Jerry Sandusky testifies by video, says his state pension should be returned

mdawson@centredaily.comJanuary 7, 2014 

— Jerry Sandusky never got a W-2 tax form from Penn State after he retired in 1999.

The former Nittany Lions coach was only paid a handful of times by the university after he retired in 1999 — not 71 times as the Freeh report said.

And an agreement he signed upon his retirement, calling for collaboration between Penn State and his charity, The Second Mile, was just that — not something with financial stipulations.

Sandusky, via a video link from the state prison in Greene County, testified for about three hours Tuesday during a hearing over whether the state should return the $4,900 monthly pension that it revoked after his 2012 conviction. Sandusky’s testimony focused on delineating between the time he was a Penn State employee and when he was retired, which is one of the central issues in the pension dispute.

The state retirement system has said Sandusky was a “de facto” employee of Penn State when he abused two boys, Aaron Fisher and Victim 9 from his trial, and that makes him subject to the state law that allows for pension forfeitures of public employees who are convicted of certain crimes.

Sandusky’s lawyer has said the state law doesn’t apply to Sandusky because he wasn’t a school employee. After the hearing Chuck Benjamin, the lawyer, scoffed at the “de facto” employee designation and said there is no precedent for such a classification.

The hearing examiner, Michael Bangs, did not immediately rule, and his decision is expected in about three months. If Sandusky were to lose, he can appeal to the state Commonwealth Court.

During the hearing, Sandusky testified at length about the events and decisions he faced about retiring in the summer of 1999. For instance, he told Benjamin that he unsuccessfully proposed a youth program to the dean of the College of Health and Human Development and turned down an offer from then-athletic director Tim Curley to stay on as an associate athletic director.

Sandusky also said he tried to start a football program at the Altoona campus, one of the university’s largest branch campuses, but that plan was turned down, too.

His testimony also veered off into the glory days of his coaching career, such as the 1982 and 1986 national titles — wins for which he hopes his defense gets credit. And he was asked about the last game he coached — the 1999 Alamo Bowl, a 24-0 shutout of Texas A&M in which he was carried of the field.

The reason why Sandusky was asked about those moments wasn’t clear, though it brought out an upbeat, jovial side of Sandusky who seemed to relish reliving them.

As Sandusky retired in 1999, he had locked up the agreement between Penn State and his charity so that both would work together for equal benefit.

“It was a place that helped me start The Second Mile,” he said of Penn State. “I didn’t want any transition from my retirement to full-time employment at The Second Mile to inhibit that relationship that had been developed over the years.”

In retirement, Sandusky testified, he never got a W-2 from Penn State, he never got a university purchasing card, and that the university never referred to him as its employee.

The 71 payments from Penn State to Sandusky, as included in the Freeh report, are a mystery to him, or at least are not accurately described.

“It was far from 71,” Sandusky said. “I don’t know from where this would come.”

Sandusky told his lawyer he was a paid consultant of Penn State — not its employee.

And that’s precisely where the state pension system and Sandusky are at odds.

The lawyer for the pension system, Steven Bizar, has said that even though Sandusky retired in 1999, he continued on as a “de facto” employee.

Bizar grilled Sandusky about the benefits he got from Penn State upon his retirement, and his line of questioning indicated that’s how he wanted to show Sandusky was a “de facto” employee.

Sandusky and Bizar at times bickered, with Sandusky defending the retirement package he got and Bizar insinuating it was all to benefit his charity.

Bizar also sought to paint Sandusky as Penn State’s second-most prominent public figure, after legendary coach Joe Paterno, but Sandusky disagreed and tossed out the name of his longtime offensive counterpart, Fran Ganter, as one just as important.

Bizar disagreed right back: “Well, he didn’t write a book to my knowledge,” he said, referring to Sandusky having written a book on Penn State linebackers.

Bizar and Sandusky also disagreed over the extent that Penn State financially backed The Second Mile, a point that appears to have been used to support the pension system’s “de facto” employee argument.

Bizar asked Sandusky if he was aware that Penn State supported The Second Mile’s golf tournament, a large fundraising event that featured former Nittany Lions players.

“We rented it,” said Sandusky, referring to the golf course used for the tournament. “If you call that ‘supporting’ — renting the facilities — yes, Penn State did that. They provided a location for us to pay to use their facilities.”

Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30-year minimum sentence at the Greene County prison, and he is asking the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Sandusky has maintained his innocence and even referred to the two young boys who testified against him last year as “alleged victims.”

Curley, Schultz and former Penn State president Graham Spanier are awaiting trial in Dauphin County on charges they lied to the grand jury investigating Sandusky and held up the investigation. Their lawyers have maintained that their clients are innocent.

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