Prosecutors continue building case against former Penn State officials

Penn State president Graham Spanier, left, and head football coach Joe Paterno chat before an Oct. 8 football game against Iowa in State College. GENE PUSKAR / Associated Press, file
Penn State president Graham Spanier, left, and head football coach Joe Paterno chat before an Oct. 8 football game against Iowa in State College. GENE PUSKAR / Associated Press, file
Posted: June 17, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - From the start of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse trial, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan sought to make one thing clear.

"Pennsylvania State University is not on trial here," he told jurors in his opening statements Monday.

And as he laid out his case against the former assistant football coach this week, McGettigan largely stuck to that promise.

Although Penn State may have dodged a bullet inside the Bellefonte courtroom where Sandusky is fighting 52 counts of child sex abuse, outside the building this week prosecutors continued to haul blame right up to the steps of Old Main.

News broke Monday of e-mail correspondence in which former university president Graham B. Spanier and two other top university officials debated whether to alert authorities about an alleged 2001 incident involving Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy.

Meanwhile, prosecutors alleged that their initial assessment of perjury charges against former university vice president Gary Schultz only scratched the surface of his alleged dishonesty when he told grand jurors last year he had been misinformed about the severity of Sandusky's purported crimes.

Current Penn State president Rodney Erickson has made transparency and commitment to child-abuse research planks of his administration since taking over.

But until recently, "Penn State, to be frank, was not very quick to get us information," said Anthony Sassano, an investigator with the Attorney General's Office in charge of the Sandusky case.

He made his comments - describing evidence authorities found in the coach's old Penn State office, a room to which investigators were only recently given access - Thursday while on the witness stand.

The comments were about as scathing as it got for the university as the trial progressed.

Though much of the focus in the days after the arrest of Sandusky centered on what Penn State officials knew about previous allegations and when, testimony in the courtroom this week remained focused on 10 purported victims of sexual abuse and one alleged sexual predator.

Even Mike McQueary - the former Penn State assistant football coach who says he saw Sandusky in 2001 sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in a locker-room shower - made little mention of the various university officials to whom he said he reported the incident.

"I did not get overwhelmingly into detail," McQueary, 37, said Tuesday, recalling his conversation with former head football coach Joe Paterno. "But I made it extremely clear, making sure he knew it was sexual, it was wrong, it was perverse."

Common Pleas Court Judge John M. Cleland moved McQueary's testimony along before discussion could delve too deeply into what Paterno did or did not do with that information.

As outlined in the grand jury report last year, McQueary reported the alleged incident to Paterno the morning after he saw it.

Paterno in turn notified then-athletic director Tim Curley and Schultz, the university vice president in charge of campus police - though both later told grand jurors they were unaware McQueary had lodged specific allegations of sexual abuse.

Both men now stand charged with perjury and failing to report a crime. Both have denied the charges.

Though Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January, and Spanier, who described his understanding of McQueary's account as mere "horseplay," were not criminally charged, both lost their jobs days after Sandusky's arrest because they did not do more to investigate.

When McQueary's father, John, took the stand Wednesday and began describing conversations he had with Schultz weeks after his son made his initial report, prosecutors quickly cut him off.

"Mr. Schultz said he had heard noise about [Sandusky and] these sorts of things before," the elder McQueary managed to get out before he was silenced.

But according to a motion filed in Schultz's case Monday, the former vice president may have known much more.

Prosecutors noted that among documents the university only recently handed over to an investigating grand jury was a file containing notes on "incidents involving Sandusky."

Schultz's attorney, Thomas J. Farrell, denied that his client withheld the file, saying it was Penn State's responsibility to hand it over because Schultz had left it in his office when he retired last year.

"All his files . . . were available to his secretaries and his successor," Farrell said.

Meanwhile, it became increasingly clear this week that Spanier's role in discussions of the McQueary incident had emerged as a subject of interest for grand jurors.

Sources said this week the university was preparing for charges to be filed against its former president in light of the 2001 e-mails among him, Curley, and Schultz.

The documents were discovered by a group that Penn State trustees hired to investigate the handling of the Sandusky scandal. That panel is expected to release its findings as early as next month, a source familiar with its progress said.

One e-mail contained the suggestion it would be "humane" to avoid reporting Sandusky to authorities.

It was not clear from the document whether Spanier thought the incident was merely "horseplay," as he later described it to the grand jury, or whether he understood that McQueary's accusation involved allegations of rape, according to a source familiar with it.

Prosecutors said in court filings the e-mail chain also provided statements that contradict Curley and Schultz's grand jury testimony about what they knew. They would not specify, citing the open investigation.

Spanier's lawyer, Peter Vaira, did not return calls for comment this week.

Lawyers representing Curley and Schultz issued an explanation on their clients' behalf.

"This information confirms that . . . Tim Curley and Gary Schultz conscientiously considered Mike McQueary's reports of observing inappropriate conduct, reported it to . . . Spanier and deliberated about how to . . . handle the situation properly," they said.

Their case is expected to head to trial early next year. Sandusky's trial resumes Monday.

Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218,, or follow on Twitter @jeremyrroebuck.

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