Judge weighs written arguments in Penn State cover-up case

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 5:09 PM
Judge weighs written arguments in Penn State cover-up case

By Daniel Kelley

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A judge ruled on Tuesday that he would consider only written arguments in deciding whether to dismiss charges against three former Penn State administrators accused of covering up child sex abuse allegations against former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover's decision came at the close of a brief hearing in the case against the university's former president, Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and former Vice President Gary Schultz.

Hoover said lawyers should make their case in writing and ruled out oral arguments to help him decide on the trio's motion to dismiss all charges because their attorney testified against them before a grand jury.

The three school officials are accused of lying to a grand jury when they said they were unaware of a 1998 allegation that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, had showered with a boy.

Cynthia 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 that were well versed in the details of the 1998 incident.

The trio argue that Baldwin's testimony before the secret panel violated their attorney-client privilege.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz are asking that their testimony before the grand jury, and the charges against them, be thrown out. They argue in court documents that they were not fully aware that Baldwin could put the interests of the university ahead of their own.

"Dr. Spanier is now in the unfortunate position of litigating attorney-client privilege after the Commonwealth has already invaded the confidential relationship with his former attorney," Spanier's legal team said in court documents.

Baldwin's lawyer, Charles DeMonaco, told reporters she acted appropriately.

"Cynthia Baldwin fulfilled her obligations to Penn State and the agents and administrators of the university," DeMonaco said.

The three former administrators are charged with perjury, endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. All three have pleaded not guilty.

The charges against the administrators center on two accusations against Sandusky. The first occurred in 1998, when the mother of an 11-year-old boy told police the former coach had showered with her son. Local prosecutors declined to press charges in that case.

In a second incident, in 2001, then-graduate-assistant Mike McQueary told head coach Joe Paterno, who was Sandusky's boss, that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a locker room shower. Paterno alerted the administrators but it appeared that no one had notified police.

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 69 years old, he is serving a 30-to-60 year prison sentence.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Dan Grebler and Gunna Dickson)