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November 1, 2012

Former Penn State president Spanier charged

HARRISBURG — Former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier was charged Thursday with hushing up child molestation allegations against Jerry Sandusky, making him the third school official charged in the alleged cover-up.

Prosecutors also added counts against the two former underlings, Timothy M. Curley and Gary C. Schultz.

Spanier was charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy, according to online court records. Curley and Schultz face new charges of endangering the welfare of children, obstruction and conspiracy, according to the records.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly and state police Commissioner Frank Noonan held a news conference at noon to discuss the charges, which were filed with a district justice outside Harrisburg.

Curley and Schultz have repeatedly asserted they are innocent, and at a news conference this summer Spanier’s attorneys insisted he was never told there was anything of a sexual nature involving Sandusky and children.

Curley, 58, the athletic director on leave while he serves out the last year of his contract, and Schultz, 63, who has retired as vice president for business and finance, were charged a year ago with lying to the grand jury that investigated the former Penn State assistant football coach and failing to properly report suspect child abuse. Their trial is set for early January in Harrisburg.

Spanier, 64, of State College, had been university president for 16 years when he was forced out as president after Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011. He has said he had no memory of email traffic concerning a 1998 complaint by a woman that Sandusky had showered with her son and only slight recollections about a 2001 complaint by a team assistant who said he stumbled onto Sandusky sexually abusing a boy inside a team shower.

Decisions by the three men in response to those complaints were highly criticized in a detailed report commissioned by Penn State and issued this summer by a group led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. The report concluded Spanier, Curley, Schultz and then-coach Joe Paterno concealed Sandusky’s activities from the university trustees and “empowered” the abuse by giving him access to school facilities and the prestige of his university affiliation.

The Freeh report said the investigation turned up emails from 1998 in which the administrators discussed the matter, including a May 5 email from Curley to Schultz and Spanier, with “Joe Paterno” in the subject line. It read: “I have touched bases with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.”

Spanier told the Freeh team that he believed in 2001 the incident amounted to as “horseplay,” although an email sent by him to Curley at that time reflected a much more somber tone.

In that email, Spanier was reacting to a proposal by Curley in which they would not report Sandusky to authorities but instead tell him he needed help and that he could no longer bring children into Penn State facilities.

“The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” Spanier wrote in 2001. “The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”

Spanier’s lawyers have called the Freeh report a myth, and said he would have acted in 1998, 2001 or any time if he knew a predator like Sandusky was on campus.

Sandusky, who spent decades on the Penn State staff and was defensive coordinator during two national championship seasons, was convicted in June of the sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. He has maintained he is innocent and was transferred to a maximum security prison on Wednesday, where he is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.

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