By Dave Warner
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – A judge on Monday will start hearing evidence against three former Penn State officials accused of covering up an early report that coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a child, allowing him to molest boys for years.
Sandusky, 69, a former assistant football coach, was convicted in June 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. He is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in a state prison.
The three university officials are Graham Spanier, 65, who was fired as president amid the scandal that rocked the high-stakes world of college football; Athletic Director Tim Curley, 59, who was placed on administrative leave, and retired Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, 63.
At the hearing in Dauphin County Court, both sides will argue their case stemming from a November 2012 grand jury report. Harrisburg District Judge William Wenner will decide if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
The grand jury accused Spanier, Curley and Schultz of failing to alert authorities after Mike McQueary, an assistant football coach, told school officials in 2001 that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a locker room shower.
Prosecutors said the “conspiracy of silence” permitted Sandusky to continue preying on boys, most of whom he met through a charity he founded for at-risk youth.
Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 and charged with molesting boys. A year later, in November 2012, a grand jury charged Spanier, Curley and Schultz with endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Spanier also was charged with perjury.
Curley and Schultz were previously charged in November 2011 with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.
Within weeks of Sandusky’s arrest, Penn State Trustees fired Spanier, at the time the nation’s highest-paid public university president. Trustees also fired revered head football coach Joe Paterno, Sandusky’s boss. Months later, Paterno, 85, died of lung cancer.
Civil lawsuits filed by the victims, now grown men, against the university are close to being settled, with the school putting aside $60 million to cover the claims, according to a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. The attorney said there were as many as 32 claims from alleged victims.
Spanier’s lawyers also have served legal notice that they intend to file defamation charges against Louis Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Freeh was the author of a study, commissioned by the university, spelling out a narrative of the scandal that many in the state rejected, including the Paterno family.
The Freeh report prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for college sports, to issue sanctions against Penn State. The NCAA imposed a $60 million fine and voided the 14 seasons of football victories Sandusky coached.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Philip Barbara)