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Nation & World

Ex-Penn State president charged in Jerry Sandusky case

(MCT) — HARRISBURG, Pa. — When it really counted, three top leaders at Penn State University engaged in a “conspiracy of silence” to cover up child sex-abuse allegations against retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Those were the words Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly used Thursday as she made the announcement Nittany Nation had been expecting for months: that former Penn State President Graham Spanier has been charged in the Sandusky scandal.

“This was not a mistake. This was not an oversight. This was not misjudgment,” Kelly said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

“This was a conspiracy of silence.”

Spanier, 64, of State College, has been charged with one count of perjury, two counts of endangering the welfare of children and two counts of criminal conspiracy, all third-degree felonies punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

He is also charged with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of criminal conspiracy, second-degree misdemeanors, and a summary count of failure to report suspected child abuse.

University Athletic Director Tim Curley, 58, and retired Vice President Gary Schultz, 63, were charged with new offenses.

They are: two counts of endangering the welfare of children and two counts of criminal conspiracy. Both are third-degree felonies. They were also charged with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of criminal conspiracy, both second-degree misdemeanors.

Curley and Schultz already faced charges of perjury and failure to report child abuse. Their arraignment on the new charges is scheduled for Friday before District Judge William Wenner in Harrisburg.

Spanier, who was forced out after 16 years as Penn State's president shortly after Sandusky's arrest last November, is to be arraigned in the same court Wednesday.

In a statement, Spanier's attorneys dismissed the charges as a “farce” and accused Gov. Tom Corbett, who initiated the Sandusky probe while serving as attorney general from 2004 to 2010, of allowing Sandusky to walk free for three years before his arrest.

“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,” the statement jointly attributed to lawyers Timothy K. Harris, Elizabeth Ainslie and Peter F. Vaira reads.

“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 (grand jury) presentment is a politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man. And if these charges ever come to trial, we will prove it,” the statement also reads.

Curley's lawyer, Caroline Roberto, issued a statement reiterating he's innocent of all charges and referring to a pretrial motion filed Thursday that calls for the case to be dismissed and Curley's grand jury testimony to be thrown out.

Roberto argued that Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin failed to make clear to Curley before his grand jury appearance that she represented the university and not Curley. Because of Baldwin's mistake and the failure of prosecutors to point out the conflict to a judge presiding over the grand jury, Roberto asserted, Curley was denied his right to an attorney.

Schultz's attorney did not respond to requests through a spokeswoman to comment on the new charges.

Under questioning from reporters, Kelly, a former federal prosecutor who worked for Corbett when he was U.S. attorney for the Western District, defended the investigation.

She repeated arguments that it would have been “unrealistic” to bring charges against Sandusky based on the claims of a single victim, and that a loss would have sunk any further prosecutions.

Curley is on leave from his post as Penn State's athletic director.

Schultz retired a year ago as the university's vice president for business and finance.

Both were charged last November with lying to a grand jury investigating allegations against Sandusky, and for failing to report suspected child abuse. Their trial is set to begin in January in Harrisburg.

With State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and investigators at her side, Kelly also appeared willing to let the ghost of the late head football coach Joe Paterno rest, as she declined to answer questions about whether the Lion legend would have faced charges if he were still alive.

“He's deceased and that's the end of it,” she said.

Curley and Schultz have repeatedly claimed that they're innocent.

And at a news conference in the summer, Spanier's attorneys said the former university president was never told that there was anything of a sexual nature between Sandusky and his victims.

But during Thursday's news conference, Kelly said the three men had discussed “in great detail” incidents in 1998 and 2001 involving Sandusky, including a now-infamous shower assault witnessed by former graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary.

“The investigation has established that all three administrators were informed of both of these incidents and had knowledge of Sandusky's assaults as early as the 1998 incident,” Kelly said.

Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June of 45 counts related to the sexual abuse of children, including seven counts stemming from the 1998 and 2001 incidents Spanier, Curley and Schultz are charged with concealing. He was sentenced last month to 30 to 60 years behind bars, which he will serve at the state prison in Greene County, which houses most of Pennsylvania's death row inmates.

The actions taken by Spanier, Schultz and Curley in the wake of those incidents made up the bulk of a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that concluded the administrators and Paterno concealed Sandusky's crimes from university trustees and continued to give him access to school facilities.

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.

Kelly said investigators benefited from that file and from an “extensive amount” of additional information from Penn State that was released after Spanier was fired.

On Thursday, Noonan was corrosive in his criticism of the three men.

Reading over the grand jury presentment against them “you'll see concerns expressed by these three men: concerns for themselves, concerns for the university and even concerns for Jerry Sandusky… the one thing you will find lacking is any concern for the victims.”

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