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Will former Penn State president Graham Spanier be convicted?

November 02, 2012|This post has been updated. See the note below for details.
  • Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, shown in 2007, faces multiple charges for his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse charges.
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, shown in 2007, faces multiple… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss former Penn State President Graham Spanier, who was charged Thursday with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy for his handling of the Jerry Sandusky molestation allegations.

Check back throughout the day for their responses and join the discussion by leaving a comment of your own.

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times

Graham Spanier’s indictment gets to the heart of what critics of big-time college sports have said for years: University presidents need to take more responsibility for their athletic programs.

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics recently issued a report asking schools to devise stronger policies that put the onus on top administrators to balance sports with academics while  curtailing improper behavior by coaches and athletes.

It remains to be seen how our major colleges will react. In the meantime, sports talk radio, television commentators and -- yes -- sportswriters in the newspapers are bound to weigh in on Spanier’s case. It is explosive stuff the media craves.

The fact is, no one but prosecutors -- and, eventually, through discovery, defense attorneys -- has a thorough knowledge of the evidence that will be presented in court. Without this knowledge, any conjecture on whether the former Penn State president will or should be convicted is premature, if not worthless.

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

Even if I had fulfilled my mother’s wishes and gone to law school, I do not believe I’d be able to answer this question. What evidence will be presented at trial? What is the burden of proof? Will the judge assigned to the case feel pressure to lean to the side of the prosecution?

The accusation against Graham Spanier is that he engaged in a “conspiracy of silence” to mute child sex abuse complaints involving Jerry Sandusky. The grand jury report states that Spanier underling Gary Schultz kept a file on Sandusky that he instructed his administrative assistant not to examine. Was Spanier aware of the file? Did he know that Sandusky was a serial predator?

We can only hope that the truth will come out at trial.

[Updated at 1:09 p.m.:

Iliana Limón Romero, Orlando Sentinel

It's early in the legal process, but the forecast does not look for former Penn State president Graham Spanier.

Spanier was accused of "conspiracy to silence," a legal term that barely scratches the surface of what it appears he did. He was charged with charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy.

By shutting down any chance of an investigation into Jerry Sandusky's inappropriate contact with a boy on the Penn State campus, Spanier cleared a path for Sandusky to keep using his university ties to sexually abuse children.

While university presidents and other members of this country's elite often can buy their way out of jail thanks to great attorneys, Spanier's legal team faces an uphill battle. There is documentation of his actions, and it's hard to imagine a judge or jury going easy on him. A plea deal may be his best option.]

[Updated at 1:23 p.m.:

Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call

Pennsylvania Atty. Gen. Linda Kelly presented a compelling media prosecution of former Penn State President Graham Spanier on Thursday. The “Conspiracy of Silence” poster, with Spanier’s photo atop  a triangle of three now-charged former univeristy officials, condensed her charges into a sharp slogan of villainy.

Is that enough to get Spanier convicted? As a sportswriter with no legal training, I am unqualified to say. Besides, that’s a jury’s job.

But living in Penn State country, I find an equally compelling counter-argument being made for a systemic university failure over an active cover-up. Is it possible that Spanier, Tim Curley and/or Gary Schultz acted poorly, but not criminally, when presented with accusations against Jerry Sandusky? Is that a distinction without difference? I’ll wait for the trials to find out.]

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