July 30, 2013

Judge: 3 Penn State ex-officials to stand trial in abuse case

The university's former president, vice president and athletic director are accused of covering up the abuse by ex-coach Jerry Sandusky.

By Marc Levy / The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Penn State's ex-president and two former top school administrators were ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges accusing them of a cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, a court ruling that promises to prolong the media attention and court battles casting a shadow over the university.

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

The Associated Press

Prosecutors showed enough evidence during a two-day preliminary hearing to warrant a trial for ex-President Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley, District Judge William Wenner concluded.

Wenner called it "a tragic day for Penn State University."

The men engaged in a "conspiracy of silence," the lead state prosecutor, Bruce Beemer, said during his closing argument. They covered up their failure to tell police about a 2001 allegation that Sandusky was molesting a boy in a university locker room shower, despite knowing that police investigated complaints about Sandusky showering with boys in 1998, Beemer said.

"When they were finally asked about (the 1998 investigation), it was 2011 and what happened in the interim?" Beemer said.

The key testimony centered on a series of emails among the three defendants that discussed the 1998 and 2001 cases and the account of Mike McQueary, a former team assistant and quarterback who said he had immediately told Schultz, Curley and the late longtime football coach Joe Paterno that he had seen Sandusky molesting a boy — dubbed Victim 2 in court documents — in the shower in 2001.

Sandusky's conviction includes charges for molesting the boy known as Victim 5 in court papers in those showers a mere six months later, sexually abusing Victim 3 around the same period and molesting Victims 1 and 9 in later years.

Sandusky, a defensive coordinator under Paterno until his retirement in 1999, was convicted last year of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and received a 30- to 60-year state prison term. He maintains his innocence and is appealing.

Anthony Lubrano, a Penn State trustee who watched the two days of testimony, said he had not expected Wenner to throw out the case, given the low level of evidence necessary to send the case to trial. However, he said, "if you get an unbiased jury (at a trial), it'll be hard to get those charges to stick."

Maribeth Roman Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the alumni watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, said it was premature to comment in detail because testimony wasn't offered in its entirety at the preliminary hearing.

"We're in full support of due process, uncovering all the facts and the truths related to the case," she said. Her group has been critical of the decisions of trustees during the outbreak of the scandal in November 2011, including Paterno's firing and how it was handled.

Spanier testified to a grand jury that he was unaware of the 1998 investigation while Curley and Schultz testified that McQueary reported only that Sandusky and the boy were engaged in naked, inappropriate horseplay that made him uncomfortable. Once the defendants became aware of an investigation into Sandusky in 2010 or 2011, they did nothing to stop it, obstruct it or hide evidence, their lawyers said.

"What was reported (in 2001) was not a report of any activity that was sexual in nature," Spanier told the grand jury in testimony read aloud in court Tuesday. "I know better than to jump to conclusions about things like that."

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