Ohio State UniversityOhio Gov. Mike DeWine today suggested that the state should end its criminal statute of limitations on rape cases and other instances of sexual assault in the wake of a report saying that a now-deceased team doctor at the Ohio State University sexually abused at least 177 patients.
A report released by the university this week undertaken by independent investigators suggests that former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss sexually assaulted athletes and others at a campus health center and off-campus clinic between 1979 and 1998.
Currently, rape is generally not criminally prosecutable 20 or 25 years after it occurred due to the state's current statutes of limitations. Other felony sex crimes have statutes of limitations as short as six years. Under those laws, many incidents in the Strauss report would no longer be criminally prosecutable.
"How furious would the public be today if this man was still alive and could not be prosecuted?" DeWine asked at a news conference about the changes today. "I think people would be furious. We know from all the evidence, all the studies, that many times victims never come forward. Many times they can't come forward. The laws should be different in regard to the statute of limitations for sexual assault than it is for other crimes."
DeWine also encouraged the Ohio General Assembly to reconsider the statutes of limitations for misdemeanor sex crimes and civil actions regarding sexual assault, all of which currently are as little as one or two years.
The governor also signed an executive order establishing a working group to review the Strauss report, including information redacted on the Strauss reports by Ohio's State Medical Board. The group will assess the actions of the medical board to assure they were adequate in relation to the accusations.
“What did they know? When did they know that? What did they do about it? We don’t know," DeWine said. "I find that unacceptable… the public has a right to know exactly what went on with the state medical board.”
The working group will be chaired by Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Tom Stickrath and will have representatives from State Highway Patrol, Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, a police chief and a victims’ advocate.
DeWine said today that he believed the allegations against Strauss were not reported to state officials until 1996.
The Strauss investigation came after a series of lawsuits against OSU alleging the abuse. Some of the plaintiffs in those lawsuits say that more than 20 school officials — from athletic directors to now-U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, at one time an OSU assistant wrestling coach — knew about Strauss' actions. Jordan has denied knowledge of the incidents. Neither he nor the school's wrestling program are mentioned in the report released today, though many passages are redacted.
"The report concludes that university personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully," a statement from OSU reads. "In 1996, Ohio State removed Strauss from his role as a physician in both the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services. His actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. The report found that the university failed to report Strauss’ conduct to law enforcement. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998 with emeritus status."
The two primary and related lawsuits against the school are headed to mediation under U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Office is investigating whether OSU looked into allegations against Strauss in a timely manner.
Strauss killed himself 2005. OSU says it is in the process of revoking his emeritus status.