Ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier failed to provide an adequate reason a federal court should stop his criminal prosecution on charges from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane argued in court papers last week.
The legal memo from the Attorney General’s Office was in response to an injunction Spanier filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg last month. Spanier’s lawsuit accuses Sandusky case prosecutor Frank Fina of violating his due-process rights through the grand jury investigation that led to charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, failure to report abuse and child endangerment.
Kane responded by asking the federal court to dismiss the case, and on Wednesday, she filed additional court documents laying out her argument.
She said a federal court could only step in if “ ‘extraordinary circumstances’ render the state court incapable of fairly and fully adjudicating the federal issue before it,” and she asserted that Spanier’s lawsuit “does not describe anything approaching such extraordinary circumstances here.”
In the lawsuit, Spanier’s attorneys accused Fina of acting in “bad faith” when he brought Spanier to testify to the grand jury in April 2011. The attorneys said Spanier never knew he was a target of the grand jury’s investigation and that he thought Cynthia Baldwin, who was then the university’s in-house lawyer, was representing him.
They said Fina didn’t raise a red flag when conflicting versions of Baldwin’s representations came up before the judge who swore-in Spanier to testify.
Baldwin told the judge she was “solely” representing Penn State, though Spanier told the judge who was swearing him in that Baldwin was his lawyer. Baldwin sat through Spanier’s testimony.
The attorneys said Fina further violated Spanier’s rights when Fina brought Baldwin in to testify to the grand jury in October 2012. Baldwin answered questions from Fina about how she prepared Spanier for his grand jury testimony the year before, and Spanier’s lawyer said those conversations should have been protected under the attorney-client privilege.
In her response, Kane said Spanier “will receive all of the process he is due in the pending state criminal proceedings.”
“The state court is fully able to deal with the issues surrounding Baldwin’s conduct before the grand jury either through plaintiff’s motion to quash the criminal complaint or through the renewal of his motion to preclude Baldwin’s testimony at trial,” she said.
Allowing the federal court to step in without “extraordinary circumstances” would “obviously gives rise to concerns about undue interference with legitimate state functions,” Kane argued.
Spanier maintains he is innocent and has a motion before Dauphin County President Judge Todd Hoover to dismiss the charges against him.
His co-defendants, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, face the same charges and are awaiting trial, as well. Curley’s and Schultz’s lawyers have maintained their clients’ innocence and also asked the judge to dismiss the charges.
Hoover’s decisions are pending.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.