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Published: Saturday, 7/13/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Penn St., 32 claiming sex abuse to settle soon

University trustees authorize attorney to make offers

BY JESSICA TULLY AND PAULA REED WARD
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

UNIONTOWN, Pa. — Settlement agreements between Penn State University and as many as 32 people who say they were abused by former football coach Jerry Sandusky could be finalized in the next few weeks.

Even though they offered no specifics — on dollar value or the number of victims who will be paid — the Penn State University board of trustees on Friday authorized an attorney to make offers to those people who claim Sandusky harmed them.

The trustees, who met at Penn State’s Fayette campus in Uniontown, approved the measure in a voice vote and authorized the university to make settlement offers to “a number of individuals who have made claims.”

The board on Friday also approved tuition increases and appointed a new board vice chairman.

There was little public discussion on the settlement issue, but Penn State President Rodney Erickson repeated past sentiment that the university wanted to handle the civil claims against it as quickly as possible.

“Today’s action is yet another important step toward the resolution of claims from Sandusky’s victims,” Mr. Erickson said. “As we have previously said, the university intends to deal with these individuals in a fair and expeditious manner, with due regard to their privacy.”

University officials said no additional details will be revealed until the settlements have been finalized.

At this point, nothing has been signed and discussion remains confidential between attorneys and their clients who say they were sexually abused by Sandusky.

Tom Kline, who represents the young man now known as Victim No. 5 following Sandusky’s criminal trial last year, was pleased with Friday’s vote.

“This now allows the process to go from conditional discussions to unconditional offers,” he said. “That is a major step forward in the progression of the settlement agreements.”

The victim represented by Mr. Kline is expected to be a pivotal one in working out the settlement numbers because he is the first young man to have been abused after former Penn State assistant football coach Michael McQueary told late head coach Joe Paterno he saw Sandusky abusing a boy in a football team shower in February, 2001.

Several of the sexual abuse victims have said they were abused after university officials had already been alerted to Sandusky’s behavior.

The proposed settlements have been in the works for months, involving victim lawyers, as well as attorneys from the law firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP, which was retained by Penn State to facilitate the process.

The first civil lawsuit was filed against Penn State in November, 2011, less than a month after Sandusky was charged following a lengthy grand jury investigation.

Several others followed suit, though there are some claims likely to be settled that would technically be barred from proceeding through the court system because of the statute of limitations.

Sandusky was accused of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period while working for Penn State and with his charity, The Second Mile.

He was convicted in June, 2012, of 45 criminal counts of sexual abuse and is serving a 30 to 60-year state prison sentence.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jessica Tully and Paula Reed Ward are reporters for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Jessica Tully at: jtully@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.



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