Jerry Sandusky fights for pension from jail

mdawson@centredaily.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Jerry Sandusky didn’t take the stand at his own trial, but the former Penn State coach testified during a hearing that started Tuesday over whether he can win back his state pension that was taken away when he was convicted.

The State Employees’ Retirement System stripped Sandusky of his $4,900 monthly pension in October 2012, saying his crimes of child abuse against two boys were related to his public employment. Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, also lost the right to receive any benefits from the pension because of the conviction.

Jerry Sandusky, who is locked away at the state prison in Greene County, participated in the hearing via videoconference. The hearing could go on as long as three days as the hearing examiner will take oral arguments from Sandusky and the retirement system on whether to uphold the forfeiture.

Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30-year minimum sentence after he was convicted on 45 counts of child abuse in June 2012. The disgraced coach unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the state’s Superior Court, and he has asked the state Supreme Court to hear his case.

The hearing examiner will not immediately make his ruling at the conclusion of Tuesday’s pension proceeding, a spokeswoman for the retirement system said Monday.

The state revoked the pension, saying Sandusky was a “de facto” Penn State employee from 1998 to 2008, and that crimes against two boys at the time — Aaron Fisher (Victim 1) and Victim 9 — occurred through his public employee position.

Sandusky’s lawyer, Charles Benjamin, said in a written appeal that the state cannot take away the pension because the law that authorized forfeitures based on convictions took effect after Sandusky signed up for the pension. Sandusky’s retirement plan started in 1969, and the law wasn’t implemented until 1978.

The lawyer also is challenging the forfeiture on the grounds that an amendment to the law, in 2004, does not apply to Sandusky. The change to the law added indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse convictions to the list of crimes that would trigger a pension forfeiture.

Benjamin said in the written appeal that Sandusky was not a school employee when the amendment was passed. Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, and the boys whom he abused were not Penn State students.

It is not immediately clear who, aside from Sandusky, is on the witness list for the hearing.

Sandusky’s lawyer indicated in April he would call the controller of Penn State to testify about the lack of payments to Sandusky after his retirement to support the argument that the he was not a public employee.

The retirement system said it may call Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who Penn State hired to investigate how Sandusky was able to abuse boys on campus.

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