‘Conspiracy of silence’: Former Penn State President Graham Spanier charged in Jerry Sandusky case; additional charges for Curley, Schultz

mdawson@centredaily.comNovember 1, 2012 

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— Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was indicted today on charges he lied to the grand jury investigating abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky and tried to block authorities’ investigation of him as part of a cover-up.

Former university administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz were hit with new charges today, too, as they are accused of obstruction of justice in what Attorney General Linda Kelly trumpeted at a news conference as a “conspiracy of silence” among the three senior leaders who covered up abuse allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.

The evidence for the charges was taken from what the university-commissioned report by former FBI director Louis Freeh turned up through an investigation.

“This is not a mistake, an oversight or a misjudgment. This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials at Penn State, working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard to the suffering of children,” Kelly said at a news conference today.

“They essentially turned a blind eye to the serial predatory acts of Jerry Sandusky committed on campus when they all that children were the victims.”

The three former senior leaders stand accused of endangering the young boy in a 2001 shower incident when they did not report it to authorities and instead notified Sandusky they knew about it.

Spanier, 68, of State College, is charged with perjury, child endangerment, obstruction, failure to report and conspiracy to commit all of those counts. He is now the fourth person to be indicted on charges stemming from the scandal that tarnished the university and rocked the local community.

The legal team representing Spanier criticized the timing of the indictment, blasting it as purely political with five days before the election that includes a hotly contested race for a new attorney general.

“Graham Spanier has committed no crime and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name and well-earned national reputation for integrity,” said one of his attorneys, Timothy Lewis, in a statement. “This presentment is a politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man. And if these charges ever come to trial, we will prove it.”

Spanier is tentatively scheduled to be arraigned on the charges before a Dauphin County District Judge on Wednesday morning. Curley and Schultz already are set for trial in January on perjury and failure to report abuse charges to which the two have maintained they are innocent. The charges added today were child endangerment, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit all the offenses.

Caroline Roberto, the attorney for Curley, did not have an immediate comment and said she was still reviewing the presentment. The attorney for Farrell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Curley and Schultz are scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges Friday afternoon.

Spanier, who was fired in November 2011 after the indictments against Sandusky, Curley and Schultz were released, will be placed on administrative leave but will not teach any courses this summer. The university will pick up some of his legal bills.

University spokesman David La Torre said that under Spanier’s employment agreement, the former president is receiving $700,000 during his one-year sabbatical period, which ends on Nov. 9. After that, his employment agreement provides he be paid $600,000, La Torre said.

Spanier is accused of lying to the grand jury about the 1998 and 2001 shower incidents on campus. Spanier, Curley and Schultz are also accused of putting the boy from the 2001 shower incident in danger by not reporting it to authorities and notifying Sandusky. They are alleged to have not made any attempts to identify the young man or protect him.

“The plan of action undertaken by these three administrators, who formed the very apex of decision making and power at Penn State, was created out of a desire to shield Sandusky from the criminal process and, perhaps most importantly, to spare the university tremendous negative publicity and embarrassment,” Kelly said.

Spanier told the grand jury that he did not have any knowledge about the 1998 incident, which involved an 11-year-old boy who came to be known as Victim 6 in the Sandusky case. Freeh’s investigation turned up emails that show Spanier was on the receiving end of information about that incident, but the former university president has denied he read the emails or knew anything about it.

But, according to the grand jury presentment, former university counsel Cynthia Baldwin, essentially throws her former colleague under the bus.

“As time went on, she observed that Spanier’s discussions about the 1998 episode seemed increasingly detailed and knowledgeable,” the presentment reads. “She eventually came to believe that Spanier not only had known of the 1998 episode but clearly recollected he had been involved with that matter.”

Spanier interviewed with investigators in March 2011, and Baldwin testified that Spanier was well-versed and prepared for questions about the 1998 allegations, as well as the McQueary allegations and the ones that triggered the grand jury investigation, that of a Clinton County teenager.

Baldwin left the university in June.

For Spanier, the grand jury presentment outlines three instances in which he is accused of perjury. In addition to allegedly lying about his knowledge of the 1998 incident, authorities said Spanier allegedly lied to the grand jury when he denied that he, Curley and Schultz discussed turning the 2001 incident over to a child protective agency.

An email exchange shows the three men considered that but it was later dismissed with Spanier writing to them that the way they handled it was humane, the presentment states.

Authorities allege he lied when he said the 2001 incident was described as horseplay. The email exchanges “make clear they are discussing an event that involves the abuse of a child,” the presentment said.

Members of Penn State’s board of trustees testified they were not told by Spanier about the 1998 or 2001 incidents, nor were they told about the grand jury investigation or subpoenas. According to the presentment, Spanier only spoke of the matter when pressed by members after the grand jury investigation was reported in the media in March 2011.

The board members, who were not identified in the presentment, testified they were surprised and stunned by the indictments of Sandusky, Curley and Schultz.

The presentment suggests that the grand jury only started to have success in subpoenaing records from Penn State after Spanier’s dismissal.

One subpoena, issued in December 2010 after Mike McQueary’s grand jury testimony, requested records pertaining to Sandusky and the on-campus shower incident McQueary witnessed, which was then thought to have happened in March 2002, not February 2001. Documents not relevant to the allegations were turned over in January 2011, the deadline, and the response to the subpoena was not filled until April 2012.

But before that, according to the presentment, Spanier, Curley and Schultz relayed to Baldwin that they had no records relevant to the grand jury subpoena.

“She was specifically assured that they had searched through their emails and physical documents for any Sandusky-related materials,” the presentment reads. “In addition, Athletic Director Curley informed Baldwin that the Athletic Department did not possess any applicable responsive materials.”

But, the grand jury investigation revealed that Schultz had a secret file in his Penn State office with hand-written notes and other documents about the 1998 and 2001 incidents involving Sandusky. The administrative assistant for Schultz, Kimberly Belcher, took the file to Schultz’s house when her boss was arrested, the presentment says. Schultz’s previous assistant, Joan Coble, told the grand jury she was told to never look in the Sandusky file he kept in his bookcase file drawer.

One note in the file states that Schultz and Curley reviewed the 1998 incident before talking about how to respond to the 2001 incident.

Thomas Harmon, the university police chief at the time, testified to the grand jury that Schultz asked him if the 1998 investigative file was still around, and Harmon confirmed that it was.

“Chief Harmon stated that at no time during his contact with Schultz on this matter did Schultz reveal anything about a new allegation against Sandusky,” the presentment says. “Schultz, despite being informed of McQueary’s allegations within 48 hours of their occurrence on the night of Feb. 9, 2001, and despite his having contact with the university chief of police about the 1998 investigation, never reported then, or at any other time, the new allegations of Sandusky assaults on a minor boy in a Penn State shower.”

After charges were filed last November, Schultz returned to retirement and Curley was placed on administrative leave. Curley was on a fixed-term contract and has recently been given notice that his contract will not be renewed when it expires on June 30, 2013.

It is not immediately clear how the new charges would affect Curley’s and Schultz’s trial, which is set for jury selection in Harrisburg on Jan. 7. Attorneys for both men have filed a slew of motions, asking the judge to try their clients separately as well as delaying trial.

The charges bring about another twist in the nearly yearlong fallout of the Sandusky scandal, which has Penn State working to rebuild its tarnished reputation in the wake of the criminal cases against Curley and Schultz, unprecedented sanctions by the NCAA on the football team, and the firing of head coach Joe Paterno and Spanier.

Kelly declined to say whether Paterno, who died in January, would be charged if he were still alive.

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