Spanier denies he was told about Sandusky sex assault
By Adam Smeltz and Debra Erdley
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 12:52 p.m.
No one told Graham Spanier they suspected Jerry Sandusky of sexually abusing boys during Spanier's 16 years as Penn State University president, he said through his lawyers on Tuesday.
In his first formal remarks since stepping down last fall, Spanier confirmed he sat for an interview in Philadelphia with the Freeh Investigative Group, an independent body reviewing the Sandusky scandal. The team, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, said it will release findings and recommendations for Penn State on Thursday, posting a report online at www.thefreehreportonpsu.com.
The Freeh findings “will certainly bring a sense of emotional closure” to State College, said Don Hahn, the borough council president. “But obviously, I anticipate that there's going to be a lot of work that needs to be done in studying the report and implementing its recommendations.”
Penn State officials will assemble in Scranton that day for a board of trustees meeting.
“We're all anticipating the release of this report,” said incoming trustee Anthony Lubrano. “And we hope it will bring us closer to the truth.”
Spanier was among the last of more than 400 people the team interviewed. Since his scandal-clouded resignation in November, Spanier has “wanted the Freeh Group to create an accurate report and has been determined to assist in any way he can,” his attorneys said.
They said he requested the interview, despite published reports that he refused to do so until he could access his email messages related to Sandusky.
Trustees hired the Freeh organization in November, less than a month after state prosecutors charged Sandusky, 68, who is jailed in Centre County while awaiting sentencing on 45 crimes of abusing 10 boys, often in university facilities.
Email excerpts recently made public show Spanier apparently discussed Sandusky as early as 2001 with retired university Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley, who face charges of perjury for lying to an investigating grand jury and failure to report the abuse. The emails discussed handling the matter internally, rather than approaching authorities, after Curley consulted with the late football coach Joe Paterno.
Spanier has not been charged. Paterno, 85, died of lung cancer in January. University trustees removed both men, later expressing concern about their leadership.
Paterno's family released a statement saying he was neither a near-saint nor a villain.
“He was tough, aggressive, opinionated and demanding. He was also highly principled, uncompromisingly ethical, dedicated to his job at Penn State and committed to excellence,” the Paternos said. “When the Sandusky case exploded last fall, Joe's first instincts were to tell everything he knew. He assumed the university would want to hear from him, but he was never given the change to present his case.”
Regarding the Freeh report, the Paterno family said: “It is our firm belief that the report would be stronger and more credible if we were simply given a chance to review the findings concerning Joe Paterno in order to present the case he was never allowed to make.”
Spanier attorneys Peter Vaira and Elizabeth Ainslie in Philadelphia said email excerpts trumpeted by CNN present an incomplete story.
“Selected leaks, without the full context, are distorting the public record and creating a false picture,” the lawyers said. “At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues.”
With the Freeh interview behind him, Spanier's counsel will “revisit the issue” of his civil lawsuit against Penn State, the attorneys said. He filed the lawsuit in Centre County Court, seeking access to email messages he sent between 1998 and 2004.
Those messages would help Spanier assist investigators, according to his court filings. Penn State objected to their release, citing an ongoing state investigation. Spanier's attorneys offered no additional comment.
Penn State declined to comment on Spanier's remarks. University spokesman David La Torre said Spanier remains a tenured faculty member and is scheduled to return in spring from sabbatical.
Legal observers said Spanier might be trying to position himself ahead of the Freeh report.
“I'm surprised that a statement is being made at this point, and I'm intrigued by the categorical nature of the denial, at least in terms of the reports of those (leaked) emails,” said former federal prosecutor Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe.
Centre County attorney Jim Bryant said he does not expect state prosecutors to charge Spanier criminally unless he mishandled grand jury testimony.
“I think he just wants to get out in front of this,” said Bryant, who has dealt with Penn State in the past. He suggested Spanier “probably should have addressed this” sooner.
“Instead, he got all lawyered up,” Bryant said, calling Sandusky “a long-recurring problem” at the university. Court testimony shows campus police investigated the assistant coach in 1998.
The Freeh report is expected to delve into that and other campus incidents involving Sandusky. The state Attorney General's Office, U.S. Attorney in Harrisburg, Department of Education and the NCAA continue their investigations at Penn State.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- South Park engineer aboard missing Malaysian Airlines flight, employer says
- Pitt looking to enhance profile at ACC tourney
- Pirates reserve outfielder Dickerson is also at home on soccer pitch
- LaBar: WWE’s next stars have arrived
- Context key to 2nd trial of Pittsburgh police officers in Homewood man’s arrest
- Armstrong hockey advances to Penguins Cup semifinals in 1st year
- Pirates notebook: Volquez, Morton struggle