Former PSU President, two others charged with Sandusky cover-up
HARRISBURG — Prosecutors on Thursday accused deposed Penn State University President Graham Spanier and two former university administrators of engaging in a “conspiracy of silence” to conceal allegations against child molester Jerry Sandusky.
Police charged Spanier, 64, of State College with five felonies and three misdemeanor counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, endangering the welfare of children and failure to report abuse.
Authorities added similar charges against suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley, 58, and former administrator Gary Schultz, 63, who are awaiting trial on charges of lying to a grand jury.
Attorney General Linda Kelly said the men turned a blind eye to complaints of Sandusky's showering with young boys in 1998 and 2001.
“This is not a mistake, an oversight or misjudgment,” Kelly said while announcing the charges and discussing a grand jury presentment with state police Commissioner Frank Noonan. “This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials at Penn State, working to conceal the truth, with total disregard to the suffering of children.”
Spanier, who led the state's largest university for 16 years until trustees removed him from office last November, did not respond to calls for comment. His lawyers issued a statement maintaining his innocence and blaming Gov. Tom Corbett, who as attorney general started the Sandusky investigation.
“Today's presentment is 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. Its timing speaks volumes. These charges are the work of a vindictive and politically motivated governor working through an un-elected attorney general, Linda Kelly, whom he appointed to do his bidding,” read the statement by Philadelphia attorney Peter Vaira and others.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Spanier's statement “is the ranting of a man who has just been indicted for covering up for a convicted pedophile.”
Schultz and Curley also maintain their innocence.
“The prosecution did not provide us any advance notice of the new charges,” said Curley's lawyer Caroline Roberto. “We are carefully reviewing the presentment and will reserve a more comprehensive comment for a later time.”
The university said it placed Spanier, who remained on the faculty, on paid leave. University officials declined to comment further “out of respect for the legal process.”
Kelly said she wants all three men to face trial together on the same charges.
A Centre County jury in June convicted Sandusky, 68, of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, often inside Penn State athletic facilities. A judge sentenced him last month to 30 to 60 years in state prison. He's serving the sentence in protective custody at a maximum-security prison in Greene County.
The initial, 33-month investigation that led to charges against Sandusky, Curley and Schultz is an issue in the attorney general's race between former Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane and Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed. Corbett is backing fellow Republican Freed. Kane has criticized the length of the investigation.
Asked about the timing of the new charges five days before the election, Kelly said they were filed because the investigation was “ripe.” The election has nothing to do with it, she said.
When university trustees removed Spanier from office, they fired legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January. Kelly declined to comment on whether authorities would have charged Paterno if he were alive.
The new charges stem from email evidence referenced in the university-commissioned report last summer by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. That report suggested a conspiracy among Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno to cover up the 1998 and 2001 incidents.
“Ever since the Freeh Report came out and made a number of Spanier's emails public, it was just a matter of time for the other shoe to drop and for (Spanier) to be indicted,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff. “Now the shoe's dropped. And it's a heavy-duty work boot.”
The grand jury presentment says information that authorities had sought for months during the initial Sandusky investigation began to flow after trustees dismissed Spanier and instructed personnel to cooperate.
“Law enforcement investigators, working in conjunction with Penn State IT staff, were able to access massive amounts of electronically stored data and began a lengthy process of review and analysis,” the presentment states. “For the first four months of 2012, large amounts of evidence and data — much of which had been sought and subpoenaed for more than a year prior — was uncovered and provided to investigators.”
Investigators later found that school officials had not contacted the staffers trained to recover electronic documents for use by lawyers.
The 39-page report indicates Curley, Schultz and Spanier told Cynthia Baldwin, the university's lawyer, that they had no documents that addressed Sandusky's having inappropriate contact with boys.
But Schultz kept a Sandusky file in his office, which the grand jury eventually obtained, Kelly said.
The presentment says Baldwin, a former Allegheny County judge and state Supreme Court justice, gave extensive testimony to the grand jury about her dealings with Spanier when he was university president. She said Spanier was well-versed in the 1998 incident before authorities questioned him in March 2011 and he denied any knowledge of the incident. She also said it was clear that Spanier had extensive discussions with Curley and Schultz about their grand jury testimony.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Geoffrey Hazard, an expert on legal ethics, said most attorney-client communications such as the discussions between Baldwin and Spanier are privileged, and revealing them could create an ethical problem for a lawyer.
“But when a client is trying to use attorney-client privilege to ask questions that involve his response for a criminal act, that is not covered by attorney-client privilege. I think (Baldwin) very rightfully believed she had better level. You can't help a client conceal a crime,” Hazard said.
Baldwin deferred comment to her attorney, Charles DeMonaco, who declined to comment.
Civil lawyers are negotiating settlements for Sandusky's victims. One is Tom Kline, a Philadelphia lawyer who represents Victim No. 5 in the Sandusky case, whose abuse in August 2001 was a direct result of Penn State officials' “colossal failures” to stop the former coach, Kline said.
“As a lawyer, I am pleased to see the Attorney General's Office will follow through and see to it that all citizens, including high-ranking officials of universities like these men, are held accountable,” Kline said.
Staff writer Adam Smeltz contributedto this report. Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 717-787-1405or email@example.com.Debra Erdley is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.