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Published: Friday, 11/2/2012

Former Penn State University president Spanier allegedly concealed child abuse info

BY LAURA OLSON AND KAREN LANGLEY
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former Penn State University president Graham Spanier on Thursday became the third school official to be charged in the ongoing child sexual abuse case that has led to his departure from his post, the firing of head football coach Joe Paterno, and a lengthy prison sentence for ex-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Unveiling the charges against Mr. Spanier and additional counts against former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, state Attorney General Linda Kelly said the three men were involved in a “conspiracy of silence” to conceal Sandusky’s crimes.

Ms. Kelly said that conspiracy involved not only failing to contact law enforcement officials when they were told about inappropriate interactions between Sandusky and young boys but also lying to a state grand jury about knowledge of those incidents and hiding emails and other documents from prosecutors.

The steps to conceal evidence “significantly thwarted and frustrated” investigators, who announced charges against Sandusky, Mr. Curley, and Mr. Schultz last November.

“This was not a mistake by these men. It was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part,” Ms. Kelly said. “This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials, working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard for the children who were Sandusky’s victims.”

In June, a jury found Sandusky, 68, guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse in incidents going back to 1997. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Mr. Spanier, 64, resigned days after charges were filed against Sandusky and has been long identified as a target in an investigation of a possible cover-up by university administrators.

He has been charged with eight criminal counts, including perjury, endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and failure to report suspected child abuse.

Attorneys representing Mr. Spanier said Thursday that there is no basis for the charges against their client. Further, they criticized the attorney general’s office for refusing for a year to meet with them or Mr. Spanier to talk about the case or to accept his offer to appear before the grand jury a second time “to clarify any misconceptions.”

“Graham Spanier has committed no crime and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name and well-earned national reputation for integrity,” his defense team said in a statement.

Mr. Curley, 58, and Mr. Schultz, 63, previously faced charges of perjury based on statements they made to the grand jury and for failure to report suspected child abuse.

The three men now face the same criminal charges, and Ms. Kelly believes they should be tried together.

The two previously charged administrators are scheduled to be arraigned in Dauphin County this afternoon. Mr. Spanier’s arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Caroline Roberto, who represents Mr. Curley, said she was provided no advance notice that her client was facing additional counts. She said he is innocent of all charges.

After resigning Nov. 9, Mr. Spanier continued to serve as a tenured professor. The university said Thursday he would be placed on leave. Officials previously indicated that Mr. Curley’s contract would not be renewed when it expires in June.

Until his abrupt departure, Mr. Spanier was one of the most visible college presidents in the nation, serving for more than 16 years as the leader of a high-profile research university.

He came to Penn State in 1973, working first as an assistant professor of human development and sociology and later as associate dean. Mr. Spanier also held posts at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Oregon State University before being appointed chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a post he held for five years until returning to Penn State as its president in 1995.

The grand jury presentment returned last year said Mr. Spanier “denied being aware of a 1998 University Police investigation of Sandusky for incidents with children in football building showers.” The report released Thursday found Mr. Spanier lied under oath when he said he did not learn until 2011 of a 1998 incident in which Sandusky showered with an 11-year-old boy in a Penn State athletic facility.

Emails from 1998 and 2001 released in the report commissioned by Penn State and led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh showed that Mr. Spanier was apprised by Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz of incidents involving Sandusky.

One email from Mr. Spanier to the other administrators in 2001 stated that the university could “become vulnerable for not having reported” the incident witnessed by graduate assistant Mike McQueary in which Sandusky was showering with an unidentified boy.

Prosecutors voiced particular frustration with what they described as deliberate attempts by the university administrators to stymie the investigation. The new report gives the example of a subpoena issued in December, 2010, for records concerning Sandusky and inappropriate contact with boys. The records were supposed to be turned over by January, 2011, but were not provided to authorities until April, 2012, prosecutors said.

The presentment describes the university legal counsel, Cynthia Baldwin, inquiring if Mr. Spanier, Mr. Curley, or Mr. Schultz had information sought by the subpoena.

Ms. Baldwin said she would not speculate on whether Mr. Paterno, who died in January, would have been charged if he were still alive. The Freeh report cited Mr. Paterno alongside the three charged men as failing their responsibility to report Sandusky’s actions to outside authorities.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Laura Olson and Karen Langley are reporters for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Laura Olson at: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.



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