Former Penn State president Graham Spanier to sue Louis Freeh for defamation

mcarroll@centredaily.comJuly 12, 2013 

Attorneys for former Penn State president Graham Spanier have filed notice of their intent to bring a defamation lawsuit against former FBI director Louis Freeh.

Spanier’s attorney, Elizabeth Ainslie, filed the paperwork Thursday in the Centre County Courthouse, a day before the one-year anniversary of the release of the Freeh report.

Penn State’s internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, the Freeh report implicated Spanier, former football coach Joe Paterno and former top administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz in what was called a cover-up of Sandusky’s actions. In June 2012, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.

Spanier, who has denied the allegations in the report, is suing Freeh and his firm, Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, for libel/defamation. Spanier is seeking monetary damages and is demanding a jury trial. Other details of the suit weren’t available Thursday.

Freeh responded to the lawsuit Thursday evening by saying he would have no comment due to the pending felony charges against Spanier.

“Over the past year, Penn State has made a dedicated effort to reform the problems that led to Mr. Sandusky’s ability to victimize children on the university campus,” Freeh said in the statement. “I trust that the changes and improvements that Penn State has put in place will help to build a constructive and protective environment where children will not again suffer abuse.”

Spanier, Curley and Schultz, face criminal charges including obstruction of justice and perjury brought by the state attorney general’s office. The men have maintained their innocence.

They will appear in Harrisburg on July 29 and 30, and even Aug. 1 if needed, for the long-delayed preliminary hearing during which prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office will present their evidence in attempt to have a district judge hold it over for possible trial.

The preliminary hearing will pertain to the charges stemming from the second grand jury presentment issued in the Sandusky investigation. The second presentment came in November, accusing the three men of covering up abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago.

The charges were based in part on evidence that came out during Freeh’s investigation for Penn State, such as emails suggesting Spanier, Curley and Schultz discussed how to handle information about Sandusky.

The Freeh report found that top leaders at Penn State failed to protect children from Sandusky and actively worked to hide the crimes from the community “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”

Emails allegedly sent between Spanier, Curley and Schultz, according to the Freeh report, were critical evidence that showed the men agreeing to confront Sandusky with the allegations instead of going directly to outside authorities.

Spanier is alleged to have responded to the plan by writing in an email that “the only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road.”

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said during a press conference a year ago Friday, the day the report was released. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take steps for 14 years to protect the children Sandusky victimized.”

Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison. He is serving his sentence in solitary confinement at a state prison in Greene County. His attorneys have said they will appeal his conviction to the state’s Superior Court.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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