Charges against ex-Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier stem from a cache of evidence uncovered by prosecutors this year that include e-mails linking him to a conspiracy to cover up the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, according to a grand jury report.
Spanier, who was fired by Penn State last year after Sandusky’s arrest, is charged with five counts including endangering the welfare of a child, state Attorney General Linda Kelly said yesterday. Additional counts were also brought against two former university officials who had previously been charged, she said.
The indictment is “a reminder that the failure of institutional leadership and accountability went to the highest levels of the institution,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the Washington-based American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges.
The case against Spanier may have no precedent in higher education in recent decades in terms of the seriousness of the charges against a former college president, Hartle said in a phone interview.
College presidents have lost their jobs after being charged with drunken driving or amid scandals over spending, admissions or sports recruiting, Hartle said. In 2007, the president of Eastern Michigan University was fired amid allegations that he failed to promptly report the rape and murder of a student on campus.
‘Conspiracy of Silence’
“This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials at Penn State,” Kelly said. “All three men deliberately engaged in a pattern of behavior that showed absolute disregard” for Sandusky’s victims, she said.
The existence of a Sandusky file containing detailed information on crimes involving the former assistant football coach wasn’t disclosed by Penn State and turned over to prosecutors until April, Kelly said.
The charges against Spanier, 64, come less than a month after Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky, who was convicted by a jury in June on 45 criminal counts, committed some of his crimes in campus buildings or while he was employed by the school, according to prosecutors and victims.
Spanier’s attorneys said yesterday that the charges are politically motivated.
The charges are “the latest desperate act by Governor Tom Corbett to cover up and divert attention away from the fact that he failed to warn the Penn State community about the suspicions surrounding Jerry Sandusky and instead knowingly allowed a child predator to roam free in Pennsylvania,” according to a statement e-mailed by Timothy K. Lewis, an attorney for Spanier. “There is no factual basis to support these charges.”
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Corbett, dismissed the criticism.
“Graham Spanier’s statement is the ranting of a man who has just been indicted for covering up a convicted pedophile,” Harley said in an e-mail. “His arrogance reveals a man who has just found out that he is not above the law after all.”
Spanier is charged with one count of perjury, two counts of endangering the welfare of children and two counts of criminal conspiracy, prosecutors said yesterday in a separate statement. All are third-degree felonies punishable by as many as seven years in prison and $15,000 fines, they said. Spanier is also charged with one count of obstructing the administration of law and one count of failing to report suspected child abuse.
A July report commissioned by the university and prepared by Louis Freeh, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, placed Spanier at the center of a cover-up of Sandusky’s wrongdoing.
Freeh concluded that Spanier, former head football coach Joe Paterno and two other senior school officials hid critical facts surrounding Sandusky’s abuse. Spanier and Paterno were fired in November 2011. Paterno died in January.
Freeh’s seven-month investigation found that Paterno and Spanier concealed information surrounding Sandusky’s abuse in an attempt to avoid “bad publicity.”
In August, attorneys for Spanier publicly disputed the findings, calling the Freeh report a “blundering” indictment that distorted the facts and saying there was no evidence their client knew about reports of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
Timothy Curley, a former Penn State athletic director, and Gary Schultz, an ex-vice president in charge of university police, are slated to go on trial in January on charges they lied to a grand jury about a 2001 sex-abuse allegation against Sandusky and failed to report the incident to authorities. Both have denied the charges.
Kelly announced new charges against them yesterday, adding two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of conspiracy and one count of obstruction.
“The prosecution did not provide us any advance notice of the new charges,” Caroline Roberto, an attorney for Curley, said in a e-mailed statement. “To be clear, Tim Curley is innocent of all charges. We are carefully reviewing the presentment.”
Tom Farrell, a lawyer for Schultz, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the case.
Penn State said in a statement that it wouldn’t comment on the case out of “respect for the legal process.”
The school said Spanier, who’s a tenured professor, will be placed on leave immediately. Spanier has been on sabbatical since he was removed as president on Nov. 9, 2011. Curley, who is on administrative leave, was recently notified that his contract won’t be renewed when it expires next year, the university said in the same statement.
The criminal investigation is ongoing, Kelly said. Curley and Schultz are scheduled to appear for arraignment today in Harrisburg. Spanier is scheduled to appear on Nov. 7. All three should face a joint trial, Kelly said.
