Will the stay in Graham Spanier’s lawsuit against Louis Freeh be lifted? Maybe. Kind of. Still don’t know.
The parties might have been in Centre County court Wednesday but while Lebanon County Senior Judge Robert Eby heard arguments, and asked questions, a decision on the questions at hand is still pending.
The issue of the stay was the first on the table.
When former Penn State president Spanier filed the first papers in his lawsuit against Freeh, the former FBI director and federal judge hired by the university to conduct an investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, in July 2013, his attorneys said it was to preserve the ability and the statute of limitations.
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The stay they requested in October 2013 had more to do with a different case, the criminal one filed against Spanier and two fellow university executives, former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz, in Dauphin County. The three men are charged with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction and child endangerment, rising from the Sandusky investigation.
“When we requested the stay, the assumption was the criminal proceeding would be resolved,” said Spanier’s attorney Tom Clare.
“How’d that work out?” asked Eby, laughing.
Spanier’s criminal case, filed in 2012, is nearing its third birthday with no trial date on the calendar, as challenges have instead brought it into appeals court again and again.
Those appeals were another point brought up by Eby.
“At what point is a criminal case resolved?” he asked, suggesting that even after a verdict, if Spanier or his co-defendants are convicted, more appeals could keep the case alive much longer.
“Frankly, (criminal cases) don’t die a natural death,” Eby said. “It may, in fact, hold up this process ad infinatum.”
Spanier’s camp is asking that the stay be lifted enough to allow discovery to proceed, with certain exceptions, like depositions from Curley and Schultz. Freeh’s camp has said that it should be lifted period.
In court, Clare said there were no objections to lifting the stay and addressing issues like possible Fifth Amendment concerns with Curley and Schultz as they arise. Spanier, he said, would not be asserting any Fifth Amendment rights.
“Look at this. This is going to be so easy,” Eby said.
The two sides found less agreement on the issues of joining additional parties to the suit, bringing on both Penn State and Freeh’s company, Freeh Group International Solutions. Law firm Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan, which has merged with Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia, is already a party.