Ex-Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier and two other former officials will be in a court hearing today on whether they must stand trial for hiding information tied to the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal.
Spanier, former Athletic Director Timothy Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz are accused of crimes including endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy and perjury. The men have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which stem in part from their testimony before a grand jury.
“The preliminary hearing is, as the name suggests, a preview of the prosecution’s evidence and not an indicator of a defendant’s guilt or innocence,” Caroline Roberto, an attorney for Curley, said in an e-mailed statement. “The prosecution only has to present the bare minimum of evidence to convince a judge a trial is necessary.”
The hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, state court comes more than a year after Sandusky, a former football defensive coordinator, was convicted of 45 criminal counts tied to the sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. He was sentenced in October to a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Legal wrangling stalled the case against the former school officials. Lawyers for the men argued that the grand jury report should be tossed out. Their challenges made it to the state Supreme Court, which denied the request without comment in June.
Trial or Plea
“It seems pretty clear that the prosecution is not going to drop this case,” Wes Oliver, director of the Criminal Justice Program at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh. “That leaves one of two possible results -- a trial or a plea. As the public interest in this case has died down, a plea is more likely than it was previously.”
Spanier, who was fired shortly after Sandusky’s arrest in 2011, was charged in November with engaging in what prosecutors called a conspiracy of silence.
The ex-president is accused of one count of perjury, two of endangering the welfare of children and two of criminal conspiracy, each a felony punishable by as long as seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. He is also charged with obstructing the administration of law and failing to report suspected child abuse.
The charges followed a July 2012 report commissioned by the university and prepared by Louis Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigators concluded that Spanier, the late ex-head football coach Joe Paterno, Curley and Schultz hid critical facts about Sandusky’s abuse. Paterno, who died in January 2012, was never charged with a crime.
Paterno and Spanier were trying to avoid bad publicity, Freeh’s report said. Spanier’s lawyers disputed the findings, calling the report a “blundering” indictment that distorted the facts. Spanier this month filed a notice in state court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, that he intends to sue Freeh for defamation.
The preliminary hearing that starts today may run as long as three days. It will be Curley’s and Schultz’s second court appearance. Magisterial District Court Judge William Wenner in December 2011 ordered the men to face trial for perjury and failing to report that a member of the football program told them he saw Sandusky molesting a boy.
Curley and Schultz, who are free on bail, were charged with additional crimes in November when Spanier was charged.
Wenner ruled after hearing testimony from Mike McQueary, an assistant football coach, who said he saw Sandusky molesting a boy on campus. McQueary testified he told the accused men Sandusky was standing behind a boy who appeared to be 10 years old in a locker-room shower in February 2001, both naked and the coach’s arms around the youngster.
Neither Curley nor Schultz, who oversaw university police, reported the incident to law enforcement or tried to learn the boy’s identity, prosecutors said.
The men denied to a grand jury that McQueary told them of the incident and said the incident was described by McQueary as “horsing around” and “inappropriate” conduct.
McQueary was terminated in July 2012 when his contract expired. He sued Penn State in October for $4 million in lost earnings. That case is pending. A judge in April denied the university’s request to dismiss it.
Penn State is trying to negotiate a settlement with victims of Sandusky’s abuse. It said July 12 that it approved formal offers to some.
The university has said it plans to compensate victims with money from insurance policies and funds set aside from interest on loans. It spent $46.8 million through April 30 on issues related to the Sandusky scandal.
School officials declined to comment on today’s hearing.
The cases are Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Spanier, MJ-12303-CR-0000419-2012, Magisterial District Judge 12-3-03; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Curley, CP-22-MD-1385-2012, Common Pleas Court of Dauphin County; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Schultz, CP-22-MD-1386-2012, Common Pleas Court of Dauphin County (Harrisburg).
To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in state court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at email@example.com.
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