The two lead partners at Perkins Coie said the group investigating sexual misconduct allegations against former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss has now interviewed 150 former students with first-hand accounts of Strauss’ abuse on Thursday at the Audit and Compliance Board of Trustees meeting.
Former assistant U.S. attorney Markus Funk and former federal government ethics attorney Caryn Trombino delivered the latest update to the Strauss investigation, stating they expect the fact-finding portion of the investigation to conclude before the end of the year.
“We are working with all deliberate speed to conclude the investigation,” Funk said.
Funk said Perkins Coie, the Seattle-based law firm hired in April to lead the investigation into Strauss, has reviewed more than 34,000 documents from archives and outside sources. In addition, 440 separate interviews, including the 150 potential victims, have also been conducted. The victims are exclusively male and a vast majority were athletes from 17 different sports and activities, Funk said.
The Thursday update also said the investigative group has issued a request to the State of Ohio Medical Board to obtain Strauss’ file, but to date, Perkins Coie has not received the file.
Funk added that Ohio State employees have fully cooperated with the investigation. He said that while the investigation does not have subpoena power, Perkins Coie is hoping individuals with knowledge will come forward to help the investigation determine the knowledge and response of Ohio State administrators at the time.
While witnesses with first-hand accounts of abuse have come forward to provide their account of events, Funk said Perkins Coie is not reaching out to potential victims in an effort to respect “the survivors’ autonomy and control” and to minimize trauma.
“Consistent with prevailing best practices, we have balanced investigative needs with balanced approach designed to minimize trauma,” Funk said, noting that those who have come forward have all provided consistent accounts of abuse despite many of the victims having not spoken with other victims.
Strauss is accused of sexually abusing former Ohio State students and student-athletes during his time at Ohio State between 1978 and 1998 while he worked as the team physician in athletics and treated students at Student Health Services. Investigators have also concluded he ran a private off-campus clinic where he continued his abuse of students. Strauss died in 2005.
The investigation was opened in April with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur being appointed as legal counsel for Ohio State by attorney general and now-governor-elect Mike DeWine. The Columbus-based law firm originally hired Bricker & Eckler to lead the investigation, but in May, turned to Perkins Coie due to a legal conflict with Bricker & Eckler.
Provost Bruce McPheron told Funk that there had been questions surrounding the independence of the investigation by the public. Funk responded that while Perkins Coie has received assistance in the investigation, there has been “no interference or attempts to influence outcomes” by the university.
Ohio State has faced three lawsuits from accusers, claiming the university had knowledge of Strauss’ abuse and did nothing to stop it. The university filed three motions to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds. Title IX claims in the state of Ohio have a two-year window for statute of limitations.
One plaintiff filed an amended complaint, but the university filed another motion to dismiss on statute of limitation grounds.
Ohio State has said in previous statements that the motions to dismiss are not meant to be dismissive of the claims, but rather a matter of the legal process.
A group of accusers are scheduled to speak Friday morning at the full Board of Trustees meeting for 20 minutes to share their stories to the Board.