UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s in-house counsel told trustees last May that administrators didn’t think anything would come out of a grand jury investigating Jerry Sandusky because three prior grand juries never recommended charges against him.
That five-minute briefing, the first information trustees say they heard about the allegations of child sex abuse against the former defensive coordinator, was recounted Thursday by trustees Mark Dambly and Joel Myers during a 20-minute interview with the Centre Daily Times.
“We were told in May 2011 ... by Cynthia Baldwin this was the fourth grand jury that was convened. The prior three led to no charges,” Dambly said.
He added the trustees were further told something like “ ‘We don’t think there’s anything that’s going to come of this.’ ”
Baldwin would not comment during Friday's Penn State board of trustees meeting. She did not return calls or e-mail left for her Thursday.
University spokesman Bill Mahon said he had heard there were prior grand juries but didn’t know details.
No one answered the door at the home of board Chairman Steve Garban during two visits to his Boalsburg home Thursday. He did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Dambly and Myers were confident they were told the inquiries were grand juries and not other types of investigations. But they did not know dates or any other information about the previous grand juries allegedly convened.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo said Thursday he had no information about three previous grand juries convened to investigate Sandusky.
Sandusky’s attorneys, Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger, could not be reached for comment.
The trustees said the way the Sandusky allegation was presented to them — that Sandusky, a former employee, was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior off campus — didn’t sound alarming to the university.
Furthermore, they said none of the trustees asked follow-up questions after being briefed.
Dambly and Myers acknowledge that response sounds hard to understand now, but they stressed the context and timing of the briefing because it happened before the current allegations came to light.
“Things were presented to us with different levels of concern. And this was in the context of all kinds of other things, and it was just not something we even thought much about, that it didn’t seem to relate much to the university,” Myers said.
Dambly faulted administrators for not further preparing trustees.
While the trustees didn’t learn of the content of the current grand jury because of legal concerns over the closed court proceeding, they were told that retired administrator Gary Schultz, former athletic director Tim Curley, former head football coach Joe Paterno and former president Graham Spanier testified.
That three university officials and the football coach whose name was synonymous with the university were called before the grand jury to testify didn’t raise any concerns at the time, they said.
The meeting in May 2011 came a little more than a month after The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News published the first report about Sandusky being the subject of a grand jury investigation.
The newspaper reported two separate incidents, one about a Clinton County boy who alleges Sandusky touched him inappropriately over four years, and another about Sandusky showering with a boy in 1998 on Penn State’s campus.
That story was published in the Centre Daily Times the same day it appeared in the Harrisburg newspaper.
Myers said most trustees did not see the report by The Patriot-News.
Dambly said after the briefing in May trustees next heard about the allegations in November, when the charges and a graphic 23-page presentment were made public by the Attorney General’s Office.
The interviews with Dambly and Myers were part of a trustees public relations effort arranged by prominent Washington attorney Lanny Davis.
The trustees spoke publicly for the first time about the decisions they made during the tumultuous week in November when the Sandusky case was national news, Curley and Schultz were charged with lying to the grand jury, Spanier and Paterno were terminated, and students rioted in downtown State College.
The board’s effort began with 13 trustees who were interviewed by The New York Times for a story published Thursday. Local and state media met with a small number of trustees in interviews Thursday.
A real estate professional, Dambly is president of Pennrose Properties and was appointed to the board by former Gov. Ed Rendell in January 2010. He resides in Media.
Myers is the founder and president of AccuWeather, a weather forecasting service based in Ferguson Township. He was first elected to the board in 1981.
Baldwin, the university’s in-house counsel, was with Curley and Schultz when they testified to the grand jury last year.
The men were charged with perjury after prosecutors said they lied under oath about what they knew of a 2002 incident in which Sandusky is alleged to have molested a boy in a Penn State locker room shower.
Earlier this week, Penn State announced Baldwin will step down from her post as vice president, general counsel and chief legal officer.
The university created the position in January 2010 and Baldwin has held it since then, with a plan to step down once the office was established and a replacement found.
A university spokeswoman said Baldwin’s departure isn’t related to the Sandusky case. In a news release, Baldwin said it was time for a transition.