George Clooney Doc on Richard Strauss, Ohio State Sex Abuse Scandal Finds Home on HBO

“It’s a devastating story about people in power abusing and then covering up their criminal actions against students," Clooney says.

Richard Strauss (pictured) - Photo: Ohio State University
Photo: Ohio State University
Richard Strauss (pictured)

HBO has grabbed the rights
 to George Clooney's documentary feature on the Richard Strauss sex abuse scandal at Ohio State, which is being produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov's Smokehouse Pictures in partnership with Sports Illustrated Studios and 101 Studios.

The feature, based on the October 2020 Sports Illustrated feature by Jon Wertheim, will take a deep look at Strauss's abuse of hundreds of victims from 1978 to 1998, a scandal that continues to reverberate in Columbus and nationally — Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, who was an assistant coach on the college's wrestling team, has repeatedly been accused of ignoring Strauss's behavior.

“Grant and I are very proud to be working on this project with HBO,” Clooney said in a statement. “It’s a devastating story about people in power abusing and then covering up their criminal actions against students. The fact that it hasn’t been resolved as of yet is deeply disturbing.”

Eva Orner, an Oscar winner, has signed on to direct.

“I’m honored to join this incredible creative team. This film is about the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of American higher education. It will give the courageous men who were abused a powerful and clear voice," Orner said in a statement.

In 2019, OSU released the findings of an investigation undertaken by a private law firm hired by the university that found Strauss had abused at least 177 men during his tenure at the school. What's more, school leaders at the time knew about the abuse, the report states.

Strauss abused athletes playing at least 16 sports at the university plus others who attended a campus health center and an off-campus clinic between 1979 and 1997, according to the investigation. Strauss was employed at OSU from 1978 to 1998.

"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 2019 statement from OSU read. "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."

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

A version of this story was originally published by CityBeat sister paper Cleveland Scene.

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