Schultz kept notes and documents about abuse incidents in 1998 and 2001 involving Sandusky in a file drawer in his campus office and told staff members they were never to look at the file, prosecutors said. Schultz moved the file to his home the day Sandusky was charged, prosecutors said.
The existence of the file was disclosed after Spanier was terminated and the Penn State board of trustees directed university personnel to cooperate with the state’s investigation.
“I think they’ve got a really good case,” Wesley Oliver, a Duquesne University law professor, said of prosecutors. “The case has a lot of factual ambiguity that a jury is going to have to sort out.”
The documents recovered include e-mails detailing Schultz’s conversations with former Penn State Chief of Police Tom Harmon in May 1998 after Sandusky was accused of touching an 11-year-old boy in a school shower. In his notes, Schultz wrote Sandusky’s behavior was at best inappropriate and at worst “sexual improprieties,” according to the new grand jury report. At the conclusion of notes about his conversation with Harmon, Schultz wrote “is this the opening of Pandora’s box? other children?”
The filing of criminal charges or legal action against Sandusky in 1998 would have proven “troublesome and embarrassing” for the school as Sandusky at the time was at the pinnacle of his career, according to the report.
The grand jury reviewed communication from May and June of 1998 between several university officials. The e-mails included one sent June 9, 1998, by Schultz to Curley, Spanier and Harmon, informing them of the decision to close the investigation.
Prosecutors also uncovered new evidence that Schultz reached out to attorney Wendell Courtney in February 2001, days after he was informed that a graduate assistant had witnessed Sandusky assaulting another boy in a football locker room shower, according to the grand jury.
Mike McQueary, a former assistant football coach and the key witness in the case against Curley and Schultz, told Paterno on Feb. 10, 2001, that he had witnessed Sandusky and what appeared to be a 10-year-old boy in the locker room shower the night before. Paterno told Curley on Sunday, Feb. 11. That same day Schultz called Courtney, a close personal friend, prosecutors said.
Courtney, an attorney for the law firm McQuaide Blasko who was then the primary outside counsel for the university, billed 2.9 hours and described it as “conference with G. Schultz re reporting of suspected child abuse,” according to the grand jury report.
The Second Mile
Courtney resigned as lawyer for Sandusky’s former charity The Second Mile on Nov. 7, 2011, two days after Sandusky was charged in the case. In an interview at the time, Courtney said he quit as the charity’s lawyer to avoid potential conflicts of interest because as the university’s attorney he had dealings with Curley and Schultz.
Courtney, who is now with the firm Smigel, Anderson & Sacks in Harrisburg, didn’t return a call yesterday seeking comment on the case.
Spanier is described as a controlling president by senior staff members and Penn state officials, according to the grand jury report. He is portrayed in the report as demanding and deceptive, repeatedly questioning a lawyer for the school on the status of the criminal investigation and lying to the grand jury and law enforcement about his knowledge of the 1998 incident, according to the report. Spanier also told investigators the 2001 incident was described by Schultz and Curley as a staff member’s observation of Sandusky “horse playing around” with a child.
Spanier never informed Penn State’s board of trustees about the incidents in 1998 and 2001 and also failed to tell anyone on the board about the grand jury investigation and subpoenas or the grand jury testimonies of Schultz, Curley and Paterno until April 2011.
In May 2011, Spanier allegedly told the board that the criminal probe had nothing to do with Penn State and that the investigation was centered on a child in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, with no ties to the school, according to the report. He made no further mention of the issue until Sandusky’s arrest in November.
The grand jury report blames the pace of the investigation on Spanier’s attempts to thwart the efforts of prosecutors to get information. A grand jury subpoena issued in December 2010 for information concerning Sandusky and inappropriate contact with minor boys went unfulfilled until April.
It wasn’t until Spanier was terminated that the university began to comply with the grand jury subpoenas, according to the grand jury report. Large amounts of evidence were provided to investigators in the first four months of this year. Searches conducted for the first time of the athletic facilities where Sandusky had offices revealed about 22 boxes of Sandusky documents including letters he sent to some victims, photographs of some of the boys and lists of children who attended Second Mile camps.
“In addition, significant e-mails were discovered reflecting direct evidence of involvement by Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley in the failure of Penn State” to report the crimes, according to the grand jury report.
The case against Spanier is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Graham B. Spanier, MJ-12303-CR-0000419-2012, Magisterial District Judge 12-3-03, Dauphin County (Harrisburg). The case against Curley and Schultz is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Schultz, CP-22-CR-5164-2011, Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).