base to sexually abuse hundreds of female patients, some as young as 11 years old.

Strampel faces up to nine years in prison. He is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday afternoon in district court in East Lansing. He’s currently housed at the Ingham County Jail.

Dr. William D. Strampel, former dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSU)

The Strampel details are sickening.

The dean held power and was willing to wield it. He routinely glared at women sexually, made them spin around for him and suggested he send them nude photos or engage in sexual acts in exchange for preferential treatment from him, according to prosecutors. He reminded them of his might and their vulnerability – young students piling on debt who could fail to graduate and thus have no doctor’s salary to eventually pay off their loans.

“I hold your entire future in my hand and I can do whatever I want with it,” Strampel told one alleged victim. On multiple occasions, he allegedly told her to present herself to him so he could see her body. Once was in a group setting. To another female student, he allegedly requested she stand and turn around before him while stating, “What do I have to do to teach you to be submissive and subordinate to men?”

The nude photo requests seemingly worked with many young female students.

A forensic examination of Strampel’s seized computer revealed “approximately 50 photos of bare vaginas, nude and semi-nude women, sex toys and pornography,” according to court documents. “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 shots.” There was also a close-up video featuring masturbation and other photos that authorities allege were deleted.

And then there was perhaps the most vomit-inducing detail of the entire affair.

“Also uncovered on Strampel’s work computer were pornographic videos and a video of Dr. Larry Nassar performing ‘treatment’ on a young female patient.”

Nassar commonly abused his patients by placing his fingers inside them and declaring it a legitimate medical treatment. That there was video of such a crime, let alone that Strampel may have watched it for pleasure (it could have been part of an investigation of some sort) is chilling and just adds an additional layer of recurring abuse to the victim.

That Strampel would find no fault in Nassar’s actions in the face of complaints is no longer a surprise. That he would discount the claims of victims now makes sense. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016 he told a group he didn’t believe any of Nassar’s accusers because “patients lie to get doctors in trouble.”

None of this was isolated, nor new. The affidavit filed by prosecutors state these actions occurred from 2012 “through 2018,” suggesting that even as Nassar was hauled away and controversy enveloped Strampel and MSU, little changed in his behavior or outlook.

It’s beyond troubling that MSU was apparently either unwilling or incapable of investigating Strampel. Much of the evidence was found on his work computer, which the university owned and could have accessed. Yet he is still employed by the school, having only taken a paid leave of absence as the dean in December 2017, after Nassar pled guilty to sexually assaulting 10 women.

Yet Michigan State officials never caught him? Did they even try? How could behavior this deplorable go unstopped and undiscovered by the most central figure other than Larry Nassar in the case? He should have been the first place anyone looked.

Strampel was Nassar’s boss and publicly defended Nassar during a 2014 Title IX investigation into Nassar that went nowhere. Strampel even allowed Nassar to begin seeing patients again a month before the investigation was concluded.

Strampel did provide Nassar with a list of protocols, including not seeing underage patients alone and wearing gloves for sensitive procedures. He never informed patients or nurses in the office about the new standards, though, and never personally followed up. Nassar was allowed to operate on the honor system. Over a dozen women have come forward citing abuse since that time.

In a statement Monday, Michigan State acknowledged Strampel’s behavior was a longstanding problem but did not mention how he was able to get away with it, even 18 months after the Nassar scandal broke, presumably heightening sensitivity on campus to this type of behavior.

“Allegations have arisen that question whether [Strampel’s] personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU’s standards,” the statement said. “We are sending an unmistakable message that we will remove employees who do not treat students, faculty, staff or anyone else in our community in an appropriate manner.”

At this point, that’s too little, too late. Or really nothing at all. If Michigan State does have standards it’s clear no one was checking they were being followed.

Nassar, 54, is currently in a federal prison outside Tucson, Arizona, serving a 60-year term for child pornography. He was also sentenced to hundreds of years in state court in Michigan for sexual abuse. His sentencing hearings earlier this year featured over 150 women, parents and advocates – from famed Olympic gymnastics champions to local teen athletes – coming forward to address the court in a powerful statement against sexual abuse.

While many addressed Nassar directly, they also echoed cries for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics to be fully investigated. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office began that in January. Strampel is the first arrest.

Longtime president Lou Anna K. Simon resigned in January, in part for failing to bother showing up at the Nassar sentencing hearings other than a brief appearance after being shamed by victims and the media.

Her interim replacement, former Michigan Gov. John Engler, has tried to dig out of a massive hole but has been criticized by victims for dragging the school’s feet into mediation and trying to shift the story into a blame game against ESPN for bringing the school’s high-profile football and men’s basketball teams into the scandal. He recently declared that “students and taxpayers” are likely to end up footing the bill for settlements with Nassar’s victims.

“I am horrified and disgusted that this arrest came directly after MSU once again filed to dismiss all claims of liability for Larry’s ability to abuse women and children for decades, and directly after MSU President Engler chose to attack and even lie about Nassar survivors in his testimony before the Michigan senate committee last week,” Rachael Denhollander, a Nassar victim who was first to speak out publicly against the doctor, said in a statement.

“There is a reason Larry was able to perpetuate the worst sexual assault scandal in sports and campus history,” Denhollander continued. “We are seeing some of these reasons. 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. Strampel should never have been left in a position of power and MSU should have acknowledged this failure immediately. Instead, they chose to attack us, and still have refused to take responsibility for any of the dynamics that lead to so many children being horrifically abused.”

Tuesday brought new details into how Larry Nassar was able to get away with it. His boss held a similar and unsympathetic view of women – untruthful, unimportant sex objects to be brought before powerful men so they can be exploited and abused.

It also opens the possibility that Nassar knew of Strampel’s misconduct and was able to blackmail him into leniency by threatening to expose him, too.

At this point in this sad, sorry story, nothing would surprise. Michigan State never made a true effort to look into the College of Osteopathic Medicine. The question now isn’t who knew what, but why more didn’t know something.

Not to mention how many other William Strampels, let alone Larry Nassars, are hiding in the darkness of East Lansing.

Read the entire complaint here:

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