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Sandusky cover-up case unusually shrouded

| Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz (from left), former President Graham Spanier and former Director of Athletics Tim Curley .
Penn State President Graham Spanier presents head football coach Joe Paterno with a plaque commemorating his 409th collegiate win after an NCAA college football game against Illinois in State College, Pa. in this Oct. 29, 2011 file photo. Spanier is accused of perjury, endangering children and other charges in the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal. According to online court records charges were filed, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, against Penn State's ex-president and two other administrators in what prosecutors called 'a conspiracy of silence.' (AP Photo | Gene J. Puskar)
File - In this Oct. 8, 2011, file photo Penn State president Graham Spanier, left, and head football coach Joe Paterno chat before an NCAA college football game against Iowa in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar, File)
In a 127-page injunction complaint filed on Monday, March 31, 2014, attorneys for Graham Spanier are asking a federal court to intervene and stop the state’s criminal prosecution of the former Penn State University president.

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.

Debra Erdley and Adam Smeltz are staff writers for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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