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Woman sues former MSU medical resident over stolen pictures

Posted at 12:24 PM, Jan 21, 2020

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A former Michigan State University medical resident already serving prison time for sexual assault is now facing a lawsuit over stolen intimate pictures.

According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, the plaintiff worked at Sparrow Medical Center at the same time Michael Phinn was doing his residency there. She claims Phinn hacked computers to get "private pictures of the Plaintiff in various stages of undress without her authorization or consent."

She is also suing the University and William Strampel, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. Strampel ran the school while Phinn was a student.

The suit claims Strampel "encouraged and/or allowed a climate of inappropriate sexual touching and harassment of women," and accuses him and MSU of failing "to carry out its duties to supervise and investigate Phinn's actions to prevent the hacking of the computers," and of failing "to adequately supervise Phinn despite knowing or should have known Phinn's tendencies."

Phinn was originally charged with 26 crimes following a criminal investigation that began in 2018. He pleaded guilty in August 2019 to one count each of the following charges:

  • second-degree criminal sexual conduct
  • assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct
  • unauthorized access to a computer
  • using a computer to commit a crime

An Ingham County judge sentenced Phinn to 5-15 years in prison. Two women accused him of reaching under their shirts, exposing himself in person and via email. Police say he admitted stealing pictures and videos from co-workers' social media and email accounts.

Strampel is serving one year in the Ingham County Jail after he was convicted of misconduct in office and two counts of willful neglect of duty. The jury found him not guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The plaintiff claims she endured pain, suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, embarrassment and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of Phinn stealing her pictures. She's asking the court for a jury trial. The University, Strampel and Phinn have received summons ordering them to respond to the suit. No responses have been filed with the court's electronic records site yet.

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