Former U of M violin professor arrested, charged with transporting minor for sex | Michigan Radio
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Former U of M violin professor arrested, charged with transporting minor for sex

Oct 29, 2020

Former University of Michigan professor Stephen Shipps was arrested Thursday morning at his Ann Arbor home on two charges of transporting a minor girl across state lines to engage in sexual activity. 

In an indictment unsealed Thursday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan alleges the crimes took place in February and March of 2002, as well as in June and July of 2002. According to the indictment, Shipps "knowingly transported a young girl, who was under 18 years old, across state lines, and Shipps intended to engage in sexual activity with her.”

If convicted of both counts, Shipps faces up to 15 years in federal prison. He’ll be arraigned in federal court Thursday afternoon. 

In a statement, United States Attorney Matthew Schneider implied additional charges could be brought against Shipps from other alleged victims.   

“For over 20 years, Stephen Shipps had close interactions with many young girls who were gifted musicians,” Schneider said. “Shipps met with these young girls both inside and outside of the State of Michigan. Our determination and commitment to seeking justice for victims has no time limit.”

 

 

Shipps, 67, was a renowned violin professor at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance since 1989. He traveled globally and taught extensively as a master violinist, including as director of U of M's Strings Preparatory Academy for middle and high school students, until going on leave in December 2018 following allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Those allegations were first reported by The Michigan Daily in a lengthy investigation detailing “40 years of sexual misconduct” accusations against Shipps. The story uncovered a consistent pattern, with multiple accounts of Shipps grooming talented young female students, and using his authority and access to engage with them sexually. 

One former  student, Maureen O'Boyle, describes being sexually assaulted by Shipps when she was his 17-year-old student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the last 1970's. Shipps was giving her private violin lessons in his home at the time, O'Boyle recounts, and would frequently use those lessons to have sex with her. Another former student, identified in the article only as "Anne," says Shipps had an ongoing sexual relationship with her when she was his 16-year-old student at the North Carolina School of the Arts in the ‘80’s. 

In a diary entry provided to the Daily from that time period, "Anne" describes feeling that Shipps held tremendous power over her teenaged self. 

“The things that would happen if we were found out would be: he would probably be fired but first, I would be thrown out of school, every connection I might have through him would be a negative one, rather than a positive one, if at all. I guess what I’m saying is that I would sort of be blacklisted, he would have a lot of reason to hate me since it would probably be my fault that we were found out, he might have a hard time finding another job etc. etc. In other words — nobody can know. I need him as a teacher at this point in my life.”

“At least now that I’m 17, he’s only twice as old as me,” she later wrote in an entry quoted by the Daily. 

The article also describes multiple allegations of sexual remarks and unwanted touching from both faculty and students at U of M, including an Ann Arbor middle schooler who felt Shipps touched her hips inappropriately during a lesson at the Preparatory Academy.  

In an emailed statement, U of M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the school “strongly condemns all sexual misconduct…”  

“Stephen Shipps was placed on administrative leave Dec. 7, 2018, shortly after the university learned of these allegations about him.

“He was instructed at that time to have no contact with students, never returned to campus and retired from the university effective Feb. 28, 2019. The university cooperated fully with the federal investigation.” 

Attorney David Nacht previously represented Shipps, but no longer does, his office said Thursday. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said she didn’t know who Shipps’ lawyer is, but would after the 1 p.m. arraignment. Calls to a number listed as Shipps’ landline were not answered.

Update, November 3rd: Shipps' attorney, John Shea, declined to comment. Shea entered a plea of not guilty at a Monday afternoon arraignment, and was released on a $10,000 bond last week. More coverage on what happened following Shipps' arrest is here.

 

This is a developing story. Last update was Thursday, October 29 at 12:45 p.m.

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