Former University of Michigan Professor Pleads Guilty To Charges of Child Exploitation of a Minor

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DETROIT – Former University of Michigan professor pleaded guilty one count of transporting a minor girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual conduct, announced Acting United States Attorney Saima Mohsin. 

Mohsin was joined in the announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Pleading guilty was Stephen Shipps, 68, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

From 1989 to 2019, Shipps was employed by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance as a violin professor. Shipps was also the director of the Strings Preparatory Program, which offered instruction to young musicians ranging from elementary school through high school-age. Shipps retired from the University of Michigan in February 2019.  In addition, Shipps served on the faculties of Indiana University, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Nebraska – Omaha, and the Banff Centre in Canada.  He also taught students at summer music programs in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom. 

According to court records, from February and March of 2002, as well as in June and July of 2002, Shipps knowingly transported a minor girl, who was under 18 years old, across state lines, and Shipps intended to engage in sexual activity with her.

“Shipps used his position of trust to sexually exploit a child.  Well regarded music professors at prestigious universities with competitive music programs like the University of Michigan enjoy tremendous influence within the music community.  These professors often have the ability to make or break careers. Stephen Shipps was an influential and highly sought after violin professor who had successfully launched many careers.  I commend the brave young woman who stepped forward and exposed Shipps’s abuse,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mohsin.  “This case proves that the passage of time, no matter how long, will not deter us from bringing to justice those who prey on our most vulnerable.”

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“Thanks to the remarkable bravery of Shipps’ victims and painstaking investigative work by HSI, this disgraced professor is being held accountable for coercing vulnerable young women into sex acts,” said James C. Harris, acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations field offices in Michigan and Ohio. “This case underscores HSI’s commitment to give due credibility to all allegations of sexual exploitation of minors and to bring some measure of justice to the victims.”

Shipps faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison when he is scheduled to be sentenced on February 17, 2021 at 11 am.

This case was investigated by agents of HSI with the assistance of the University of Michigan Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward is prosecuting this case.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness & Prevention Month. Personally, everyone knows someone who has been affected by intimate-partner violence. Professionally, those who work in the criminal justice system continue to see rises in intimate partner violence despite tireless efforts to combat this epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused further strain on domestic violence both nationally and internationally. Risk factors have exponentially increased such as, unemployment, substance use, isolation at home, mental health issues, etc. As risk factors increase leading to rising violence; resources for victims were at a record low due to closures and staffing shortages. Unfortunately, pandemic or not, the violence doesn’t stop and neither do we.

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