Penn State officials argue to toss out Sandusky-related charges

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 10:38 AM
Penn State officials argue to toss out Sandusky-related charges

By Daniel Kelley

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Three Penn State administrators accused of covering up child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky headed for court on Tuesday to argue that their case should be dismissed because their attorney testified against them before a grand jury.

The university's former president, Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and former Vice President Gary Schultz are accused of lying to a grand jury by saying they were unaware of a 1998 allegation that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, showered with a boy.

Cynthia Baldwin, then the university's top lawyer, helped the men prepare for their testimony before the grand jury. The three school officials denied knowledge of the 1998 incident during their grand jury testimony, 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, saying that were well versed in the details of the 1998 incident. The trio argue that her testimony before the secret panel violated their attorney-client privilege.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz want their testimony before the grand jury, and the charges against them, 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.

Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover has set aside four days for the hearing.

The three men are charged with perjury, endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. All three have pleaded not guilty and maintain their innocence.

Lawyers for Spanier argue that Baldwin was not permitted to testify against them.

"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.

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 that the former coach showered with her son. Local prosecutors declined to press charges in that case, and an investigative report on the incident was filed in a way that made it difficult for subsequent investigators to locate.

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

Sandusky was not charged until a grand jury issued its report in 2011.

Ultimately, he 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.

Within weeks of Sandusky's arrest in November 2011, Penn State Trustees fired Spanier, at the time the nation's highest-paid public university president, and Paterno. Months later, Paterno died of lung cancer at the age of 85.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Dan Grebler)