HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other former school administrators are to be sentenced Friday on charges of child endangerment for failing to report a 2001 allegation about Jerry Sandusky to authorities in a child sex abuse scandal that first broke more than five years ago.
Prosecutors are seeking jail time for Spanier, 68, with sentencing guidelines calling for up to a year in prison. His lawyers are pushing for probation.
Spanier, who was convicted at a jury trial, has said he plans to appeal.
Former athletic director Tim Curley, 63, and former vice president Gary Schultz, 67, each pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors say the men hushed up an allegation about Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a football team shower in 2001 to protect the university’s reputation.
As a result, they said, the former assistant football coach went on to victimize more boys.
All three men denied they were told the encounter in the shower was sexual in nature.
Prosecutors dropped more serious charges against Curley and Schultz as a result of their pleas, and agreed they would not recommend a sentence for them. But in documents filed on the eve of the sentencing, they assailed the two men over their testimony at Spanier’s trial.
They suggested that Curley was purposely forgetful, and that it defied common sense that Schultz seemed unwilling to acknowledge the sexual nature of the allegation about Sandusky.
Spanier’s trial revolved around testimony by an ex-graduate coaching assistant, Mike McQueary, who said he reported seeing Sandusky molesting a boy in 2001.
Sandusky was not arrested until 2011, after an anonymous email to a county prosecutor led investigators to approach McQueary. Sandusky was found guilty the next year of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years while he appeals his conviction. At least four victims at Sandusky’s trial said they were molested after 2001.
The scandal led to the firing of beloved football coach Joe Paterno shortly after Sandusky’s arrest, and he died of cancer two months later at the age of 85.
The Hall of Fame coach was never charged with a crime, but a report commissioned by the university concluded he was part of an effort to keep a lid on the allegations against Sandusky for fear of bad publicity.
Penn State’s football program suffered heavy sanctions from the NCAA, and the university has paid out nearly a quarter-billion dollars in fines, court verdicts, settlements and other costs.
McQueary testified about how he went to Paterno a day after the shower encounter to discuss what he had seen. Paterno notified Curley and Schultz, and McQueary met with both of them about a week later. In his 2011 grand jury testimony, Paterno said he was told by McQueary the encounter involved “fondling” and was of “a sexual nature,” but wasn’t sure what the act was.
The prosecution’s key evidence included notes and email exchanges in which Curley, Schultz and Spanier debated what to do after McQueary’s report.
Ultimately, they agreed not to contact child welfare authorities. That decision formed the heart of the case against the administrators.
[Image via New York Times screengrab]