The long-awaited preliminary hearing is over and the three ex-Penn State administrators have been ordered to face trial.
So what’s next for former president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz?
Local attorney Tony De Boef, who sat though the two-day preliminary hearing in a Dauphin County courtroom, said the answer could come soon in a slew of pretrial motions.
De Boef said attorneys for the men will likely seek to have some of the charges dismissed, particularly counts of obstruction of justice and endangering the welfare of a child.
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Defense attorneys, in fact, didn’t wait for pretrial motions, asking District Judge William Wenner to dismiss the counts Tuesday because they said prosecutors failed to make their case.
Wenner ultimately disagreed Tuesday afternoon and ruled without pause that there was enough evidence to send all the charges to trial.
But as they prepare to fight the charges, one count in particular could worry defense attorneys, according to De Boef.
“The perjury count is pretty strong because of the way they testified, under oath, in front of the grand jury compared to what these emails are now saying,” De Boef said. “That’s going to be a hard one for them to win.”
De Boef was referring to emails sent between the three men in 2001 that allegedly show the former Penn State leaders agreeing not to report allegations against now-convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.
The documents were made public as part of the Freeh report and were treated as the key piece of evidence by prosecutors at the preliminary hearing.
In his closing arguments, lead prosecutor Bruce Beemer told Wenner the emails alone would have made his case.
“But we gave you quite a bit more,” Beemer said.
It was the rest of the case, however, where defense attorneys focused their attacks during closing arguments.
De Boef said that’s where the defense teams will likely focus their efforts when filing pretrial motions.
“In those motions they’ll be arguing that the law of those counts doesn’t match the evidence that was given at the hearing,” he said. “And then there will be a legal argument on whether those elements match or not.
“I think their arguments on those are a lot stronger.”
But the process could take months. Attorneys said after the hearing that they don’t expect a trial to begin until sometime in March.
For now, prosecutors can celebrate a victory, even if it was an expected one.
“The judge did for lots of reasons what we all expected him to do,” De Boef said. “And that was to let the jury decide, a Dauphin County jury, what really needs to be the outcome of these three cases.”
De Boef said defense attorneys made compelling arguments, but ultimately the prosecution’s case met the low burden of proof needed at a preliminary hearing.
Not much of that evidence came as a surprise — most surfaced when Spanier, Curley and Schultz were charged or with the release of the Freeh report.
But one new piece of information could be a major factor for Spanier, De Boef said.
“One of the things we had not heard ever, and even though it came late in the day today, was the transcript,” he said. “The testimony from Graham Spanier before the grand jury. That was new information.”
Prosecutors read into the record Spanier’s grand jury testimony that he had no knowledge of the 1998 Sandusky allegation and was told the 2001 incident was “horseplay.”
“That was particularly interesting to hear,” De Boef said. “I find it hard to believe anybody, including the jury, is going to believe he knew nothing about the 1998 police investigation into someone, I guess now as notorious as Sandusky.”