Sandusky case leads to legal labyrinth

Jerry Sandusky is taken from the courthouse in Bellefonte in 2012 after being sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. The trial has spawned a slew of legal cases.
Jerry Sandusky is taken from the courthouse in Bellefonte in 2012 after being sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. The trial has spawned a slew of legal cases. CDT file photo

On any given day, a new development could prompt a story or two or four or more about one of the lawsuits that sprang up after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

But which lawsuit? Which court? Which players, and why?

Even if you have read every single filing from every case, following them all, or, worse, trying to explain them to others, can be like trying to untangle a box of knotted strands of yarn. Some are closed, some are active and others are in a legal limbo, waiting for something to happen someday.

As of press time, this is where it all stands.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Gerald A. Sandusky

It was the terrible seed that started it all.

Jerry Sandusky, a retired Penn State assistant football coach, was indicted by a grand jury in 2011 on a raft of charges including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children in incidents between 1995 and 2008.

He was arrested in November 2011, kicking off an intense response locally, across the state and around the country. Hugely popular longtime football coach Joe Paterno was fired, along with university president Graham Spanier.

Although Sandusky continually maintained he was innocent, he was convicted of 45 counts in June 2012 in Centre County and sentenced to serve 30 to 60 years. He is incarcerated in Greene state prison.

His attorney, Al Lindsay, said there was “nothing to report at this time” regarding Sandusky’s appeals.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier

Part of the fallout of Sandusky’s case was the filing of three more criminal cases. Former athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, were charged in November 2011 in Dauphin County, where they testified in front of Sandusky’s grand jury. They faced felony counts of perjury, endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy, as well as misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and obstruction. Spanier was charged with similar counts in November 2012.

Spanier is free on $125,000 unsecured bail. Curley and Schultz were released on $50,000 unsecured.

More than three years have passed for Curley and Schultz, two for Spanier, and no trial date is set.

In 2014, there was a brief flurry of paperwork as the three defendants pressed the court to have the state Attorney General’s Office release documents in discovery they thought to have been recovered from emails, but in October, Judge Todd Hoover said “no basis exists” to believe the prosecutors were withholding anything from the defense in the three cases.

The Freeh Report

There may be no more hotly contested document in the Penn State universe.

It was initiated in November 2011, when the unversity’s board of trustees hired former FBI director Louis Freeh and his firm, Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan LLP, to serve as “independent, external legal counsel ... to perform an independent, full and complete investigation” of the Sandusky scandal and any failure on the part of Penn State or its employees.

The finished report, issued in July 2012, placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno, ascribing a “striking lack of empathy” to the four men and decrying the “culture of reverence” for the football program.

Critics of the report have included former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh, who, at the request of the Paterno family, conducted his own review of the document, called Freeh’s characterization of Paterno “unfounded and offensive” and a rush to judgment.

Former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, who worked for the behavioral analysis unit while Freeh was director and has specialized in sex crimes involving children, said the report failed because it “misinterpreted evidence and behavior and reached erroneous conclusions” because the investigators simply did not understand the special dynamics of child sexual victimization and how it differs from other crimes.

Thornburgh and Clemente were commissioned by the Paterno family to review the report.

Several new members of the board of trustees, however, want to review the investigation themselves.

In July, Al Lord asked his fellow board members to pick up the investigation where Freeh left off. Three months later, the board voted that suggestion down.

In November, the nine alumni-elected trustees asked for access to the documents to conduct their own investigation. It was granted, but they were also told they would not have total access.

Penn State President Eric Barron, who said he also would review the report, said in December that he and any board members would have to comply with requirements that would protect the anonymity of those interviewed in the investigation. The alumni trustees have balked at this, saying it would prevent an accurate assessment of the information.

The NCAA sanctions

There were eleven days between the release of the Freeh report and the day NCAA President Mark Emmert stepped onto a podium and announced a package of sanctions designed to “reflect both the magnitude of (the) terrible acts” and to “allow Penn State to rebuild an athletic culture that went horribly awry.”

The penalties were huge. The university was required to pay $60 million in fines slated to help victims of child sex abuse. There would be a five-year probation for the team and it was precluded from going to a bowl came for four years. Football scholarships were restricted.

