Judge to hear arguments on Spanier defamation suit against Freeh

mcarroll@centredaily.comJanuary 6, 2014 

A Centre County judge will hear arguments this week on whether to delay the pending defamation lawsuit former Penn State president Graham Spanier has filed against the author of the Freeh report.

Spanier’s attorney, Elizabeth Ainslie, requested in October that the lawsuit be put on hold while her client fights criminal charges stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Laywers for Louis Freeh have challenged the delay, arguing that the case shouldn’t be put on an indefinate hold before specific defamation allegations are laid out. The former FBI director’s firm handled Penn State’s internal investigation into the Sandusky scandal and implicated Spanier and others in a cover-up.

So far, Spanier’s lawyers have filed a writ of summons, or a notice of intent to sue, on the grounds of defamation. That move came in July, a day before the one-year anniversary of the Freeh report, and just in time to preserve Spanier’s right to sue under the statute of limitations.

The case didn’t move forward for several months after that filing, and in October Spanier was given 20 days to file the civil lawsuit.

His lawyer subsequently asked that the pending litigation be put on hold, saying Spanier could be at a disadvantage because of his criminal trial and because possible witnesses Tim Curley and Gary Schultz would not testify for him.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial in Dauphin County on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, child endangerment and failure to report abuse. Their lawyers have said their clients are innocent and vowed to fight the charges.

Judge Jonathan D. Grine will have to decide whether the civil case can be paused before Spanier files his complaint.

Lawyers for Spanier and Freeh will argue their positions before Grine at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Centre County Courthouse.

Ainslie said by email last week that Spanier will likely attend the hearing.

Spanier was fired Nov. 9, 2011, after the Jerry Sandusky scandal rocked the university. Penn State trustees then hired Freeh to investigate how Sandusky was able to molest young boys on campus.

In a report in summer 2012, Freeh concluded that Spanier, and fellow administrators Curley and Schultz, hid abuse allegations against Sandusky.

Lawyers for the former university leaders deny the accusations in Freeh’s report.

Spanier labeled the findings false and defamatory and in July filed a notice of intent to sue Freeh and his firm, Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan.

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

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