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Drake expects Strauss investigation to conclude in ‘six to eight weeks’

President Michael Drake sat down with with members of The Lantern for his semesterly interview on March 5. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

While there is no official timeline set for the investigation into sexual abuse allegations by former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss, University President Michael Drake told The Lantern he expects the investigation to end in “six to eight weeks.”

Drake added that while counseling, which the university offered to Strauss victims in February, is the first step in supporting the victims, the university will make most of its decisions on services to offer following the investigation.

“We’ll wait until we see what the investigation holds before we can move too much beyond that,” Drake said on Tuesday. “We’ll continue talking and thinking, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because the reason for the investigation is to help us to learn what happened.”

Ohio State opened an investigation in April into sexual abuse allegations involving Strauss, a former team physician and Student Health Services doctor, that occurred between 1978 and 1998. The investigation is also looking into claims as to whether he abused students at a private clinic after leaving the university.

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

Porter Wright Morris & Arthur was appointed to serve as legal counsel by then-attorney general Mike DeWine. Bricker & Eckler was originally hired to lead the investigation, but turned to Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based law firm, due to a legal conflict. Perkins Coie has interviewed more than 150 people with first-hand knowledge of Strauss’ abuse since the investigation opened, according to a past board update.

At the February full Board of Trustees meeting, Provost Bruce McPheron said the Strauss investigation was nearing its conclusion. Drake said that to the university, this meant “weeks.”

Drake said Ohio State wants to provide the Strauss victims with the same support it would provide students today if they came with a similar concern. He said the university wanted to provide those services to “at least have that be something we were doing while the other issues are being resolved.”

The offer of counseling was met with criticism by some of the outspoken Strauss accusers, with Brian Garrett, the lead plaintiff in one of two Strauss lawsuits against Ohio State, saying the move was too late and offered just to make the university look better in front of a mediator. Garrett said that more than anything, the survivors are hoping for accountability from the university.

“First thing is admit they screwed up,” Garrett said. “That’s what most of the survivors want to hear.”

Ohio State currently faces a pair of class-action lawsuits after requesting both suits be dismissed on statute of limitation grounds. Judge Michael H. Watson put both Ohio State’s motion to stay discovery and motion to dismiss on hold while the two sides seek a mediator. Originally, the two sides needed to agree on a third-party mediator by Feb. 16, but an extension was granted by Watson until March 12, according to court documents.

Ohio State appointed Carpenter Lipps & Leland to represent it in any lawsuits from accusers.

Garrett also expressed concerns of trust with Ohio State, and said he wondered how he can trust that the third-party counselor, Praesidium, won’t share his information with Ohio State.

“I don’t trust what Ohio State does at this point,” Garrett said. “When they go to get the bill from the third party, how do I know my information stays private?”

Drake said in his interview with The Lantern that survivors don’t have to reveal their identities to Ohio State, and that the survivors arrange the services and the university covers the cost, something university spokesman Chris Davey reiterated in an email.

“We will continue to protect the privacy of the survivors who have had the courage to come forward,” Davey said.

Along with concerns about whether his information is secure, Garrett said he is concerned the report from Perkins Coie will not be fully transparent.

Mike DiSabato, one of the accusers who initiated the investigation into Strauss with a records request to the university in January 2018, said while he is expecting the report to be released soon, he had reason to believe the report might not be all-encompassing.

DiSabato said the Strauss survivors will present a full report as well when the investigation by Perkins Coie concludes.

DiSabato said the hope would

be that Perkins Coie issues a full report with unredacted names — except for the victims — that will be several hundred pages and released to the public. He wants a report that includes a “full, detailed analysis or report as to the Strauss matter” and the “systemic sexual abuse” that happened in Larkins Hall.

“We remain fully and actively committed to transparency,” Davey said.

DiSabato was charged with nine counts of telecommunications harassment in July for emails he sent to former Ohio State football player and current university employee Matthew Finkes. He also was jailed in January for missing a court date. He was fined $250 plus court fees by Judge Ted Barrows, with a suspended 180-day jail term that can be reinstated if DiSabato violates his probation.

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