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Lawyers for Ohio State contradict Jim Jordan’s claim he’s not been contacted By Jennifer Smola The Columbus Dispatch
By Jessica Wehrman Dispatch Washington Bureau
Posted Jul 3, 2018 at 11:30 AM Updated Jul 3, 2018 at 8:13 PM

Congressman Jim Jordan denied hearing about Dr. Richard Strauss’ alleged sexual abuse while Jordan was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan never witnessed abuse by the Ohio State University wrestling team’s doctor and he hasn’t been contacted by anyone investigating possible incidents that occurred while he was an assistant coach two decades ago, the Urbana Republican’s spokesman said Tuesday.

However, lawyers hired by OSU to probe the allegations said Jordan was contacted — both by phone and email — to request an interview, but he never responded.

And three members of the wrestling team under Jordan insist that he knew about the abuse but looked the other way.

Ian Fury, a spokesman for Jordan, said in a written statement that Jordan “never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State. He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice.”

Fury also denied that Jordan had been contacted about the case.

“Despite claims to the contrary, Congressman Jordan’s office has not received a request for interview from the investigative team. We have demanded that they send us the supposed communication and remain willing to assist in any way that we can.”

A written statement from Porter Wright Morris & Arthur attorney Kathleen Trafford, provided by the university, said investigators had previously contacted Jordan’s office by email and phone to request an interview.

“To date, Rep. Jordan has not responded to those requests, but we understand from public statements issued on his behalf today that Rep. Jordan is willing to talk to the investigative team,” Trafford said.

Jordan, who has represented a swath of west-central Ohio since 2007, is considered one of the more-powerful conservatives in Congress and is widely credited as being a driver in former House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation. Earlier this year, Jordan said he was considering running for House speaker if Republicans keep control of the chamber in November.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, called the allegations “serious.”

“The university has rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter,” Andres said. “The speaker will await the findings of that inquiry.”

Jordan has said as far back as April that he did not know anything about allegations against Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005.

“I had not heard about any type of abuse at all,” said Jordan, 54, a two-time NCAA wrestling champion with Wisconsin who was an OSU assistant from 1986 to 1994. He told The Dispatch in the spring that “no one reported any type of abuse” to him.

Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato, one of the first to report Strauss’ alleged misconduct to Ohio State, told The Dispatch on Tuesday that he is disappointed by Jordan’s response Tuesday, calling the congressman “a coward.”

“He knew, did know, and it’s very disappointing that he has now denied knowledge, not once, but twice,” said DiSabato, who said he was victimized by the doctor. “I’ve never known Jim Jordan to be a coward, frankly, but this shows that his own interest in seeking higher office is more important than the health, safety and well being of his friends and athletes who competed for him and with him.”

In a statement on her website, Democrat Janet Garrett, who is running against Jordan for his House seat, said “any allegation of sexual abuse against minors — or complicity regarding such abuse — is very serious. That damage cannot be undone. For any teacher, protecting kids is the absolute first priority — and I say that as a former kindergarten teacher.

“Ohio State has an obligation to get to the bottom of this with a thorough and fair investigation. Jim Jordan has an obligation to cooperate fully with that investigation.”

Porter Wright was appointed by the Ohio attorney general’s office as legal counsel in the Strauss matter for Ohio State, and the firm hired Perkins Coie to conduct an independent investigation. So far, Perkins Coie has interviewed more than 150 former students and witnesses.

Since Ohio State launched the investigation in April, it has expanded to additional facets of the university and Columbus community. Former student-athletes from 14 sports have reported allegations of sexual misconduct relating to Strauss, the university said in an update last month. Additionally, some students who were not athletes have reported sexual misconduct, as have some who were familiar with Strauss through a private medical practice he ran in Columbus in the 1990s.

Investigators are also now looking into whether Strauss may have treated high school students.

The three former wrestlers told NBC News that it was well-known that Strauss showered regularly with students and inappropriately touched them during appointments. One wrestler said he told Jordan directly about the abuse.

Former athletes and students have described physical examinations or check-ups by Strauss in which they were routinely made to take off their pants or have their genitals thoroughly inspected by Strauss for such ailments as heartburn or a sore throat.

In addition to misconduct by Strauss, DiSabato and other wrestlers have described a “cesspool” or “gauntlet” of “sexual deviancy” in and around the wrestling facilities and then-physical education building, Larkins Hall.

A video created by DiSabato and other former athletes described the abuse by Strauss and conditions in the locker rooms and athletic facilities during his tenure. For example, Russ Hellickson, Buckeye wrestling coach from 1986 to 2006, said that Strauss was always “too hands-on” with athletes, and that the physician took long showers in the same area as the wrestlers.

Hellickson said he caught people having sex or masturbating in the wrestling team areas and surrounding facilities. He said the misconduct created a problem for his wrestlers, affecting their mental states.

“All of my administrators recognized that it was an issue for me,” Hellickson said. “I’m sure that I talked to all of them on numerous occasions about my discontent with the environment.”

DiSabato said he and others provided the video to Ohio State to “provide the university direct emotional feedback from the victims.”

Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey said that when the university received the video last week, “it was immediately provided to the independent investigators.”
jsmola@dispatch.com
@jennsmola
jwehrman@dispatch.com
@JessicaWehrman

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