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Jury Begins Debate on Spanier's Role in Sandusky Case

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

HARRISBURG -- Graham B. Spanier and two of his top lieutenants at Pennsylvania State University agreed on a plan 16 years ago that ultimately allowed child sex predator Jerry Sandusky to roam free for a decade, leaving "a sea of carnage" in his wake, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.

"All they cared about was their own self-interest," Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka said.

Spanier's lawyer countered that after years of investigation, prosecutors were unable to produce a shred of evidence that the longtime university president knew Sandusky had been sexually assaulting boys and that he failed to act on it or stop anyone else from doing so.

"Not a single witness said these men did nothing" when they learned Sandusky had been showering with boys, lawyer Sam Silver said. "They took the matter seriously. ... They didn't just laugh this off. And they did take action."

Those were the conflicting messages to jurors in closing statements at Dauphin County Courthouse as Spanier's weeklong trial on conspiracy and endangerment charges hurtled toward an end.

During almost six hours of deliberations Thursday, the seven women and five men on the jury twice returned to the courtroom to ask Judge John Boccabella to define and clarify elements of the alleged crime and the law. Around 8 p.m., he dismissed them for the night and ordered them to resume deliberations Friday morning.

They got the case because the defense team rested Thursday morning without calling a single witness, including the 68-year-old Spanier, who has long publicly proclaimed his innocence. Instead, his lawyers argued to jurors that the prosecution had failed to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Silver urged jurors to consider the testimony of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, the former Penn State administrators. Each on Wednesday testified that he regretted not acting at the time to more fully investigate or report Sandusky's interaction with children, but neither did much on the witness stand to bolster the prosecution's contention that they plotted with Spanier to conceal Sandusky's misconduct.

"[Ditka's] witnesses made the defense case," Silver told jurors.

Curley and Schultz struck deals last week with prosecutors, each agreeing to plead guilty to a single count of endangerment, and both have maintained that they did not know Sandusky was sexually assaulting children.

Ditka disputed Silver's description of the men as "star witnesses" and their importance to the case. She told the jury she thought Curley -- who repeatedly said he did not recall details of meetings he had back then to discuss Sandusky's conduct -- was "untruthful" 90 percent of the time on the witness stand. Schultz, she said, was better but "not great."

"They are criminals. They are co-conspirators," Ditka said.

Her real star witnesses, Ditka said, were Mike McQueary, the former assistant football coach who reported seeing Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the locker-room shower in 2001, and the one victim who testified this week that Sandusky assaulted him in a shower in the same campus building in 2002.

He was one of at least four victims assaulted by Sandusky after 2001, when Spanier and the two others decided not to alert the authorities, Ditka said.

"Their plan resulted in a sea of carnage," she argued.

And she suggested that Curley, Schultz, and Spanier would not have been calling weekend meetings and consulting with the university's lawyer if they believed that Sandusky was only engaged in "horseplay" with boys in the shower.

"Use your common sense. They knew exactly what it was," she said.

Silver said his client conspired with no one to endanger children. The one thing that all witnesses were clear about, he said, is that none of them had evidence that Spanier at any time knew Sandusky was sexually assaulting children.

After the 2001 incident, the men agreed to ban Sandusky from bringing children into campus facilities -- though that ban was not enforced -- to urge Sandusky to undergo counseling, and to alert Second Mile, Sandusky's charity for at-risk children, about the shower incident.

Silver told the jurors that agreeing to a plan of action on a report that none of the men believed involved a crime does not constitute a violation of the law.

"This case involves a judgment call," he said.

Curley: 'I should have done more' to stop Sandusky

Second Mile CEO: Penn State claimed review of Sandusky shower claim found 'nothing inappropriate'

Spanier trial could shed light on Penn State's culpability

Sandusky case stunner: Ex-Penn State officials plead guilty, Spanier to face trial alone

 

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Photograph by: AP
 
March 24, 2017
 
 
 

 

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