For some, the most crushing blow was the one that might just have been ceremonial — the stripping of 112 football victories, games the team played between 1998 and 2011, dropping Paterno from the most successful football coach in Division I with 409 wins to fifth place with just 298.

Good reviews from athletic integrity monitor and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell led to some restoration of scholarships in 2013, then to a return of bowl eligibility and dropping of all scholarship restrictions in September 2014.

The sanctions were put in place as the result of the consent decree, an agreement with the NCAA signed by then-Penn State president Rodney Erickson.

Endowment Act

In February 2013, the Endowment Act became law in Pennsylvania. It required “any institution of higher learning” in the state that was required by a governing body to pay a monetary penalty of $10 million over the course of multiple years to pay the money into a state administered trust fund.

State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, introduced the legislation.

Those are the building blocks. Every other pending case involved has something to do with one or more of these precursors.

Spanier v. Freeh, Freeh v. Spanier

In 2013, Spanier filed a writ of summons in Centre County Court, notifying Freeh that some kind of lawsuit would be coming.

No official complaint has been filed to date, but in October 2013, Spanier requested a stay pending resolution of his criminal case, giving a tip to the nature of the proceedings.

“The Freeh report is false and defamatory as it relates to Spanier. Spanier did not once conceal facts about Sandusky’s child abuse, let alone ‘repeatedly’ do so,” the document stated. Judge Jonathan Grine granted that stay in February.

However, in July, Freeh’s lawyers filed in federal court to remove the case from Centre County, claiming that because Freeh and his law firm are headquartered outside the state, a local court in Pennsylvania wasn’t the proper venue. Spanier’s attorneys countered that the 2012 merging of the firm with Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton opened that door.

Federal Judge Malachy Mannion returned the case to Centre County’s jurisdiction in November.

Spanier v. Penn State

In May 2012, Spanier sued the university in Centre County court over access to his emails. The case was “voluntarily discontinued” in July 2012.

Schultz v. Cynthia Baldwin

In December 2012, Schultz attorney Thomas Sprague entered a case in Centre County Court, asking the Prothonotary’s Office to issue a writ of summons for former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin.

Schultz and Curley said they thought Baldwin, a former Penn State trustee and Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, represented them. Baldwin contended she was solely representing the university.

The case has not been closed but no action has been taken for two years.

Mike McQueary v. Penn State

If the Sandusky case started the chain of dominoes, Mike McQueary might have been what pushed them to fall.

Former Nittany Lion quarterback McQueary was a graduate assistant when, he says, he saw Sandusky abusing a young boy in a Penn State shower in 2001. (In the original grand jury presentment, McQueary said the date was in 2002, but prosecutors later determined the date to be in 2001.) He told Paterno, who told university officials, but no charges would come of the incident for 10 years.

McQueary, however, would go on to become a recognizable red-headed presence on the sidelines as an assistant coach until 2011.

In October 2012, he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university in Centre County Court, alleging defamation and misrepresentation. In December, he filed a motion to compel production of documents, and filed a joint motion with Penn State to file exhibits under seal.

The Second Mile

The Second Mile case has a special judge to handle it, Warren and Forest counties’ Senior Judge William Morgan. What it doesn’t have is a named second party.

Filed in Centre County, instead, it is slowly dissolving the assets of the charity that Sandusky started almost 40 years ago, a nonprofit focused on underprivileged kids that became one of President George H.W. Bush’s “points of light.”

Those lights dimmed with Sandusky’s arrest and conviction for abuse of young boys he met through the charity’s programs.

In August 2012, the leadership “concluded that The Second Mile could not continue its charitable purpose but should transfer its programs to another nonprofit provider and ultimately dissolve.” Some programs have been transferred to other organizations, while assets have been liquidated under Morgan’s supervision.

Most recently, a large tract of ground in Patton Township was sold for $1.05 million to Michael J. Lee, who plans to develop it into a sports complex.

Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney v. Penn State

Paterno’s son and quarterbacks coach, Jay, along with tight ends coach Bill Kenney, filed a federal lawsuit against the university in July, seeking $1 million in back pay, compensation for lost earnings, plus punitive damages.

