The criminal trial for former Penn State president Graham Spanier started quickly Thursday in the Dauphin County Courthouse as jurors prepared to hear the defense’s argument for its client.
The argument never came, however, as attorney Samuel Silver announced there were no witnesses for the defense, simply submitting the defense’s evidence and resting their case.
Closing arguments soon followed, as Silver said the prosecution failed to produce any evidence that a crime was committed by the defendant, repeating earlier arguments that, for a case where Spanier was accused of doing nothing, he and fellow staff members took several courses of action.
“Spanier, (former assistant athletic director Tim) Curley and (former vice president Gary) Shultz made a plan and took action based on their best judgment,” he said. “They did take action.”
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He referred to the testimony by the unnamed 28-year-old “John Doe” who testified Wednesday. While saying he wasn’t going to discount the importance of who the victim was, he also said the case is not about Jerry Sandusky and his actions.
He claimed the prosecution questioned witnesses about the “remote possibility” of discussions made between the parties, saying that only a “chance” does not pass criminal standards.
Finally, he listed most of the witnesses individually, pointing out each time one had said they never personally conversed with Spanier on the issue.
Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka closed for the prosecution, frequently reminding the jurors of a line by Spanier in an email chain between himself, Curley and Shultz.
“The only downside for us is if the message isn’t heard is we will be vulnerable for not reporting,” she read. “Children aren’t a second thought or collateral damage.”
Spanier and his “cohorts,” as Ditka once referred to them during closing, only cared about themselves, she said. They didn’t want to think about what Sandusky was doing on campus because they already knew what was happening.
She often returned to the physical evidence — emails and notes — and during a majority of her argument kept a photo of a small boy next to a smiling Sandusky — a reminder of “John Doe” and his testimony. Ditka also returned to Spanier, Curley and Shultz’s reaction to a report of Sandusky showering with a boy in 1998 versus their reactions in 2001. In 1998, she said, police were contacted, as was Children and Youth Services and the Department of Public Welfare.
In 2001, she said, it suddenly became an issue that was decided to be handled amongst themselves. She also compared “coded” emails — referring to “the person” or “the organization” rather than names — to the emails sent in 1998, which clearly used individuals names like “Jerry” and “Paterno.”
“Use your common sense,” she told the jury. “The top of the food chain talked to their lawyer over the weekend about ‘horseplay.’ That is absurd,” she said. “They knew exactly what this was.”