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William Strampel's trial opens with tense moment between defense attorney and witness

May 30, 2019
Former MSU dean William Strampel sits during his preliminary hearing  on June 5, 2018 at the 54B District Court. Strampel is charged with four criminal charges including a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge and a felony count of misconduct in office.
Former MSU dean William Strampel sits during his preliminary hearing on June 5, 2018 at the 54B District Court. Strampel is charged with four criminal charges including a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge and a felony count of misconduct in office. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Accusations flew during a contentious first day of trial for former dean of Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel, which took place inside Veterans Memorial Courthouse on Thursday.

Strampel faces two felony counts, a common law offense and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, as well as two misdemeanors related to his alleged mishandling of the abuse committed by disgraced former MSU Doctor Larry Nassar.

The prosecution called MSU medical student Leah Jackson, who testified that during a June 2017 meeting, that Strampel told her that he had friends who had sexual relations with younger women and that there could be advantages for younger women who had relationships with older men.

“All he said a 26-year-old (Jackson was 26 at the time) has to do is ‘put out’ for 20 minutes, and then the old man falls asleep, and she gets whatever agreement that they arranged,” Jackson said about what Strampel told her.

Jackson was meeting with Strampel in his role as dean of the college to appeal for a chance to retake a preliminary exam she had failed, preventing her from moving on to her third year of medical school. She says that in addition to his lewd comments about sexual relationships between older men and younger women, he also talked about nude photographs, saying it was easier to send them back in his day because there was no digital record of them.

Strampel denied her appeal, and after Jackson failed another retake in December 2017 — Jackson attributes this failure to a technical difficulty — she set up a similar meeting to the one they had six months prior.

At this meeting, Strampel offered her a contract. He would allow her to bypass the preliminary exam she had failed and take the full exam to allow her to progress, but if she failed it, she would have to drop out of the college.

The defense, led by attorney John Dakmak, attacked Jackson’s credibility by focusing on her exam failures. Dakmak questioned the idea that Strampel had created any negative situation for Jackson, saying if she had passed the exam any of the first three times, no such contract would have been drawn up.

“Would you want to sign something like that where it binds you and your dreams were gone like that?” Jackson said to Dakmak.

“Here’s the deal: I get to ask the questions, and you get to answer them. But, I’ll tell you, if I had failed three times and I was told this is it,” Dakmak began saying to Jackson before the state’s attorney, Danielle Hagaman-Clark, objected to Dakmak’s badgering.

Dakmak also asked if Strampel ever directly propositioned Jackson in any sexual manner. Jackson said, while Strampel never directly said anything, that his sexually-charged comments were allusions to his intentions.

The defense said that they believed that Strampel, while aloof and probably inappropriate in some settings, never crossed a boundary that would constitute criminal sexual conduct.

The state called Terry Jackson, Leah's father, and confirmed that he accompanied his daughter to her second meeting with Strampel in December 2017. He said his greatest concern was for his own ability to control himself and not burst in the building, where he said he had thought of physically assaulting Strampel because of his comments at the first meeting.

He remained in the car for the entirety of the second meeting but advised his daughter not to sign the contract Strampel had offered her.

Mr. Jackson referred to Strampel as a “wall” that kept his daughter from achieving her goals, believing that he would have waived her exam requirement if she had offered to send him nude photographs or perform sexual favors, which were allegedly talked about in general terms but never directly how they could apply to Ms. Jackson’s situation.

“(Mr. Strampel) was the wall that kept your daughter from passing (the preliminary exam) three times?” Dakmak asked.

After another heated moment where Mr. Jackson said Strampel had “very much made it clear” he was looking for a quid pro quo arrangement with his daughter, Dakmak admonished him for wildly speculating about connections between conversations between Ms. Jackson and Strampel and other pieces of evidence, namely photographs found on Strampel’s computer.

The Jackson family filed complaints with MSU’s Title IX office and the Michigan Attorney General’s office in January 2018, the latter of which resulted in Strampel’s current trial.

Testimony is set to continue Friday morning, with the state yet to call several more witnesses who claim Strampel sexually harassed or groped them during his time at MSU.

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