Former PSU president Spanier charged in 'conspiracy of silence'
November 2, 2012 4:00 PM
Bradley C Bower/Associated Press
State Attorney General Linda Kelly announces the new criminal charges related to the investigation of child sex crimes at Penn State.
By Laura Olson and Karen Langley Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG -- Former Penn State University president Graham Spanier on Thursday became the third school official to be charged in the ongoing child sexual abuse case that has led to his departure from his post, the firing of head football coach Joe Paterno and a lengthy prison sentence for ex-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Unveiling the charges against Mr. Spanier and additional counts against former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, state Attorney General Linda Kelly said the three men were involved in a "conspiracy of silence" to conceal Sandusky's crimes.
Ms. Kelly said that conspiracy involved not only failing to contact law enforcement officials when they were told about inappropriate interactions between Sandusky and young boys but also lying to a state grand jury about knowledge of those incidents and hiding emails and other documents from prosecutors.
The steps to conceal evidence "significantly thwarted and frustrated" investigators, who announced charges against Sandusky, Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz last November.
"This was not a mistake by these men. It was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part," Ms. Kelly said. "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 back to 1997. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Mr. Spanier, 64, resigned days after charges were filed against Sandusky and has been long identified as a target in an investigation of a possible cover-up by university administrators.
He 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.
Attorneys representing Mr. Spanier said Thursday that there is no basis for the charges against their client. Further, they criticized the attorney general's office for refusing for a year to meet with them or Mr. Spanier to talk about the case or to accept his offer to appear before the grand jury a second time "to clarify any misconceptions."
"Graham Spanier has committed no crime and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name and well-earned national reputation for integrity," his defense team said in a statement.
Mr. Curley, 58, and Mr. Schultz, 63, previously faced charges of perjury based on statements they made to the grand jury and for failure to report suspected child abuse.
The three men now face the same criminal charges, and Ms. Kelly said she believes they should be tried together.
The two previously charged administrators are scheduled to be arraigned in Dauphin County this afternoon. Mr. Spanier's arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Caroline Roberto, who represents Mr. Curley, said she was provided no advance notice that her client was facing additional counts. She said he is innocent of all charges.
After resigning Nov. 9, Mr. Spanier continued to serve as a tenured professor. The university said Thursday he would be placed on leave. Officials previously indicated that Mr. Curley's contract would not be renewed when it expires in June.
Until his abrupt departure, Mr. Spanier was one of the most visible college presidents in the nation, serving for more than 16 years as the leader of a high-profile research university with two dozen campuses and 96,000 students.
He came to Penn State in 1973, working first as an assistant professor of human development and sociology and later as associate dean. Mr. Spanier also held posts at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Oregon State University before being appointed chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a post he held for five years until returning to Penn State as its president in 1995.
The grand jury presentment returned last year said Mr. Spanier "denied being aware of a 1998 University Police investigation of Sandusky for incidents with children in football building showers." The report released Thursday found Mr. Spanier lied under oath when he said he did not learn until 2011 of a 1998 incident in which Sandusky showered with an 11-year-old boy in a Penn State athletic facility.
Emails from 1998 and 2001 released in the report commissioned by Penn State and led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh showed that Mr. Spanier was apprised by Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz of incidents involving Sandusky.
One email from Mr. Spanier to the other administrators in 2001 stated that the university could "become vulnerable for not having reported" the incident witnessed by graduate assistant Mike McQueary in which Sandusky was showering with an unidentified boy.
"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 report was a billing record from State College law firm McQuaide Blasko, which listed a meeting with Mr. Schultz related to "reporting of suspected child abuse" on the same day he learned of Mr. McQueary's report.
Prosecutors voiced particular frustration with what they described as deliberate attempts by the university administrators to stymie the investigation. The new report gives the example of a subpoena issued in December 2010 for records concerning Sandusky and inappropriate contact with boys. The records were supposed to be turned over by January 2011 but were not provided to authorities until April 2012, prosecutors said.
The presentment describes the university legal counsel, Cynthia Baldwin, inquiring if Mr. Spanier, Mr. Curley or Mr. Schultz had information sought by the subpoena.
"Each personally and directly assured her that they knew of no information or documents involving alleged misconduct or inappropriate contact by Jerry Sandusky. They also assured her that they would look and see if they could find any such information or documentation," the grand jury presentment said.
In the weeks that followed, all three men told Ms. Baldwin they had not found any documents related to Sandusky. In fact, the investigation found, Mr. Schultz kept a file in his Penn State office with notes and documents about the 1998 and 2001 assaults by Sandusky. But "very little of significance" was provided until Mr. Spanier left office, Ms. Kelly said.
She 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 cited Mr. Paterno alongside the three charged men as failing their responsibility to report Sandusky's actions to outside authorities.
"He's deceased, and that's the end of it," said the attorney general, who last year indicated Mr. Paterno fulfilled his duty by reporting what Mr. McQueary told him to school administrators.
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, a criticism that has repeatedly been levied against prosecutors.
"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 said.