Sandusky cover-up case unusually shrouded
Two years since former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky began serving time for sexually abusing young boys, the case against three top university officials accused of covering up his crimes is grinding on slowly in a Harrisburg court behind a veil of secrecy.
Lawyers for former Penn State President Graham Spanier and top administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley maintain their clients are innocent and were misled by then-university general counsel and former state Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Baldwin about her role as legal adviser when they went before a state grand jury.
Longstanding motions to have her testimony barred from the record appear to be the nexus of the ongoing arguments, but specifics are hidden behind 97 sealed filings in the Dauphin County Courthouse.
The level of secrecy in the Penn State officials' cases is uncommon in Pennsylvania courts, said St. Vincent College law professor and former federal prosecutor Bruce Antkowiak.
“My guess would be that it's grand jury material that is not public and may not become public, so it's necessary for them to seal it,” he said.
It's unclear from court records when, or if, the case will go to trial.
The pace and secrecy surrounding proceedings, nearly three years since Sandusky, now 70, was arrested, is troubling, said Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano.
“I am very concerned that the defendants have not received a speedy trial. William Gladstone once said, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,' ” Lubrano said.
He believes the three men are innocent.
“I do not believe that they acted with any criminal intent. They certainly did not engage in a cover-up or concealment to avoid bad publicity as Louis Freeh proclaimed,” he said of the former FBI director, hired by the university to investigate the Sandusky scandal.
A spokeswoman for Dauphin County President Judge Tod Hoover, who has approved the sealed filings, declined to comment on the 33 secret documents in the Spanier case, saying simply: “That's all sealed.”
Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined to comment. Curley, Schultz and Spanier's attorneys declined to discuss the matter or did not return calls.
Baldwin has maintained she upheld her obligations. She could not be reached on Friday.
Although criminal proceedings are rarely shielded from public view, Pennsylvania law requires that grand jury investigations be carried out in secrecy.
“Sealed filings are far more common in high-profile cases because there's a greater risk of contaminating the jury pool with information that may not be admissible at trial,” Duquesne University law professor Wes Oliver said.
Antkowiak said, “This is a case in which so much of the pre-trial litigation is about things that occurred before the grand jury — who was representing whom and was that an actionable thing — and Pennsylvania took a fairly restrictive perspective with regard to grand jury material. You're not able to just go ahead and open it.
“But once the judge starts issuing substantive rulings on the motions the defense has filed, by necessity there is going to have to be a revealing of the facts of the opinion. You'll see some of that come out,” he said.