Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Lawyer confident Jerry Sandusky pension will be reinstated

Jerry Sandusky and his wife Dottie enter the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte for his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, December 13, 2011.
Jerry Sandusky and his wife Dottie enter the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte for his preliminary hearing on Tuesday, December 13, 2011. Centre Daily Times

Despite the loss of Jerry Sandusky’s $5,000 a month pension, his wife, Dottie, said last week that God is helping her get by financially.

She didn’t elaborate on what that meant, and maybe she won’t have to pin her financial stability on divine intervention much longer.

The lawyer handling the appeal of her husband’s pension forfeiture filed documents last week charging that the state retirement system illegally stripped Sandusky’s pension and made up interpretations of the law to back up their decision. The lawyer, Charles Benjamin Jr., wants a complete reinstatement of the $59,000 a year pension, plus interest and other legal costs.

Sandusky began receiving his pension after his retirement in 1999, and Benjamin scoffed at the agency’s classification of Sandusky as a “de facto” university employee in the years to follow, including in the late 2000s when he molested two boys, Aaron Fisher and Victim 10.

“The entire ‘de facto’ employee argument appears to have been manufactured by SERS simply to deny (Sandusky) his rights,” Benjamin wrote. “No reported case in the history of Pennsylvania jurisprudence has ever applied a ‘de facto’ employee analysis to deny someone his retirement earnings, and SERS should not bow to political pressure and ‘mob rule’ to deny (Sandusky) his retirement earnings here.”

The arguments were required after a hearing in January in Harrisburg where Sandusky’s lawyers and the SERS lawyers presented oral arguments to an arbiter. Benjamin was confident then that Sandusky would prevail.

Lawyers for SERS have 30 days to issue their own closing arguments, and the arbiter will issue his decision 30 days after that.

The agency has maintained that Sandusky’s conviction of sex crimes against those boys triggered the pension forfeiture under state law.

The crux of the Sandusky argument is that the changes to the law to include the provisions for forfeitures do not apply to the former Penn State coach, who signed his employment contract in 1969.

Benjamin said changes to the pension law in 1978 cannot affect Sandusky, because his contract was not reopened. Further, the lawyer said, Sandusky was retired when another change in 2004 went into effect.

The agency’s lawyers have claimed that Sandusky was a “de facto” employee because of his relationship with the university after he retired. But Benjamin was adamant that the agency cannot construe Sandusky’s emeritus status, football tickets and other perks as employment.

Furthermore, Benjamin said, Sandusky was never paid a Penn State salary in his retirement.