Spanier says university lawyer kept him in dark on Sandusky investigation
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier told university trustees on Monday that the school's top lawyer failed to give him key details during a grand jury's investigation of Jerry Sandusky, even as prosecutors subpoenaed documents and interviewed top administrators.
In a five-page letter, Spanier laid out his most detailed self-defense made public since the board terminated his presidency in November. He explained emails used to implicate him in a cover-up and said a damning report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh is profoundly inaccurate, offering to “set the record straight” with trustees.
Spanier said former General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin of McKeesport, who stepped down this month, told him “very little about how she was handling the grand jury investigation” into Penn State and Sandusky, the retired assistant football coach convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
“I had no preparation or understanding of the context” before testifying to the grand jury, Spanier wrote in the letter that the Tribune-Review obtained. “As I was being sworn in for my grand jury appearance, much to my surprise (Baldwin) handed over to the judge a thumb drive containing my entire history of emails back to 2004.”
Baldwin, a former state Supreme Court justice who chaired the Penn State Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2006, could not be reached. Her Downtown-based attorney, Charles De Monaco, denied any improper conduct by his client.
“She at all times upheld her duties to the university and its agents,” De Monaco wrote in an email. “She is obligated to maintain silence to fulfill her ethical obligations to the university. This silence should not be used against her to give credibility to these and other allegations against her.”
Spanier said Baldwin claimed “there appeared to be no issue for the university” as state investigators pursued Penn State. Neither Spanier nor representatives for Penn State would comment on the letter. Board Vice Chairman Keith Masser did not return a message seeking comment.
Representatives for Freeh Group International Solutions in Philadelphia declined to comment.
Spanier wrote that his background in family sociology and therapy and his “massive and persistent abuse as a child” made it “unfathomable” that he would turn a blind eye to child abuse.
Experts on sexual abuse voiced hesitation over Spanier's explanations, saying he should have sought immediate police intervention.
“Does it seem far-fetched that somebody in his position would get this information, not immediately jump in, ask 100 million more questions, pull the pile apart and get to the bottom of it? Yeah, it's astounding to me,” said John Salveson, president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.
“You don't go to your coaches and athletic director to figure out if somebody got raped or is breaking the law. You go to the police.”
Jenna Rowles-Romito, a counselor at the Beverly Centre in Monroeville, found it unlikely that someone with Spanier's background would not notice red flags.
“Sandusky's behavior was so unusual, so bizarre that anyone with common sense would say something is amiss here,” Rowles-Romito said.
Authorities in November charged Sandusky, 68, with child sexual abuse and former athletic director Tim Curley and retired Vice President Gary Schultz with perjury and failure to report.
A Centre County jury last month convicted Sandusky of abuse that often had happened in Penn State facilities. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial. All three have maintained their innocence.
Freeh's report accused Spanier, Curley, Schultz and the late head football Coach Joe Paterno of concealing information about Sandusky as he abused children through 2008. The report included email exchanges among Curley, Spanier and Schultz showing they knew about Sandusky's conduct as early as 1998.
Spanier told trustees that he had no memory of such an email exchange that year. He said he never heard that a 2001 shower incident involving Sandusky and a boy was sexual in nature. He acknowledged having heard about “horsing around” or “horseplay” and said he asked Curley and Schultz if anything more serious was reported. Both said no, Spanier wrote.
Spanier said he told Curley to order Sandusky to stop bringing youths into campus showers. They agreed to inform the president of The Second Mile, the youth charity that Sandusky had founded, Spanier wrote.
Spanier agreed it would be “humane” to give Sandusky advance warning of the Second Mile meeting and to allow him to attend, according to his letter. Earlier news leaks suggested Spanier called it “humane” not to tell state authorities.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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