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MSU medical resident Michael Phinn sentenced for sexual assault charges

September 19, 2019
<p>Michael Phinn reads his testimony before the judge, which included apologies to his wife and son for behaving the way he did. Phinn&#x27;s trial took place in Ingham County on Sept. 18. </p>

Michael Phinn reads his testimony before the judge, which included apologies to his wife and son for behaving the way he did. Phinn's trial took place in Ingham County on Sept. 18.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Editor's note: This article contains some sensitive descriptions.

Former MSU medical resident Michael Phinn was sentenced on Sept. 18 to five to 15 years in prison for second-degree criminal sexual conduct, assault with intent to commit sexual contact, unauthorized access of a computer and use of a computer to commit a crime. 

While Phinn was working at the MSU Neurology clinic, multiple women reported him for forcing them to look at photos or videos of him masturbating, masturbating in front of them, groping their breasts, and penetrating their vaginas with his fingers. 

“One young woman described it as having your best friend constantly touching you, he would manipulate and go back and forth and oscillate between being very friendly with them and also abusing them,” Ingham County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steve Kwasnik said. “He had this power differential where he was a doctor and they were medical assistants at MSU and not understanding that they felt trapped by his actions.”

While Phinn did plead guilty to some charges, he did not agree with the severity of the charges, saying that he misinterpreted flirtatious behavior from coworkers, and blamed his porn addiction for inappropriate actions. 

“He is sorry for what he caused those women and took away from them,” Phinn's attorney, Timothy Williams said. “He understands that what happened was unfortunately what many men fall victim too which is an addiction to pornography, a lack of self esteem, and needing to feel validated.” 

Kwasnik said Phinn’s statements were passive aggressive and self serving.

“I think it's very telling," Kwasnik said. "(He) still doesn't understand the impact of what he did to these victims." 

The charges related to the computer where a flash drive was found in Phinn's possession that included dozens of private photographs stolen from Sparrow Health System coworkers’ private email and social media. Some of which were sexually explicit. 

“Without permission from anyone and that he fully admitted, and this was right in his initial report, he’s the one that sent the officers to go ahead and retrieve the thumb drive,” Kwasnik said. “It had all of these images on it of dozens of women ... they are photos that go beyond just normal titillation, there are images of women giving birth, images of an elderly woman getting a breast exam, images of women breastfeeding, all put together in this same flash drive that he held for his own benefit.”

Phinn originally faced 26 charges, which could have carried a life sentence in prison.

  • One count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

  • Five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

  • Two counts of assault with the intent to commit sexual contact.

  • One count of gross indecency.

  • Four counts of aggravated indecent exposure.

  • One count of indecent exposure.

  • Six counts of using a computer to commit a crime.

  • Six counts of unauthorized access to a computer.

He is one of four people from MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine to be charged with crimes of a sexual nature in Ingham County since 2018 which includes Larry Nassar, former Dean William Strampel and physiology professor Robert Wiseman.

Phinn graduated with an osteopathic medicine degree in 2016, but his license to practice medicine expired in June.

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