NBC10 Philadelphia - Deanna Durante
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier is now facing five charges including lying to a grand jury and endangering the welfare of a child in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal. NBC10's Deanna Durante reports on the investigation
Three former Penn State administrators were charged on Thursday with conspiring to cover up the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley are accused of knowing that Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing children, and conspiring to cover it up.
"This case is about three powerful and influential men who held positions at the very top of one of the most prestigious universities in the nation," state Attorney General Linda Kelly said. "Three men who used their positions at Penn State to conceal and cover up, for years, the activities of a known child predator; who allowed him to freely use university facilities and then repeatedly obstructed attempts by law enforcement and investigators to gather evidence about the Sandusky assaults which had occurred on campus.
"This was not a mistake by these men. It was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part. This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials, working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard for the children who were Sandusky's victims in this case."
Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 counts of child molestation, and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
The three are charged with lying to the grand jury, conspiracy, failure to report suspected child abuse, criminal conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children. Curley and Schultz had earlier been charged with perjury, and faced trial early next year. These are the first criminal charges against Spanier in the case. A preliminary arraignment is scheduled for Friday in Harrisburg.
Spanier served as Penn State's president for 16 years until he was fired last November.
The charges against all three are based, in part, on evidence uncovered in an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh, NBC News reported. Evidence detailed in Freeh's report, released in July, included emails in which the former officials appeared to agree not to report to child welfare authorities a 2001 allegation by former graduate assistant Mike McQueary that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a Penn State shower room.
The Freeh Report was very critical of Spanier, Curley, Schultz and legendary head coach Joe Paterno, saying they chose to protect the school's image rather than deal head-on with the Sandusky sex scandal.
Spanier disputed those findings: "The report is full of factual errors and jumps to conclusions that are untrue and unwarranted," he said in July. In a statement released on Spanier's behalf Thursday, Spanier blames Gov. Tom Corbett for covering up the Sandusky allegations then using Attorney General Kelly to "do his bidding."
Spanier, Curley and Schultz have always denied any wrongdoing. Spanier has said he was only told that Sandusky was "horsing around" with the young boy in the locker room.
In July, Spanier wrote a letter to the board of trustees saying he would not have turned a "blind eye" to reports that Sanduky was abusing children because he too was a victim of abuse -- he said that as a child he endured repeated beatings by his father.
“It is unfathomable and illogical to think that a respected family sociologist and family therapist, someone who personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child, someone who devoted a significant portion of his career to the welfare of children and youth ... would have knowingly turned a blind eye to any report of child abuse or predatory sexual acts directed at children,” Spanier said in the letter.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse, for assaulting 10 boys over a 15-year period of time. Some of the abuse occurred on school property. For years Sandusky was the defensive coordinator for Penn State's football team. His office was just a few feet away from Paterno's. The sex scandal was the undoing of Paterno, who was fired and then died a few months later of cancer. Curly and Schultz are facing trial early next year.
Sandusky was sentenced in September to at least 30 years in prison and no more than 60. That is expected to be a life sentence for the 69-year-old. He was moved to his permanent prison cell this week.
Today’s Presentment is the latest desperate act by Governor Tom Corbett to cover up and divert attention away from the fact that he failed to warn the Penn State community about the suspicions surrounding Jerry Sandusky, and instead knowingly allowed a child predator to roam free in Pennsylvania. Its timing speaks volumes. These charges are the work of a vindictive and politically motivated Governor working through an un-elected attorney general, Linda Kelly, whom he appointed to do his bidding and who will be a lame duck five days from now.
There is no factual basis to support these charges, which may explain why the Attorney General and her staff have steadfastly refused – for a full year – to meet with Dr. Spanier or his lawyers to discuss this matter despite repeated attempts to do so, or to accept Dr. Spanier’s offer to appear before the grand jury again to clarify any misconceptions.
From late 2008 through November of 2011, as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Tom Corbett clearly knew about the allegations against Jerry Sandusky and yet failed to act. And this failure allowed Sandusky to continue to harm children for nearly three years after he could have and should have been warned, stopped or indicted. The Governor’s legally indefensible explanations, repeated by Attorney General Kelly at her news conference today – that he couldn’t expose Sandusky for fear of compromising an ongoing grand jury investigation or that he needed more evidence – are patently absurd.
And so, on the one hand, Corbett had access to detailed allegations about Sandusky’s child abuse and, as the chief law enforcement officer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, allowed it to continue. On the other, Dr. Spanier was not privy to any details about a 1998 investigation that actually exonerated Sandusky and then, in 2001, was told only about an incident characterized as “horseplay.”
Governor Corbett has made no secret of his personal hostility toward Dr. Spanier, as many witnesses will attest. He is now manipulating public officials and resources to settle a personal score.
Linda Kelly’s willingness to continue this farce, on behalf of the politically motivated Governor who appointed her, apparently knows no bounds. She has already been put on notice by both candidates for Attorney General, one of whom will replace her, that they intend to review her investigation thoroughly. For her to deny, as she did a few minutes ago, that politics played no role in these charges being made five days before an election, is patently false.
Graham Spanier has committed no crime and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name and well-earned national reputation for integrity. This Presentment is a politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man. And if these charges ever come to trial, we will prove it.
The people of this Commonwealth, and the next Attorney General, should be outraged by this blatantly political, transparently vindictive, last-minute act of cowardice and desperation.