Ohio Governor Mike DeWine took the dramatic step this week to urge state lawmakers to extend or eliminate the statute of limitations on sex crimes, amid the recent Ohio State University (OSU) allegations of sexual abuse of 177 students during a period of nearly two decades.
The long rumored allegations of sexual abuse of OSU physician Dr. Richard Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 nearly a decade after he was allowed to retire with honors, has engulfed the nation’s third largest university in yet another sexual abuse scandal.
Last year Michigan State University was rocked by the Larry Nassar scandal elevated the school to the top of the list for sexual assault cases.
Years before it was the notorious Pen State sex scandal that sent former football coach Jerry Sandusky to prison for the rest of his life and tarnished the sterling reputation of its famed coach Joe Paterno and legendary football program.
Dayton attorney Michael Wright is preparing a lawsuit against Ohio State University on behalf of more than 60 former athletes, who claim they were sexually abused by then team physician Strauss.
Wright reportedly said that most of the clients were former football players at storied OSU, including some who went on to play in the NFL.
DeWine weighed in on OSU’s report that Strauss sexually abused students in his care over his 19-year career on campus and that university administrators failed to report the conduct to police.
“We should all be disgusted. Every Ohioan should be disgusted and should be angered about what’s happened,” DeWine said. “Not only by the vile acts perpetrated by Richard Strauss, but also they should be angered that complaints and reports about this sexual abuse were not reported to higher authorities by the (OSU) athletic department or Ohio State University health center until 1996 — more than 15 years after the first reports were in fact received.”
The governor called Strauss, a “monster.”
DeWine signed an executive order to task a working group to report back by Aug. 1 with a review of how the State Medical Board of Ohio investigated allegations of sexual abuse against Strauss. The medical board investigation records are confidential under state law.
The governor called on lawmakers to change the statute of limitations on sex crimes, extend the time frame for filing civil lawsuits against sexual predators, and strengthen sexual assault laws applied to people in power positions over their victims.
The 232-page report released May 17th stated investigators received credible, first-hand accounts of abuse from 177 students, but that Strauss very likely abused others between 1979 and 1998 when he worked as a team doctor and a physician in the student health clinic.
Investigators from Perkins Coie law firm of Seattle Washington said that Ohio State administrators failed to take action despite repeated complaints about Strauss’ misconduct.
The university is already facing multiple lawsuits.
Wright, who represents the John Crawford family in their lawsuit against Beavercreek in the officer-involved shooting death of Crawford, said he will file a federal lawsuit later this week on behalf of about 60 clients, including 50 former OSU football players.
The U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights is also conducting an inquiry.
State lawmakers are considering House Bill 249 to open a path for Strauss victims to sue Ohio State, lifting any statutes of limitations.
Brian Garrett, a Columbus-area man who is lead plaintiff in one of the cases, said he wants HB249 signed into law so victims have a chance to get their day in court.
Garrett questioned why Strauss was still allowed on campus, permitted to start an off-campus clinic in 1996 when he had been suspended by the university and eventually given emeritus status when he retired in 1998.
“If I were to sexually assault another student on campus when I went to Ohio State, I would be reported to the police,” Garrett said. “Why didn’t the Medical Board, why didn’t Ohio State report him to the police immediately? Why is a physician or person in power treated differently?”
All of this adds up to enormous exposure for Ohio State’s pocketbook.
In May 2018, Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. MSU is still facing legal complaints from a second wave of plaintiffs. The MSU payment eclipses the $100 million-plus paid by Penn State University to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse.
While the Nassar case was contained to gymnastics, Strauss’ abuse extended to 16 sports and the student health center.
“We are way beyond Michigan State here. And the amount of cover up that happened here, versus at Michigan State — we are way beyond Michigan State,” said Garrett, who was an undergraduate and graduate student at Ohio State from 1991 to 1998.
In a statement released Monday night, Ohio State President Michael Drake said he applauds Gov. DeWine’s “administration’s efforts to strengthen sexual misconduct reporting to law enforcement.”
“ We will continue to advocate for permission to release the redacted portions of the Strauss investigative report. Ohio State is a fundamentally different university today. We have implemented multiple safeguards against sexual assault over the past 20 years, including mandatory reporting and training. We agree with the governor that colleges and universities must always be vigilant in strengthening our protections and protocols. Ohio State looks forward to continuing to work with our partners on this critically important issue” Drake said.
Information from the Dayton Daily News and Associated Press is included in this report.