Fallout begins in wake of Larry Nassar scandal with arrest of Michigan State dean

Dan Wetzel

The long-awaited first shoe has dropped at Michigan State in the Larry Nassar scandal.

The question is how many more are to come?

Dr. William D. Strampel, the 70-year-old former Dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he oversaw serial pedophile Larry Nassar, was arrested Monday evening and booked into the Ingham County, Michigan, jail. Neither the charges nor bail information was immediately disclosed.

Strampel, who resigned his post at MSU in December citing health reasons, was an obvious target for law enforcement. The Michigan attorney general has expanded its probe beyond Nassar and into those who may have known of his actions or failed to properly report claims of abuse.

Dr. William Strampel, who oversaw Larry Nassar at Michigan State, was arrested Monday. (MSU)

Nassar likely abused hundreds of girls and women across three decades as an athletic doctor, the majority of them gymnasts seeking treatment for injuries. He also served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics. In November 2017, he pled guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault, as well as federal child pornography charges. The 54-year-old former USA Gymnastics doctor is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona.

Nassar was sentenced up to an additional 175 years in state prison after a remarkable multiweek sentencing hearing in Ingham County that saw more than 150 of his victims, from famed gold-medal winning gymnasts to girls still in their teens, speak. He received another possible 125 years in another deal in Eaton County, Michigan.

Repeatedly, victims demanded an investigation into not just Nassar’s acts, but who, if anyone, knew of and enabled them. That meant both USA Gymnastics, which used Nassar as a volunteer for its powerhouse women’s team, and mostly MSU, which employed Nassar for decades.

The attorney general’s office finally announced a wide-ranging investigation earlier this year, appointing William Forsyth as the special prosecutor in the case. The investigation has sought all communication and files at Michigan State involving Nassar and related parties.

Strampel’s failures to stop Nassar were the most obvious.

In 2014, a Michigan State University Title IX investigation was conducted into a complaint about Nassar’s treatment of a patient. Nassar was not charged with a crime and was allowed to keep his job. Strampel, the dean since 2002, offered his vocal support for Nassar throughout and kept Nassar updated on the investigation. After Nassar was allowed to continue, Strampel created a series of protocols for Nassar, including prohibiting the doctor from seeing female patients alone and requiring he wear gloves during certain procedures.

Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, stands in court during his sentencing hearing in the Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Michigan, U.S., February 5, 2018. (REUTERS)

That alone suggested Strampel found some issue with Nassar’s actions, which Nassar said were legitimate medical procedures. If everything was fine, why special precautions?

However, Strampel never followed up on the protocols. Neither patients nor nurses in the office were told. Nassar was essentially allowed to operate on the honor system. Nassar went on to abuse additional patients.

Whether Strampel’s charges are, in any way, associated with the above remains unknown. It may also have to do with separate criminal behavior. Michigan State released a statement late Monday intimating other non-detailed issues with Strampel.

“Allegations have arisen that question whether his personal conduct over a long period of time met MSU’s standards,” the statement read. “We are sending an unmistakable message that we will remove employees who do not treat students, faculty, staff or anyone else in our community in an appropriate manner.”

Failures to properly deal with Nassar date back at least as far as 1997. That was when a then-16-year-old gymnast first complained to Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathy Kleges about Nassar abusing her. Nothing was done. Additional complaints to officials, coaches and trainers piled up through the years.

Nassar was allowed to continue, both in East Lansing and with his work with USA Gymnastics, which he brandished as credibility with uncertain patients and their parents.

The scandal has rocked MSU. Longtime school president Lou Anna K. Simon resigned earlier this year and the university is facing an onslaught of civil charges that could push toward $1 billion in settlements.

“Our clients are encouraged by the Attorney General’s action today,” John Manly, a California-based civil attorney who represents over 100 victims, said in a statement. “It demonstrates that he is serious about investigating the systemic misconduct at MSU that led to the largest child sex abuse scandal in history and holding the responsible parties accountable.”

The attorney general’s office has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to update its work on the case. With Strampel arrested, the case appears to have moved past just Nassar.

How much further and to how many more arrests is what everyone is waiting to find out.

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