Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, here being escorted into the Centre County Courthouse, is fighting to keep his state pension.
By Kate Giammarise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- Jerry Sandusky appeared via a live video feed from prison before a state pension hearing examiner Tuesday, in a bid to keep his $4,900-a-month pension.
That pension was revoked after his 2012 convictions for child sexual abuse; a 1978 Pennsylvania law takes away the pension of any public employee who commits certain crimes related to their public office or public employment.
Lawyers arguing on behalf of the State Employees' Retirement System said Sandusky's pension should be forfeited because several of the crimes he was convicted of occurred after Sept. 13, 2004, when the pension forfeiture act was amended to include offenses such as indecent assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
They say Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator for the school's football team, was a "de facto" Penn State University employee at that time, and so the law should apply to him.
Sandusky -- handcuffed and in an orange prison jumpsuit at State Correctional Institution Greene -- and his attorneys put forth the case that the former coach was no longer a Penn State employee after his 1999 retirement, despite the many ties he maintained to the school and its famed football program.
He said Tuesday that, after 1999, he never presented himself as a school employee, did not have Penn State business cards, did not receive a paycheck from the school and did not have any W-2 tax forms from PSU for any years following his retirement.
"Sandusky did not receive any remuneration from Penn State in 2004. In 2005, all Sandusky received was a $50 gift certificate. In 2006, 'Sandusky Associates' received a $1,200 check from Penn State for an undisclosed purpose. Finally, on or about Dec. 11, 2007, Sandusky received a $1,500 fee for presenting a speech. These three payments, made over a four-year period, hardly can be described as 'regular remuneration' or 'standard salary,' " wrote Sandusky attorney Charles Benjamin in a November letter to the SERS board.
In documents, attorneys on behalf of SERS had cited a "prominent and regular relationship with PSU" by Sandusky, such as access to football facilities; payments received through 2008 for travel, meals and lodging; free seats in the Nittany Lion Club suite to every Penn State home football game; an office with a phone in campus athletic facilities; and numerous other examples, several of which were discussed Tuesday.
Attorneys also hammered the connections between the school and The Second Mile charity founded by Sandusky.
"It's our contention that Mr. Sandusky was The Second Mile," said Steven Bizar, an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, arguing on behalf of SERS.
A decision in the case is not expected for some time. The hearing examiner makes a recommendation to the SERS board, and the board's decision can then be appealed to Commonwealth Court.
Former PSU athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz had both been subpoenaed by SERS to testify Tuesday, but neither appeared, invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. Both are facing charges related to an alleged failure to report to authorities what they knew about Sandusky's crimes.
Sandusky's wife, Dottie, who also cannot receive any funds from the pension, was in the hearing Tuesday. She declined to speak with reporters.
Sandusky is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence for 45 criminal counts for sexual abuse of 10 boys; he is seeking state Supreme Court review of his conviction.
Kate Giammarise: email@example.com or 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-4254. Twitter: @KateGiammarise. First Published January 7, 2014 10:39 AM