Stram­pel gets a split verdict amid Nas­sar fall­out

The Detroit News - - FRONT PAGE - BY BETH LEBLANC The Detroit News

Lans­ing — The for­mer dean of Michi­gan State Univer­sity’s Col­lege of Os­teo­pathic Medicine was con­victed Wed­nes­day of mis­con­duct in of­fice and two counts of will­ful ne­glect of duty but ac­quit­ted of sec­ond­de­gree crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct.

A 12-mem­ber jury in In­g­ham County Cir­cuit Court de­liv­ered the split verdict against

Wil­liam Stram­pel af­ter roughly five and a half hours of de­lib­er­a­tion that be­gan Tues­day.

Mis­con­duct in of­fice is a felony pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The ne­glect of duty charges are mis­de­meanors that are each pun­ish­able by up to a year in jail. The sec­ond-de­gree crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct charge car­ried a max­i­mum sen­tence of 15 years in prison.

He will return to court July 31 for sen­tenc­ing.

The charges against Stram­pel, the for­mer boss of con­victed sex­ual preda­tor Larry Nas­sar, stemmed from sex­u­ally ex­plicit com­ments Stram­pel al­legedly made to sev­eral fe­male stu­dents, his al­leged grab­bing of a stu­dent’s but­tocks and his han­dling of com­plaints against Nas­sar.

Stram­pel was 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. He is the first MSU of­fi­cial to be con­victed of charges stem­ming from the Nas­sar scan­dal.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Dana Nes­sel on Wed­nes­day thanked the women whose tes­ti­mony “helped en­sure

that Wil­liam Stram­pel could no longer wield his power to prey on women.” The con­vic­tion em­pha­sizes the need for cul­tural change in schools and med­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties that treat fe­male stu­dents and doc­tors dif­fer­ently from male col­leagues, she said.

“Public of­fi­cers who bran­dish their power to de­mean, in­sult, ha­rass, ob­jec­tify and abuse fe­male stu­dents will be held ac­count­able,” Nes­sel said in a state­ment.

Stram­pel’s lawyer John Dak­mak said his client had mixed emo­tions on Wed­nes­day’s verdict, but was happy with the jury’s de­ci­sion not to con­vict him of sec­ond-de­gree crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct or a lesser charge of fourth-de­gree crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct.

“The jury saw through a lot of al­le­ga­tions that fell flat,” Dak­mak said. He had ar­gued Tues­day that Stram­pel never di­rectly so­licited a stu­dent and that his sex­ual in­nu­en­dos were just “locker room talk.”

MSU is com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the cam­pus cli­mate for fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents and the Wed­nes­day verdict re­in­forced the need for that change, univer­sity spokes­woman Emily Guer­rant said in a state­ment.

“We will con­tinue ad­dress­ing the cul­ture that al­lowed such ab­hor­rent be­hav­ior as we work on mean­ing­ful ac­tions to be more aware and more ac­count­able,” Guer­rant said. “We have im­proved our dean re­view process, im­proved patient-care poli­cies and our Col­lege of Os­teo­pathic Medicine is de­vel­op­ing a for­ward-look­ing strate­gic plan to im­prove and as­sess the ed­u­ca­tional cli­mate.”

When Stram­pel re­tired from MSU last year, he signed an agree­ment that de­prived him of emer­i­tus sta­tus and other ben­e­fits typ­i­cally awarded to high­level 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.

The verdict is a vic­tory for Nes­sel’s of­fice, one that could re­sult in prison time for the for­mer MSU of­fi­cial, said Peter Hen­ning, a Wayne State Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor and for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor.

“Will he re­ceive jail time? That’s hard to de­ter­mine at this point,” Hen­ning said. “I wouldn’t be sur­prised if he did, but there’s no guarantee.”

The crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct claim, the most se­ri­ous of Stram­pel’s charges, was a dif­fi­cult one to prove be­cause it re­lied on the tes­ti­mony of two al­leged victims with lit­tle cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence, Hen­ning said. The ac­quit­tal is not a find­ing of Stram­pel’s in­no­cence, he said, but “the jury clearly found there was not enough there to con­vict him.”

Ar­gu­ments in 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 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 Haga­manClark 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.

But Dak­mak in his clos­ing ar­gu­ments said the long­time MSU dean’s gruff, di­rect speech was a personalit­y quirk de­vel­oped over years of univer­sity lead­er­ship and time in the U.S. Army.

The verdict against Stram­pel comes as the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice pur­sues an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the univer­sity’s han­dling of com­plaints against Nas­sar and as for­mer MSU Pres­i­dent Lou Anna Si­mon faces charges in Ea­ton County of ly­ing to po­lice of­fi­cers dur­ing the probe.

For­mer long­time head MSU gym­nas­tics coach Kathie Klages is ex­pected to return to court this sum­mer on charges that she lied to a peace of­fi­cer about her knowl­edge of Nas­sar’s crimes.

Stram­pel’s ne­glect of duty charges were based on al­le­ga­tions that Stram­pel 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 a 2014 in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Nas­sar was con­victed in two courts of sex­u­ally abus­ing pa­tients un­der the guise of med­i­cal treat­ment and in a third court for pos­sess­ing child pornog­ra­phy. He is serv­ing a de facto life sen­tence.

Stram­pel

Matthew Dae Smith / AP

Wil­liam Stram­pel’s mis­con­duct in of­fice charge is pun­ish­able by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The ne­glect of duty charges are mis­de­meanors that are each pun­ish­able by up to a year in jail. He will return to court July 31 for sen­tenc­ing.

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