Freeh lawyer argues for Spanier case to proceed

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PHILADELPHIA -- An attorney for former FBI director Louis Freeh argued in court Wednesday that a defamation case brought by Graham Spanier should proceed despite the criminal charges against the former Penn State University president.

A July 2012 report from Mr. Freeh and his associates found that Mr. Spanier and other Penn State administrators failed to protect children from Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach who is serving a prison sentence of at least 30 years for sexually abusing boys.

Mr. Spanier; Tim Curley, former Penn State athletic director; and former vice president Gary Schultz face charges -- including perjury and endangering the welfare of children -- in relation to the Sandusky case. All three have said they are innocent.

Nearly one year after the release of the Freeh report, an attorney for Mr. Spanier filed notice to bring a defamation suit. The attorney went on to ask the courts to stay the case, arguing that overlap between the lawsuit and criminal charges against Mr. Spanier would disadvantage the former university administrator.

In February, a judge in Centre County granted the request to put the case on hold. Attorneys for Mr. Freeh appealed that order.

In a City Hall courtroom Wednesday, Michael Kichline, an attorney for Mr. Freeh, asked a panel of three Superior Court judges to allow the defamation proceedings to go ahead.

"If you have claims, bring them forth, and we'll litigate it in a court of law," he said. "Mr. Freeh has an interest in clearing this cloud from his name and reputation."

Postponing consideration of the claims could push the case past a deadline for moving to federal court, he said.

Elizabeth Ainslie, attorney for Mr. Spanier, said all she sees from Mr. Freeh's filings is that he wants the allegations filed in court. She said she has told him what they are about: a "report that Mr. Freeh himself chose to publicize by standing up in front of thousands -- of millions -- of people and proclaiming that my client is guilty of affirmatively concealing child abuse."

"There is no secret what it is I am talking about," she said.

She said the judge made a valid decision to delay the case.


Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com, 717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley.

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