Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Judge grants Freeh’s motion, rules against Spanier defamation suit

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier departs after his sentencing hearing on June 2 at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg.
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier departs after his sentencing hearing on June 2 at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg. Associated Press

Louis Freeh won a round in Centre County court Wednesday when a judge granted his motion.

The former FBI director scored his victory against Graham Spanier, the former Penn State president Freeh pointed to as culpable in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Though Senior Judge Robert Eby from Lebanon County granted Freeh’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, he pointed out that it was “based upon the agreement and stipulation of the parties as to the applicability and effect of plaintiff’s conviction.”

Spanier was convicted in March of one misdemeanor count of child endangerment. He is appealing that conviction.

Eby’s order specified that Spanier will be able to present a motion to have the judgment set aside if his case is overturned.

Spanier first filed paperwork to initiate the suit in 2013, a year after the Freeh report — the Penn State-commissioned investigation of the scandal — was delivered, naming Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, former vice president Gary Schultz and late longtime football coach Joe Paterno as responsible figures in allowing or covering up abuse by retired defensive coordinator Sandusky.

Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty in March, two weeks before Spanier’s trial, where both of them testified. They are already serving their sentences.

Freeh followed up the lengthy statement he issued after Spanier’s conviction with a new statement and then an addendum Thursday, calling Spanier’s defamation suit “meritless.”

“I’m not surprised that this frivolous and malicious claim has finally been dismissed,” Freeh said. “The carefully investigated facts found in our report, which were the basis for the criminal convictions of Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schultz, the three most powerful leaders of Penn State over the lengthy period of Sandusky’s horrific sexual crimes against children on the Penn State campus, have never been disproven or successfully challenged over the last five years. That is because they are true and corroborated by evidence, including the personal emails of the convicted defendants, which our investigation uncovered and which led to their convictions.”

Freeh went on to call criticism of his report “unfounded and misguided.”

“Rather than focus on a path forward to heal from the outrageous crimes that took place at Penn State, a small group instead denies facts that have been proven over and over and seeks to fight yesterday’s battles. This is a disservice to the many victims of Sandusky’s crimes, as well as to the thousands of decent Penn State students, athletes, faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni and admirers who wish to improve their institution and seek to emerge from the past as a stronger, better and safer place. The time has come to put this debate to rest,” Freeh said.

Spanier’s attorney Andy Phillips is confident the case is not over.

“Mr. Freeh’s statement today is yet another example of the kind of overly righteous hyperbole that Pennsylvanians have come to expect from Louis Freeh. Dr. Spanier, as he has from the beginning, maintains his innocence and is pursing an appeal of the single misdemeanor count. He is confident that he will prevail on appeal, and we are pleased that Judge Eby recognized that when the appeal succeeds, Dr. Spanier can continue to pursue his defamation case against Mr. Freeh,” he said.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce