The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 27, 2013

PSU scandal lingers

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State paid millions to settle claims of child sexual abuse, three university administrators accused of a cover-up fought the charges and NCAA penalties were dialed down slightly as the Jerry Sandusky scandal continued to play out in many different ways during the past year.

Sandusky spent the year working on appeals from inside a high-security prison in southwestern Pennsylvania, losing before the trial judge and Superior Court, and ending the calendar year awaiting word on whether the state Supreme Court will take the case.

Sandusky’s lawyer argued the case was rushed to trial so quickly that the defense was unprepared, the judge mishandled a jury instruction about the length of time it took victims to come forward and a prosecutor crossed a line by making reference in closing arguments to the fact that Sandusky did not take the stand in his own defense.

The biggest development this year was Penn State’s announcement that it was paying $59.7 million to 26 accusers, leaving about a half-dozen claims to resolve.

In January, Gov. Tom Corbett announced he was filing a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA to challenge the Sandusky-related penalties against Penn State that included a $60 million fine, a ban on postseason play and a temporary loss of scholarships.

The NCAA succeeded in getting Corbett’s lawsuit thrown out in June, and about two months later, the organization announced that as a result of the steps the school has taken to address the scandal, it would restore those football scholarships more quickly than scheduled.

After the Legislature and Corbett enacted a new law to require the $60 million fine remain in Pennsylvania, the NCAA sued in federal court, seeking to have it overturned. That case and a state court lawsuit seeking to uphold the new law are both pending.

As Sandusky pursued appeals, the criminal case against three former Penn State administrators moved ahead, including a preliminary hearing at which state prosecutors presented enough evidence to satisfy a district judge who ordered the case sent to county court for trial. No trial date has been set.

In that case – involving former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley – the presiding judge held a brief hearing in open court this month, and then ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers to lay out in writing the issues that are in dispute.

That case has been held up because of claims by the defendants that their legal rights were violated when the university’s chief counsel at the time accompanied them to grand jury appearances in 2011, and later testified before the grand jury last year.

Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover told the lawyers he plans to schedule a hearing where they can argue the issues.

Litigation generated by the Sandusky scandal included a defamation and commercial disparagement lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the family of former head coach Joe Paterno, under whom Sandusky worked for decades, some former players, a few university trustees and others.  In late October, the judge heard argument in the NCAA’s request to have it thrown out but has not ruled.

The Paterno family also released its own report in February, finding much to criticize in the review paid for by Penn State that concluded last year that Paterno helped the three administrators conceal complaints about Sandusky in order to avoid bad publicity.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane in February appointed a lawyer to lead an investigation into how her office handled the Sandusky case, including questions about why it took so long after the first complaints for charges to be filed. Kane has not provided a timetable for the completion of that review.

The Legislature spent much of the year dealing with various Sandusky-related bills designed to improve child-abuse prevention laws, and Corbett signed

10 of them in mid-December.

The Second Mile, a charity for troubled children Sandusky founded in 1977, got a judge’s permission this year to sell off major assets, a milestone in closing the organization through which Sandusky met many of his victims.

Looking forward, Sandusky is expected to participate through video conference early next month when a hearing examiner considers whether the state retirement system acted properly when it revoked his pension the day he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Also next month, a judge will hear argument on a request by Spanier to put on hold his defamation lawsuit against former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose team produced the Penn State report in July 2012.

The year ended with other related litigation still pending, including a whistleblower and defamation claim against Penn State by Mike McQueary, a former assistant coach who complained to Paterno, Curley and Schultz after seeing Sandusky showering with a boy in 2001.

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