LANSING — A former dean who had oversight of now-imprisoned sports doctor Larry Nassar at Michigan State University was found guilty Wednesday of neglect of duty and misconduct in office but acquitted on a more serious criminal sexual conduct charge.
William Strampel, the ex-dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, was the first person charged after Michigan's attorney general launched an investigation 1½ years ago into how Michigan State handled complaints against Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team physician who pleaded guilty to molesting female athletes and possessing child pornography.
Strampel, 71, had been accused of abusing his power to sexually proposition and harass female students for years and not enforcing patient restrictions imposed on Nassar following a 2014 sexual misconduct complaint. Jurors acquitted him of felony criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, a charge that could have sent him to prison for up to 15 years, for grabbing the buttocks of one student at a fundraising ball.
He still faces up to five years in prison on the felony misconduct conviction, which stems from a charge that he used his public office to sexually harass, demean and proposition students who met with him to discuss academic issues. He also was convicted of willfully neglecting a duty to monitor Nassar after protocols were put in place requiring that a third person be present in the exam room for sensitive procedures and limiting skin-to-skin contact – misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in prison.
Due to Strampel's lack of follow-up, Nassar was able to commit a host of additional sexual assaults against patients until Nassar was fired two years later, prosecutors have said.
"Today's verdict sends a clear message: It's time to change the culture in our schools and medical communities so that our female students and doctors receive the same treatment and respect as their male counterparts," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a written statement in which she lauded victims for having the courage to step forward. "Public officers who brandish their power to demean, insult, objectify and abuse female students will be held accountable."
Strampel left the courthouse without commenting. His attorney, John Dakmak, said it "speaks volumes" that jurors "saw through a lot of allegations that fell flat."
Sentencing is scheduled for July 31.
During Strampel's trial, multiple former medical students testified about sexual comments and innuendo he made during one-on-one meetings – saying they did not report the inappropriate behavior because of the power he had over their futures in medicine. They accused him of staring at their breasts. Women who worked as model patients during exams also testified about unprofessional and sexual comments.
Investigators said Strampel's work computer contained photos of nude and semi-nude young women with Michigan State logo piercings or clothing.
The defense said Strampel, who had a military medical career before becoming the dean in 2002, had a "sailor's mouth," but there was no "corruption going through his head" while he engaged in "locker room talk." Strampel's lawyer said other officials at Michigan State also had a role in supervising Nassar, and noted that the school's Title IX investigation of the 2014 complaint cleared Nassar.
"We could all Monday morning quarterback 2014 on with Michigan State all day long," Dakmak said.
Dr. Nicole Eastman, who testified against Strampel and accused him of groping her, tweeted that his acquittal on the sexual assault charge was "very disappointing and sad," but the jury "thankfully got the rest right."
The prosecutions of ex-university president Lou Anna Simon and former women's gymnastics coach Kathie Klages continue. They face charges of lying to investigators.