Sunday, July 5, 2020

'He held the power to stop them from becoming a doctor:' An overview of Strampel's trial

June 12, 2019
<p>Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark demonstrates a grabbing gesture to Dr. Nicole Eastman, asking her if this was the way that William Strampel grabbed her buttock during a fundraising event in 2010. The trial of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s former Dean Dr. William Strampel for charges of sexual assault and sexual misconduct continued at the Ingham County Circuit Court on June 4, 2019.</p>

Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark demonstrates a grabbing gesture to Dr. Nicole Eastman, asking her if this was the way that William Strampel grabbed her buttock during a fundraising event in 2010. The trial of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s former Dean Dr. William Strampel for charges of sexual assault and sexual misconduct continued at the Ingham County Circuit Court on June 4, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Former dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine William Strampel was convicted Wednesday of misconduct in office and of two counts of willful neglect of duty. However, he was found not guilty of charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The jury foreperson first announced Strampel guilty of misconduct of office of a public official, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Then it was announced that he was guilty of two counts of willful neglect of duty, which are misdemeanors relating to the mishandling of reports against ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar.

The jury’s final decision was to acquit Strampel of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. If he was convicted, the charge would have had a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Strampel’s defense attorney, John Dakmak, requested for a poll of the jury to confirm the verdict from the 12 members of the jury before the charges went on the record.

Days of witness testimony

MSU Medical student Leah Jackson testified during the first day of trial relating to Strampel’s sexually charged comments and possible intentions of sexual conduct. Jackson filed a Title IX complaint with MSU. Jackson’s family, however, decided to file a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General’s office in January 2018, which resulted in Strampel’s trial.

Alison Perkins, a physician’s assistant who attended MSU, was hired as a “life skills model” by Strampel. He allegedly directly paid her around $100 each time. 

Perkins alleged that Strampel performed a full breast and pelvic exam on her. She felt as if it was “really strange” and that during the exam he wasn’t explaining the reasons behind the maneuver.

She said that he made eye contact with her during this exam. She claimed that should never happen during these types of exams, as it could make patients uncomfortable.

Perkins added that you never know the patient's past experiences and that it shouldn’t be a doctor's common practice.

Nicole Eastman also gave impactful testimony. She alleged Strampel of groping her at a Gala in February of 2010. She testified that she saw Strampel standing “two feet at most” away from her.

She and her husband didn’t report the incident at the time and followed up in 2018 after Rachael Denhollander encouraged her to report.

Eastman's husband testified saying, “It was a person of power. It was embarrassing to her.”

Even after Eastman alleged Strampel of groping her, the jury found him not guilty of criminal sexual conduct.

She also testified that Strampel told her and other students, "I hold your entire future in my hands, and I can do with it whatever I want."

Relating to the charges Strampel obtained for misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty, there were multiple witnesses speaking to the fact that Strampel was a powerful man.

Perkins said she felt as if Strampel had a “hold” over her future.

Hagaman-Clark asked Perkins why she never applied to the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine despite receiving acceptable scores. Perkins replied by saying, “I felt like I would potentially be put into a position where I would be asked to do more.”

Another witness, Khadije Saad, said Strampel was "very clear about how much power he had because of his position.” 

Saad met with Strampel after a failed exam, which was a common reason to contact the dean. She claimed Strampel said he would own her if he were to help her. Saad didn’t accept his help and decided to take a hiatus from school after this alleged situation.

Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz, along with others, where present during the court proceedings of this trial.

A woman was removed from the courtroom during recess Tuesday upon holding a sign reading "Me Too."

Closing statements

Tuesday was expected to be the last day of jury deliberations. However, after nearly five hours of jury deliberation, Judge Joyce Draganchuk extended the trial into Wednesday.

Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark’s closing statement on Tuesday referenced previous witness testimony of comments Strampel allegedly made, such as “I own you.”

These inappropriate comments were frequently brought up during the trial.

"He held the power to stop them from becoming a doctor," Hagaman-Clark said. "These aren't statements that were made to these women at a bar in East Lansing by some guy they met — these statements are made to them by the person who is the dean of their medical school. That's what makes this criminal. And the interpretation."

Dakmak acknowledged Strampel’s comments by saying, “Where is the corruption? Because having a soldier's mouth — a sailor's mouth — ain't enough."

Hagaman-Clark said no one should have to put up with inappropriate behavior to become a doctor. 

One of Dakmak’s points during his closing statement was that Strampel did not make himself Larry Nassar’s supervisor. He said to not associate Strampel with the connotation that follows Nassar’s reputation. 

Reactions to Strampel's verdict

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement that she's proud of the women who had the courage to step forward and tell their stories.

“You helped ensure that William Strampel could no longer wield his power to prey on women," Nessel said in the statement. "I’m also proud of the officers from the Michigan State Police and the special agents and attorneys from the Department of Attorney General who worked tirelessly on this case for more than a year to see that justice was done. Today, and every day, my office listens, believes and stands with victims."

Several former MSU employees are still under investigation for their handling of reports relating to Nassar’s sexual abuse. 

Ex-MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon's preliminary hearing is ongoing.

The preliminary exam will determine if she should go to trial for allegedly lying to officers that she had no knowledge of Nassar’s abuse until 2016. Simon’s preliminary hearing is set to continue July 12.

Kathie Klages — former MSU gymnastics coach — was charged with lying to police during the investigation into reports against Nassar. 

Klages' trial is set to continue July 8. 

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

Discussion

Share and discuss “'He held the power to stop them from becoming a doctor:' An overview of Strampel's trial” on social media.