Former University of Michigan violin professor Stephen Shipps, 69, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for transporting a minor girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual conduct.
In November 2021 Shipps pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of transporting a minor girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual conduct, admitting that he in 2002, he drove the then 16-year-old girl from Michigan to New York and engaged in sexual activity with her. Shipps entered the guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors that resulted in the dismissal of a similar charge involving the same girl, thus reducing the potential penalties, which could have brought up to 15 years in prison.
On Thursday, Shipps’ attorney John Shea requested that Shipps be spared prison time, filing a memo that cited alcohol addiction recovery and caretaking several family members, according to The News&Observer. They also presented 27 letters from his supporters. Prosecutors asked that Shipps receive a 68-month prison sentence, citing accounts of similar abuse from five of his former students.
In addition to the prison time, Shipps will pay $120,000 in restitution and spend three years on supervised release.
Shipps taught at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance from 1989 until he retired in February 2019, following a December 2018 article in The Michigan Daily that described allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against Shipps that spanned a 40-year time period.
At the time of his retirement, Shipps was Chair of the Department of Strings. He was also director of the String Preparatory Academy, a pre-college music program for middle school and high school students. Before coming to Michigan he taught at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, from 1980 to 1989.
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UPDATE: I will add reactions from members of the violin community following Shipps' sentencing.
From Lara St. John, who traveled to Detroit for the sentencing: "I know the scale of the damage he wrought, from ruined careers to mental health issues and even suicides. He altered many lives in a tragic way, so I find the prison sentence far too short. I am glad there is jail time, but he should be locked up for good."
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