COLUMBUS, Ohio — A judge who was asked to recuse himself over a potential conflict of interests has dismissed the cases of dozens of former The Ohio State University athletes who say they were sexually assaulted by team doctor Richard Strauss, stating that their claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
The athletes were Ohio State students from 1974 through 2000.
On Tuesday, News 5 investigator Sarah Buduson reported on a motion asking Judge Michael Watson to recuse himself because of an alleged conflict of interest and close ties to OSU.
The attorneys for the athletes cited numerous potential conflicts of interest, including the judge’s wife's license to sell products with OSU's logo, OSU acting as a customer for her business, and Watson's employment as an adjunct professor at OSU's law school. The attorneys also asked that the cases be moved to Cincinnati.
On Wednesday, Judge Watson chose not to recuse himself and tossed out the cases of former wrestlers and other athletes who filed Title IX complaints, stating in the dismissal opinion the statute of limitations has now expired.
Per the national expert in our initial story "Betrayed," Ohio is one of the worst states for sexual abuse victims because it gives them little time to file claims against their abusers and those involved in their abuse such as those who failed to take action on multiple complaints.
Ohio State previously reached settlement agreements with nearly 200 other students who also accused Strauss of sexual assault, but it was only in May of this year that OSU established a program to offer individual settlements to athletes who had not previously settled with the university. The university said at the time that they would be offering a settlement of up to $252,551, which was the average settlement value for previous survivors of Strauss’s abuse.
News 5 reached out to OSU representatives and asked if survivors whose cases were dismissed were still eligible to receive a settlement through the program, and for a statement on Judge Watson's rulings Wednesday. OSU provided the following statement:
Beginning in 2018, Ohio State sought to uncover and acknowledge the truth about Richard Strauss’ abuse and the university’s failure at the time to prevent it. We are forever grateful to the survivors who participated in the independent Perkins Coie investigation, which could not have been completed without their strength and courage, and we offer our deepest regrets and apologies to all who experienced Strauss’ abuse.
The university has reached settlement agreements with more than 230 survivors and will continue to cover the cost of professionally certified counseling services and treatment for anyone affected by Strauss.
With Wednesday’s dismissal by Judge Watson, survivors who have not previously settled or opted to take part in OSU’s settlement program have little recourse to receive damages for the abuse they allegedly suffered outside of appealing Watson’s ruling.