By Dave Warner
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Penn State's former president and two other top administrators were ordered to stand trial on Tuesday on charges they covered up the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Harrisburg District Judge William Wenner, after a two-day preliminary hearing, ordered a criminal trial to be held for the university's former president, Graham Spanier, 65, its former athletic director, Tim Curley, 59, and its former senior vice president, Gary Schultz, 63.
Sandusky, 69, a former assistant football coach, was convicted in June 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. He is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in a state prison.
"The magistrate has made his decision, we respect that decision, even if we disagree with it," said Spanier's defense lawyer Timothy Lewis.
No trial date has been set and lawyers for the three have filed a motion to have the charges against their clients annulled.
Prosecutors used Spanier's previously secret grand jury testimony during the two-day preliminary hearing before Judge Wenner.
Spanier told a 2011 grand jury he had no knowledge of a 1998 allegation that Sandusky had showered with an 11-year-old boy in the locker room. Nor did he know whether Curley or Schultz knew of the incident.
But those statements run counter to 1998 emails that were also introduced as evidence during the hearing before Wenner. Those emails show the trio discussed the shower incident and that the late football coach Joe Paterno was also aware of the incident.
The 1998 incident preceded another report of Sandusky abusing a child in the showers in 2001. The 2001 incident was described in detail on Monday by former assistant football coach, Mike McQueary.
He also testified that he told Paterno and Curley and Schultz about seeing Sandusky and a boy engage in a sex act in the locker room shower. But no one told police.
Spanier, Curley, and Schultz are accused of a "conspiracy of silence" for failing to report the shower incident to authorities, which permitted Sandusky to continue preying on boys. He met most of his victims through a charity he founded for at-risk youth.
Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 and charged with molesting boys. A year later, in November 2012, a grand jury charged Spanier, Curley and Schultz with endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Spanier also was charged with perjury.
Curley and Schultz were previously charged in November 2011 with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.
Within weeks of Sandusky's arrest, Penn State Trustees fired Spanier, at the time the nation's highest-paid public university president. Trustees also fired Paterno, Sandusky's boss. Months later, Paterno, a legendary figure in college football died of lung cancer at the age of 85.
Curley was placed on administrative leave and Schultz had already retired from the school.
Civil lawsuits filed by the victims, now grown men, against the university are close to being settled, with the school putting aside $60 million to cover the claims, according to a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. The attorney said there were as many as 32 claims from alleged victims.
Spanier's lawyers said they intend to file defamation charges against Louis Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Freeh was the author of a study, commissioned by the university, laying out a narrative of the scandal that many in the state rejected, including the Paterno family.
The Freeh report prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for college sports, fine Penn State $60 million and void the 14 seasons of football victories Sandusky coached.
(Additional reporting by Teresa McMinn; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Gevirtz)