By Ben Klayman
DETROIT (Reuters) – A former Michigan State University dean, who supervised the doctor at the center of the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal, was himself charged on Tuesday with criminal sexual conduct involving medical school students.
A medical student at the school had accused William Strampel, the 70-year-old former dean of its College of Osteopathic Medicine, of forcible sexual contact, prosecutors said in papers filed in state district court in East Lansing. Prosecutors said other students also accused Strampel of various incidents of sexual misconduct.
The charges against Strampel emerged during a probe into how Michigan State handled complaints about the gymnastics doctor, special prosecutor William Forsyth told reporters in Lansing, Michigan. The focus quickly widened after investigators received a tip.
The new charges make the university a bigger target for the “#MeToo” movement that has engulfed powerful men across society in harassment and abuse allegations.
“We did what we felt we needed to do and it led us to where we are today,” Forsyth said.
Strampel was dean from 2002 until the end of 2017. He supervised ex-USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, who has been sentenced to prison for sexually abusing female gymnasts.
The four criminal counts against the former dean include fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The accusations also include failing to properly oversee Nassar, whose scandal has reverberated far beyond Michigan, sparking probes into why the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and the university failed for years to investigate complaints.
A lawyer for Strampel did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A Michigan State representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Four female medical students told investigators Strampel made sexually suggestive comments during meetings, including what some perceived as academic privileges in exchange for sex. Two women accused him of grabbing their buttocks without consent.
One female student described meeting with Strampel in June 2017 to appeal a test score and feeling intimidated when he mentioned her age, saying: “26-year-old women can ‘put out’ for 20 minutes with an old man … and in return the women could get the benefit of a free vacation,” according to court documents.
Another female witness said Strampel suggested she become a centerfold model and related to her how another student had become a stripper to pay for school, court documents said.
When Strampel agreed to let the student retake a test, he said she must agree to do anything for him, which she interpreted as a request for sex, court documents said.
Strampel is also accused of using his position as dean to receive pornographic images of women “through threats and manipulation,” court documents said. They said investigators seized his computer in February and found about 50 photos of nude women, sex toys and pornography, including selfies of female students, pornographic videos and a video of Nassar performing “treatment” on a young female patient.
Strampel faces arraignment at 2:30 pm local time. If convicted, he faces five years and a possible fine of $10,000 for a misconduct in office charge, two years and a possible fine of $500 for the fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge and one year and a possible fine of $1,000 for each of the two willful neglect of duty charges, according to court documents.
Michigan State has already been rocked by the case of Nassar, 54, who was a faculty member and physician at an on-campus clinic. The school’s handling of the scandal has been criticized. Athletes had complained about Nassar since the 1990s, but the university did not open an investigation until 2014.
Nassar was fired in September 2016. In February, the school moved to fire Strampel, saying he failed to enforce guidelines created for Nassar after complaints of sexual misconduct.
(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio)