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Judge orders former Penn State leaders to stand trial

AP
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier walks to the Dauphin County Courthouse, Monday, July 29, 2013, in Harrisburg, Pa. Spanier faces charges in the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

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By Adam Smeltz
Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 11:15 a.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Three administrators who led Penn State University while Jerry Sandusky sexually abused boys will undergo a jury trial, District Judge William Wenner ruled on Tuesday.

It isn't clear when the trial might begin for former president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, though defense attorneys said it could be within several months.

“It's a tragic day for Penn State University, to say the least,” Wenner said in ordering the trial on charges of perjury, endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction.

State prosecutors allege the men withheld key information about Sandusky in 2001, enabling him to abuse at least four more boys before his arrest in 2011.

Wenner did not detail the thinking behind his decision, which capped a nearly two-day preliminary hearing in Dauphin County Court.

Defense attorneys painted the prosecution's case as weak and said they look forward to aggressive arguments at trial. Curley, Schultz and Spanier have maintained their innocence.

“The evidence against Dr. Spanier, I submit, amounts to innuendo and far-fetched inference,” said Elizabeth Ainslie, one of Spanier's attorneys.

She and Curley attorney Caroline Roberto took aim at Mike McQueary, a leading prosecution witness who says he saw Sandusky in an apparent sexual act with a boy in 2001 and reported the discovery to administrators.

McQueary, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, testified that late coach Joe Paterno believed administrators “screwed up” their handling of Sandusky, a longtime defensive coordinator. Paterno told him not to trust the administration, McQueary testified.

Paterno died in January 2012.

“How convenient that there are no witnesses to that statement,” Roberto said in a brief news conference, alleging that McQueary's recollections change each time he testifies.

McQueary testified at Sandusky's criminal trial in June 2012 when a Centre County jury convicted the retired assistant coach of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

State prosecutor Bruce Beemer told Wenner that McQueary's testimony speaks for itself.

“You don't have to make a credibility assessment at this stage,” said Beemer, a chief deputy attorney general for the state.

He said email evidence suggests the defendants wanted to keep the 2001 incident from police and child-welfare workers.

Prosecutors say the men misled a Harrisburg-based grand jury investigating Sandusky.

Spanier has said he had no knowledge of alleged misconduct by Sandusky in 1998, though archived emails suggest some correspondence about the matter was sent to him at the time. He thought the 2001 allegation amounted to horseplay, according to testimony.

“It's clear that Spanier lied about material facts during the course of his testimony” before the grand jury, Beemer said.

An email inbox under Spanier's name contained no messages when investigators obtained it in December 2011, state forensics agent Braden Cook testified.

Spanier had been gone from the Penn State presidency for weeks by that time, Ainslie said.

Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in the state prison in Waynesburg while he pursues appeals. Penn State is navigating legal claims from 31 men who allege he abused them.

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at asmeltz@tribweb.com and 412-380-5676.

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