Judge rejects Louis Freeh attempt to restart Graham Spanier defamation suit

mcarroll@centredaily.comMarch 19, 2014 

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Former Penn State President Graham Spanier

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Despite arguments made this week to resume the case, former Penn State president Graham Spanier’s defamation lawsuit against Louis Freeh will remain on pause.

Attorneys for Freeh filed an emergency motion for reconsideration Monday, arguing the former FBI director and author of the Freeh report was caught between a “rock and a hard place” by a Centre County judge’s decision to put the case on hold.

Judge Jonathan Grine wasted little time responding to the motion, filing a two-sentence order Tuesday that denied Freeh’s request without a hearing.

Both the motion from Freeh and the ruling from Grine were posted Wednesday on the Centre County court website.

Grine previously ruled in February in favor of a stay for Spanier, who wants to sue for remarks in the Freeh report, the Penn State-commissioned investigation that implicated Spanier and other top administrators in a cover-up of child sexual abuse allegations against former football coach and convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.

Spanier has yet to file a claim outlining his allegations, and so far has only delivered a written notice that he intends to sue. His attorneys argued their client could be prejudiced in the civil matter if it proceeds before the criminal case against Spanier and others.

Attorneys for Freeh had previously argued Spanier should have to file the claim before a judge could consider granting a stay.

In the emergency motion filed Monday, attorneys for Freeh contended, among other things, that the criminal case against Spanier could take years to play out. The attorneys suggest they want to ask the case be removed to federal court, but said there is a year deadline for that request and it might expire while waiting for Spanier’s criminal case to play out.

In his ruling to allow the stay, Grine said the overlap between the defamation case and the criminal case could affect both if they were to move forward at the same time.

For instance, Spanier’s co-defendants in the criminal case, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, could invoke their Fifth Amendment rights in the civil case and not testify. Grine said a jury might see that in a way that would hurt Spanier’s case.

If Spanier were to testify in his civil case, his testimony could be used against him in the criminal case, Grine said.

In the criminal case, Spanier, Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, child endangerment and failure to report abuse. Their lawyers have maintained that their clients are innocent and have asked the judge presiding over the case to dismiss all the charges.

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

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