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Jury Selection Begins in Ex-PSU President's Trial

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Two former Pennsylvania State University officials who struck plea deals with prosecutors and the one-time head of Jerry Sandusky's children's charity are among the witnesses expected to testify against ex-university president Graham B. Spanier when his child endangerment trial begins Tuesday.

While selecting a jury Monday, Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka named Tim Curley, Penn State's former athletic director, and ex-university vice president Gary Schultz on a list of people whose testimony she planned to present to the panel of seven women and five men chosen to hear the case.

Her witness list also included Jack Raykovitz, longtime head of the Second Mile, the now-defunct nonprofit for troubled youths from which Sandusky chose most of his victims.

None of the three men has previously testified publicly. Their testimony, which comes nearly five years after Sandusky was convicted of the serial sexual abuse of 10 boys, promises to shed new light on what culpability both institutions might have in enabling the former assistant coach's crimes.

Related: Curley, Schultz Plead Guilty in Sandusky Case

Their stints on the witness stand are also anticipated by large swaths of the Penn State fan base, who for years have complained that the university and iconic former football coach Joe Paterno have been unfairly blamed for Sandusky's predatory behavior while authorities overlooked the role Second Mile officials may have played.

Spanier, 68, has frequently denied the allegation that he put children at risk by failing to adequately respond to an abuse complaint involving Sandusky 15 years ago.

But he said little Monday as he arrived at the Dauphin County Courthouse, flanked by his lawyers. He offered only a pinched smile in response to questions from reporters asking how he was feeling about his chances in court, and spent most of the day cloistered in Senior Judge John A. Boccabella's chambers with attorneys for both sides.

The former university president faces three felony counts tied to his handling of a report in 2001 that Sandusky, then retired, molested a boy in a Penn State locker-room shower. Prosecutors contend that by failing to alert authorities or child welfare investigators about the complaint, Spanier and his subordinates allowed Sandusky to continue abusing children.

Curley and Schultz had been expected to stand trial alongside Spanier until their surprise guilty pleas last week to one misdemeanor count each of child endangerment.

Spanier rejected a similar deal, friends of the former president have said, and intends to testify in his own defense.

Since Sandusky's arrest in 2011, the former president has insisted in interviews and letters to Penn State trustees that he was never made aware of the severity of the 2001 allegation by Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant working with the football program, who is also expected to testify against Spanier this week.

McQueary maintains that after witnessing Sandusky's shower assault, he made clear to Paterno, Curley, and Schultz that what he saw was ";way over the line and extremely sexual"; – a claim later backed up by Paterno himself, when he told a grand jury that McQueary described an encounter that involved ";fondling"; and was of ";a sexual nature.";

But in their own 2011 grand jury testimony, Curley and Schultz maintained that McQueary failed to convey the seriousness of the incident, leaving both under the impression that he had merely witnessed questionable ";horseplay."; They also testified that was how they later described the incident to Spanier.

Prosecutors in Spanier's case say they have evidence to suggest otherwise, including emails from 2001 in which Spanier, Curley, and Schultz at least considered reporting the incident to police.

They rejected the idea, opting instead to bar Sandusky from bringing children on campus, and urge him to submit to counseling. They also informed the Second Mile of the allegations.

Prosecutors contend that the men had even more reason to be suspicious of Sandusky due to an even earlier complaint involving the assistant coach's showering with young boys.

Penn State police investigated those allegations in 1998 but no charges were filed. Emails from the period suggest that Spanier was included in discussions on the progress of that probe.

University trustees ousted Spanier and Paterno from their jobs in the days after Sandusky's arrest. Paterno died months later from lung cancer.

Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in a state prison in Somerset County.

Spanier trial could shed light on Penn State's culpability

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

Jay Paterno seeks seat on PSU board

Judge rejects appeal requests by Penn State defendants

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March 21, 2017
 
 
 

 

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