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By Corky Siemaszko
A former Ohio State University wrestler who has accused his former assistant coach, now-Congressman Jim Jordan, and the university of turning a blind eye to alleged molestation of athletes by the team doctor was jailed Monday in connection with a complaint that he harassed by telephone a former football star at the university who is a relative of Jordan’s.
The wrestler, Mike DiSabato, was arrested on a warrant when he showed up for court in Columbus after he missed a Friday hearing date. He is being held in the Franklin County Jail and is due in court again Tuesday, a court official said.
DiSabato, 50, told NBC News his arrest was due to a bureaucratic snafu, as neither he nor his lawyer knew they were supposed to be in court Friday.
“I’m a wanted man because of bureaucratic bungling,” DiSabato, of Dublin, Ohio, told NBC News on Friday after learning from a local news story that a warrant was issued for his arrest.
It was DiSabato’s complaints about the late Dr. Richard Strauss that prompted Ohio State last April to launch an investigation into decades-old allegations that the former team doctor molested wrestlers at the university.
Jordan, an influential Republican congressman representing a district in north-central Ohio, coached at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994. He has maintained repeatedly that he was not aware of alleged abuse of student wrestlers by Strauss, saying he did not even hear any locker room talk about the doctor.
Among the wrestlers who have spoken to NBC News about alleged abuse by Strauss, some have agreed with DiSabato that it is hard to believe Jordan was unaware of the team doctor’s alleged behavior. But some others have defended Jordan, saying that if he had known he would have acted.
The university’s probe of the allegations against Strauss became a national story on July 3 when DiSabato and several other former Ohio State wrestlers told NBC News that Jordan was lying when he insisted he had been unaware of the alleged abuse.
Two days later, a former football star at the university, Matthew Finkes, filed a complaint with the Columbus Police Department of telephone harassment by DiSabato, records show.
“Michael H. DiSabato knowingly made the telecommunication to Matthew S. Finkes and had been previously told not to call,” the complaint states.
Finkes, who works as a fundraiser for the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State and co-hosts a local sports radio show, stated in the complaint that he told DiSabato by email on July 3 “to cease all communication.”
He did not say in the complaint what DiSabato had allegedly been calling him about.
DiSabato claimed in interviews with NBC News and in an email he sent to an independent law firm investigating the Strauss allegations for Ohio State that Finkes had been harassing him before he went public with his allegations against Jordan.
According to DiSabato’s email, Finkes publicly accused him in a July 12 radio interview of engaging in a “money grab & political hit job” against Ohio State and Jordan.
“Please note that this email is the first of several I will be sending regarding the overt / deliberate harassment and retaliation by employees of the University,” DiSabato wrote in his email to the law firm.
Finkes replied to an email from NBC News on Monday: “Appreciate you reaching out but I do not have any comment at this time while the case is still active. As I told the AP reporter, I simply wish for Mr. DiSabato to leave me alone.”
Finkes told the Wall Street Journal on July 10 that Jordan is his second cousin and had recruited him to wrestle at Ohio State, although he wound up playing football instead.
“I would trust him with my life and with my kids’ lives and the idea that he would ever put me in a situation where I would be threatened by a sexual predator is so outside the realm of possibility that it’s laughable,” Finkes told the paper.
NBC News also reached out for comment about DiSabato to Jordan’s spokesman and to a Virginia-based public affairs firm that the congressman’s campaign hired to handle communications relating to the Strauss allegations. There was no immediate response from either.