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Former Penn State president says he was unaware of Sandusky abuse

July 10, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Former Pennsylvania State UniversityPresident Graham B. Spanier has insisted that he never knew of any sexual abuse of children by one-time assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, lawyers for Spanier said Tuesday.

In a statement emailed to reporters, the attorneys said that Spanier was interviewed on Friday by investigators for former FBIdirector Louis Freeh, who was hired by the university to examine the role of officials in dealing with the scandal. Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 criminal counts of abusing 10 boys over the course of 15 years. Some of the incidents took place in the shower room of the football training facility on the Penn State campus; the former defensive coach took the disadvantaged boys to the campus on field trips.

Sandusky, who is in jail awaiting sentencing in the fall, is appealing his convictions. In addition, there is a slew of expected litigation on the horizon, both criminal and civil, stemming from the scandal.

PHOTOS: Who's who in the Sandusky case

Two other former college administrators -- athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz -- are awaiting trial on criminal charges of lying to a grand jury about the university’s investigation of abuse allegations. Further, Sandusky’s victims are expected to file civil suits. Freeh’s findings, which are to be announced Thursday, are expected to play a key role in both legal arenas.

The statement denying that Spanier knew of any criminal activity by Sandusky comes several weeks after various media descriptions of emails among university officials in 2001.

Those emails, first reported by CNN, appear to be discussions about how to handle the accusations against Sandusky. They seem to paint a picture of Spanier supporting a decision by Curley and Schultz to handle the incident internally and not to call outside police. Other reports have indicated that the two administrators acted at the behest of head football coach Joe Paterno, who died early this year of cancer.

“Selected leaks, without the full context, are distorting the public record and creating a false picture,” according to the statement by Spanier’s attorneys Peter Vaira of Vaira& Riley and Elizabeth Ainslie from Schnader Harrison Segel & Lewis. “At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues.”

The lawyers said that Spanier asked to be interviewed and met in Philadelphia on Friday with representatives of Freeh. “Since November of last year, when he resigned his presidency, he has wanted the Freeh Group to create an accurate report and has been determined to assist in any way he can,” the lawyers stated.

Now that the interview has taken place, the lawyers said, Spanier will revisit his lawsuit seeking access to the 2001 emails. Penn State refused to turn over the emails to Spanier, saying prosecutors asked that the school not release the documents to prevent ongoing investigations from being compromised.

In 2001, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw Sanduskyin the university shower with a boy, 10 to 12 years old, engaging in a sex act, McQueary testified in the Sanduskytrial last month. McQueary said he went to Paterno and describedwhat he saw. Paterno notified Curley and Schultz, who was in charge of campus police. Eventually Spanier was told of the report by the other officials -- though he denies being informed that criminal acts were involved.

Spanier and Paterno were forced to step down from their positions by the university trustees. Curley and Schultz face criminal charges of lying to the grand jury that investigated Sandusky and of failing to report the allegations to outside authorities. They await trial in Dauphin County court.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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