Penn State renews fight against Mike McQueary’s whistle-blower lawsuit

mdawson@centredaily.comMay 8, 2013 

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Mike McQueary exits the courthouse in Bellefonte after he testified at Jerry Sandusky's trial on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Christopher Weddle

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Penn State’s lawyers again are disputing the claims made by former assistant coach Mike McQueary, saying the university never harmed him and if he suffered, it was from his own doing.

The arguments were made in court papers filed Monday by the lawyers defending Penn State against the whistle-blower and defamation lawsuit McQueary brought against the university after his contract was not renewed last summer. McQueary wants punitive damages of more than $4 million in lost wages and benefits.

“If (McQueary) suffered any damages or losses, such damages or losses were caused in whole or in part by (McQueary’s) own acts, omissions or conducts,” attorney Nancy Conrad wrote on behalf of Penn State.

The written arguments were submitted as the university was given a 20-day deadline to respond to the original lawsuit after losing an important court battle last month. On April 16, out-of-county Judge Thomas Gavin overruled Penn State’s objections that the claims in McQueary’s lawsuit were too vague to hold up in court.

That put Penn State at 0-2 in the McQueary case, as the judge previously denied the university’s motion to stay the case until criminal proceedings involving former university administrators are finished.

The university’s lawyers laid out similar arguments in previous pleadings in unsuccessful attempts to fight the lawsuit.

In responding to the claims in the lawsuit, Penn State denied almost every allegation, such as the sequence in which McQueary reported to former head coach Joe Paterno that he saw Jerry Sandusky in a shower with a young boy in February 2001, Paterno’s subsequent report to athletic director Tim Curley, and a meeting a few days later between McQueary, Curley and senior administrator Gary Schultz. Penn State also denied that Paterno would supervise McQueary, who was a graduate assistant at the time.

Penn State is challenging McQueary’s claims the university did not renew his contract because he cooperated with authorities investigating Sandusky, Curley and Schultz. The university also denied McQueary’s claims he was owed severance pay according to his contract from December 2008.

McQueary’s lawyers have said Curley and Schultz misrepresented the way they told the former assistant they would handle his report, but Penn State’s lawyers have challenged that assertion, too.

The lawsuit also claims that former Penn State president Graham Spanier defamed McQueary when he released a public statement in November 2011 calling perjury charges against Curley and Schultz “groundless.” McQueary argues the statement was defamatory because it makes McQueary out to be a liar.

Conrad told the judge that the university “always acted in good faith” and that McQueary’s employment “ended for legitimate reasons.”

In addition, Conrad wants the judge to bar McQueary from being able to collect punitive damages. The lawyer said awarding him the damages would violate the state and U.S. constitutions.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz are facing obstruction of justice, perjury and related charges that they concealed abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago. Their defense lawyers vowed to fight the case in court, and there are still no dates set for the next phase.

Sandusky is serving a 30-year minimum sentence in a maximum security prison in southwestern Pennsylvania. His lawyers are appealing to the state’s Superior Court.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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