The pair say that the way they were released, in the wake of the Sandusky case and as Bill O’Brien came on board as the new head coach, defamed them and made them unattractive hires to other organizations.

Penn State, in response, said they were unrealistic in their employment goals after leaving the university. The ball is in the university’s court, which has until Jan. 7 to respond to the plaintiffs’ latest filing.

Paterno estate, trustee Al Clemens, Jay Paterno and Kenney v. NCAA, Emmert, Edward Ray and Penn State

The Paterno family’s lawsuit, coupled with support from former trustee Al Clemens and the two assistant coaches, goes after the NCAA and its president, as well as former executive committee chairman and Oregon State President Ed Ray and Penn State for breach of contract. The NCAA is also accused of tortious interference, defamation, disparagement and conspiracy.

The case is filed in Centre County Court, but being heard by specially presiding Potter County Senior Judge John Leete. It was filed in May 2013, with possibly the biggest bombshell in the case coming in September, when Leete ruled that the Paternos had standing to challenge the consent decree.

Most recently, the two sides have clashed over issues of attorney-client privilege. The estate has sought to serve subpoenas on Pepper Hamilton, but the law firm and Penn State have opposed this in court, and both have been overruled by Leete. Pepper Hamilton is currently appealing to the state Superior Court.

Corman and Rob McCord v. NCAA and Penn State

There may be no case in which privilege is more of a sticking point than Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord’s attempt to enforce the Endowment Act in Commonwealth Court.

Filed in January 2013, the lawsuit has already been validated three times as the NCAA has sought to have the Endowment Act overturned, only to have the court declare it constitutional in September 2013, April 2014 and most recently in October.

However, the case seems to have become more about the back story of how the consent decree came about in the first place.

Emails filed as exhibits in the case by Corman’s attorneys have shown conversations between the Freeh investigators and the NCAA that included sample questions for the interviews and regular updates on the independent review commissioned by the university. NCAA officials also discussed “bluffing” the university into accepting the consent decree, although there were doubts as to the college sports organization’s jurisdiction.

The NCAA has been slapped down by Judge Anne Covey several times in the case, including for overuse of privilege in depositions and discovery. That prompted a closed-door review of 477 documents contested by the parties, with the NCAA eventually admitting that 170 of them would not be protected. Review of 163 more was granted Dec. 18, which prompted a re-scheduling of the planned Jan. 6 trial. It has been moved to Feb. 17.

NCAA v. Commonwealth Court

In September, the NCAA asked to dismiss the Commonwealth Court case on the grounds that it was moot. The organization had already agreed to allow the university to pay the fine money to the state fund and the university had agreed. Corman and McCord did not contest but they didn’t agree, either, leaving the issue to the judge. Covey declined, preferring to go to trial on the consent decree.

The NCAA appealed her decision to the state Supreme Court. The court denied its request.

NCAA v. Tom Corbett, McCord, Mark Zimmer and Eugene DePasquale

In February 2013, the NCAA took its case against the Endowment Act to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, asking once again that it be declared unconstitutional and seeking an injunction to bar its enforcement.

Gov. Tom Corbett and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale were dismissed from the suit in October, but McCord and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Chairman Mark Zimmer remain defendants.

In October, the NCAA asked for an expedited ruling in the case, specifically citing the pending Commonwealth Court decision. That netted a knock from Covey in Commonwealth Court, who accused the NCAA of “forum shopping” for a more favorable ruling.

John Doe No. 6 v. Penn State, Sandusky, Second Mile

The case is still pending in federal court, with an October order that set a pretrial time table. Discovery is due by March, with plaintiff expert reports. Defense reports are due in April, with depositions by May and motions by June.

John Doe v. Penn State, et al

Filed in October 2012, the case, brought by a young man who said he participated in Second Mile camps with Sandusky, where he was assaulted between 2001 and 2005, was dismissed without prejudice in October 2013, with the right to reinstate if a settlement between the parties did not come to fruition.

Other settlements

In October 2013, Penn State announced settlements with 26 victims. The terms were subject to confidentiality agreements. The total came to $59.7 million. The university said that 32 claims were submitted after Sandusky’s arrest and conviction.