By Barbara Goldberg
(Reuters) - Former Penn State President Graham Spanier filed a federal lawsuit on Monday seeking to end the state's prosecution of him on charges he tried to cover up child abuse by onetime assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Spanier is one of three former school officials accused of lying to a grand jury when they said they were unaware of a 1998 allegation that Sandusky, a former assistant coach at the university, had showered with a boy.
In a federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane that was filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Spanier said the state prosecution should be dropped because it was "undertaken in bad faith" and violated his constitutional right to a fair trial.
Spanier faces charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, failure to report suspected child abuse, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children.
"The perjury charge is the linchpin of the prosecution," the lawsuit said, noting it was "based almost entirely on the testimony of attorney Cynthia Baldwin in October 2012."
Baldwin, the university's top lawyer at the time, helped the men prepare for their grand jury testimony. During that testimony, the three school officials denied knowledge of the 1998 incident, according to court documents.
But Baldwin, who is a former state Supreme Court justice and Allegheny County judge, contradicted them when she was called as a witness before the grand jury, saying they were well versed in the details of the 1998 incident.
The trio have argued that Baldwin's testimony before the secret panel violated their attorney-client privilege.
Sandusky was not charged until a grand jury issued its report in 2011.
Ultimately, Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. Now 70 years old, he is serving a 30-to-60 year prison sentence.
The three former officials - Spanier, retired athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz - are awaiting trial in Dauphin County court in Harrisburg.
They have asked a state judge to dismiss the case because they were not fully aware that Baldwin could put the interests of the university ahead of their own.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Eric Walsh)