Freeh asks Superior Court to deny delay of Spanier defamation lawsuit

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 21, 2014 

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Louis Freeh addresses the media during a press conference at the Westin Hotel in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 12, 2012. He released the findings of his investigation into the Penn State scandal.

CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE — CDT photo Buy Photo

Attorneys for former FBI director Louis Freeh asked the state Superior Court on Wednesday to jump-start the defamation lawsuit against their client brought by ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier.

The case is paused while Spanier fights his own legal battles in Dauphin County.

A Centre County judge granted a stay in the case earlier this year. Attorneys for Freeh appealed that ruling to the higher court, leading to the hearing Wednesday in Philadelphia.

A panel of three justices heard arguments Wednesday but didn’t issue a ruling or present a time frame for when one might come, according to The Associated Press.

The Superior Court ruled in April that it would expedite Freeh’s appeal.

Freeh’s lawyers have argued that Spanier improperly asked for a stay because he has yet to make public his allegations.

Spanier’s lawyers have yet to file a formal complaint outlining the allegations of defamation against Freeh, whose report in summer 2012 labeled the former Penn State president part of a conspiracy to hide abuse allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.

Instead, they filed a notice that Spanier intends to sue, and by doing so, he preserved the right to sue without the statute of limitations expiring.

The criminal case against Spanier could take years, and Freeh’s attorneys said they want to ask that the case be moved to federal court. But there is a one-year deadline for that request and it might expire before Spanier’s criminal case plays out.

Freeh also has said he wants to clear his name now, not wait.

Spanier and former Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, child endangerment and failure to report abuse stemming from the Sandusky scandal. Their lawyers have maintained that their clients are innocent and have asked the judge presiding over the case to dismiss all the charges.

Incoming Penn State trustee and former Sallie Mae CEO Al Lord, meanwhile, told Philly.com on Wednesday that he is paying for Spanier’s legal defense in the criminal case and backing the civil lawsuit against Freeh, according to a published report.

Lord could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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