BELLEFONTE — The wait for a judge’s ruling on Penn State’s request to throw out a whistle-blower and defamation lawsuit filed by former assistant football coach Mike McQueary will drag on for another month.
Senior Judge Thomas Gavin, of Chester County, heard arguments from attorneys for McQueary and Penn State during a hearing Monday morning in Centre County court. The judge said it might take until mid-April to make a ruling.
McQueary did not attend the hearing, which lasted about a half-hour.
The State College native is seeking $4 million in lost wages and other punitive damages on the grounds that he was defamed and let go from Penn State because he cooperated with authorities investigating child sex abuse claims against convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky. McQueary’s contract was not renewed when it expired last summer.
In the suit, McQueary’s lawyers contend that a statement ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier made in November 2011 in support of former university leaders Tim Curley and Gary Schultz made McQueary appear to be a liar.
McQueary testified before a grand jury that he witnessed Sandusky in the shower with a young boy in 2001 and reported it to Curley and Schultz, who were subsequently charged in an alleged cover-up.
Spanier, at the time, backed Curley and Schultz in a statement, saying in part, “I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless. ...”
Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad argued Monday that there is no “nexus” to connect McQueary to the statement because he was not named in it. She also said Spanier was only expressing an opinion, which she said is not grounds for defamation.
Gavin questioned whether it’s implied that Spanier was talking about McQueary based on the context of the statement.
“You would have to pull something out of thin air,” Conrad said.
But McQueary’s attorney, Elliot Strokoff, said if the charges against Curley and Schultz are groundless, as Spanier said in the statement, “that can only mean Mr. McQueary was lying.”
Conrad also asked for the suit to be dismissed because she said too much time passed between the 2001 report and the alleged harm caused to McQueary.
She said McQueary could have pursued further action during that time and pointed out that he continued working for Penn State.
Gavin, himself a former Marine, said he understands the chain-of-command system, in which if you report to a supervisor you have met your duty. Gavin also said McQueary didn’t have the benefit of knowing about a previous Sandusky showering incident reported in 1998.
Strokoff said McQueary has been ostracized by the university. He noted Penn State is still paying for legal fees for Curley and Schultz, but not for McQueary.
“Meanwhile Mr. McQueary is out in never-never land,” Strokoff said. “He’s by himself.”
Strokoff said McQueary’s attorneys are still developing evidence for the lawsuit, which is still in preliminary stages.
Sandusky, 69, was convicted in June on 45 counts of child abuse and is in solitary confinement in the state prison in Greene County where he is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.
Spanier, Curley and Schultz face trial on counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, child endangerment and failure to report abuse for allegedly covering up the abuse. The men maintain their innocence. A trial date has not been set in that case.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.