HARRISBURG -- Former Penn State University president Graham Spanier and two administrators were part of a "conspiracy of silence" to conceal criminal acts against children by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, said state Attorney General Linda Kelly as she announced new charges this afternoon in the child sexual abuse case.
Mr. Spanier resigned days after charges were filed against Sandusky last year and has been long identified as a target in an investigation of a possible cover-up by university administrators.
The state attorney general's office also has filed additional criminal counts against former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, who were charged last November alongside Sandusky.
Ms. Kelly and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said emails, confidential notes, and law firm billing records discovered after the initial charges were filed last year led to the latest round of charges.
That evidence -- outlined in a 50-page presentment released this afternoon -- shows that the three top university officials "essentially turned a blind eye" to reports of inappropriate and criminal incidents involving Mr. Sandusky.
"This was not a mistake by these men. It was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part," Ms. Kelly said during a noon news conference. "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 June, a jury found Sandusky, 68, guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse in incidents going as far back as 1997. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Mr. Spanier, 64, has been charged with eight criminal counts including perjury, endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and failure to report suspected child abuse.
Mr. Curley, 58, and Mr. Schultz, 63, had been charged with perjury based on statements they made to the grand jury investigating the Sandusky matter and for failure to report suspected child abuse. They now also face charges of child endangerment, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.
In a written statement issued by Mr. Spanier's defense team this afternoon, the attorneys say that their client has committed no crime. Instead, they call the charges a "politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man."
In the statement, issued by Timothy K. Lewis, Elizabeth Ainslie, Peter F. Vaira and Jack Riley, the attorneys attempt to turn the attention in the case back at Gov. Tom Corbett, who was the immediate past state attorney general in office when the initial report about Sandusky was first made.
Mr. Spanier's attorneys say the charges against him are the "latest desperate act by Gov. 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."
Mr. Spanier's attorneys said that the failure to charge Sandusky when the first allegations were made against him in late 2008 could have compromised the safety of other children.
"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."
The statement further goes on to criticize the timing of the charges -- coming less than a week before the general election.
"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."
Mr. Spanier's attorneys claim that there is no factual basis to support the charges against their client, and criticized the attorney general's office for refusing to meet with him or his attorneys over the last year. The statement also said that Mr. Spanier offered to appear before the grand jury a second time to clear up any misconceptions.
Ms. Kelly disputed any political motives during the news conference, saying the charges were announced once the grand jury completed its process.
"I can tell you unequivocally that the charges being filed today have no relationship whatsoever to any election, and conversely the election has never had any influence or anything to do with this investigation, which has been going on for a long, long time," she said.
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Mr. Corbett, dismissed the attorneys' accusations.
"Graham Spanier's statement is the ranting of a man who has just been indicted for covering up for a convicted pedophile," he said. "His arrogance reveals a man who has just found out that he is not above the law after all."
In a statement after the attorney general's news conference, Penn State said Mr. Spanier, who had continued to serve as a tenured professor since leaving his post as president on Nov. 9, 2011, will be placed on leave immediately. The university also said that Mr. Curley's contract will not be renewed when it expires in June.
University officials declined to comment further "out of respect for the legal process," said university spokesman David LaTorre.
Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley are scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. tomorrow in Harrisburg, while Mr. Spanier is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning.
Ms. Kelly said her office believes the three men should be tried together. Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz had been scheduled for trial in January, though their lawyers had asked for a delay.
The grand jury presentment returned on Sandusky in November 2011 charged him with sexually assaulting boys he met over more than a decade through his nonprofit organization for at-risk children. The document noted that Mr. Spanier "denied being aware of a 1998 University Police investigation of Sandusky for incidents with children in football building showers."
Ms. Kelly said from the earliest days of the charges being filed against Sandusky that Mr. Spanier had not been cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to the report released today, the grand jury found Mr. Spanier lied under oath in April 2011 when he said he had no knowledge until 2011 of a 1998 incident in which Sandusky showered with an 11-year-old boy in Penn State athletic facilities.
Emails from 1998 and 2001 released in the report commissioned by Penn State and led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh had referenced that investigation. One from Mr. Spanier to Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz in 2001 stated that the university could "become vulnerable for not having reported" another incident involving Sandusky.
"Spanier was obviously kept in the loop on this matter as Schultz copied him on emails that discussed the status and conclusion of the investigation," the new grand jury report stated.
Among other evidence discussed in the grand jury report was a billing record of an outside law firm reporting a conference with Mr. Schultz the same day he was told of a sexual assault witnessed by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant football coach, who later told former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno what he saw.
The central Pennsylvania firm, McQuaide Blasko, billed 2.9 hours for work related to "reporting of suspected child abuse."
Ms. Kelly said she would not speculate on whether Mr. Paterno, who died in January, would have been charged if he were still alive. The Freeh report also criticized Mr. Paterno for Penn State's failure to report Sandusky's actions to outside authorities.
"I'm not going to speculate or comment on Mr. Paterno's relationship to this investigation," Ms. Kelly said. "He's deceased, and that's the end of it."
She also defended her office's decision not to charge Sandusky after the first victim came forward and the number of resources allocated toward the investigation.
"I think that the result here" -- Sandusky's conviction and lengthy sentence -- "validates what was done as far as the grand jury investigation," Ms. Kelly responded.
She noted that the investigation is ongoing and would not rule out the possibility of further charges.
Harrisburg Bureau chief Laura Olson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-4254. Bill Schackner contributed. First Published November 1, 2012 4:00 PM