by Geoff Rushton
Penn State issued a statement on the guilty pleas entered Monday by former athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz.
Curley and Schultz each pleaded guilty in Dauphin County Court to one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child, stemming from their handling of a a 2001 report by former Penn State football assistant Mike McQueary about Jerry Sandusky with a boy in a campus locker room shower.
“We are, of course, deeply concerned with any action or inaction that might endanger the welfare of a child,” the university statement said. “Our focus has been, and remains, on the victims of child abuse. Over the past five years, the university has put in place strong educational programs, major new research initiatives to combat child maltreatment and best-in-practice ethics and compliance programs, all of which are meant to ensure that wrongdoing is reported, and that children everywhere are protected.”
Monday’s plea leaves former Penn State President Graham Spanier as the only defendant in the case, and jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin Monday.
All three men had been facing felony charges of endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy to commit the same. The misdemeanor charge that Curley and Schultz pleaded to carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 and five years in prison. Specially-presiding Judge John Boccabella will decide on sentencing at a later date.
Now it’s possible that Curley and Schultz will be called as prosecution witnesses against Spanier, who still faces the felony charges.
The attorney general’s office has argued that the three men endangered the welfare of children by agreeing not to take the 2001 report to law enforcement or child welfare agencies.
When Sandusky was charged with child sexual abuse in November 2011, Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury related to their testimony before the investigating grand jury in the case, as well as child endangerment and failure to report for what prosecutors claimed was their handling of earlier reports about Sandusky and possible abuse.
After the charges, Curley was placed on leave until his employment contract ended and Schultz retired. Spanier, meanwhile, issued a statement of support for both men and days later was removed as president of the university
Spanier was charged the following year with perjury, child endangerment, failure to report and obstruction, and at the same time Curley and Schultz had the obstruction and conspiracy charges added.
The felony perjury, obstruction and conspiracy to commit perjury charges against all three were quashed by Pennsylvania Superior Court after attorneys for the former Penn State officials successfully argued that former university counsel Cynthia Baldwin’s own grand jury testimony violated their attorney-client privilege, and that she did not explain to them that she was representing the university and not them individually when each testified before the grand jury investigating Sandusky.
A charge of failure to report suspected child abuse against each man was quashed in February.
Spanier has a lawsuit against Penn State for breach of contract still making its way through Centre County Court. Late last year Penn State filed counterclaims that Spanier had breached his employment contract and misled the university about his knowledge about the investigation into Sandusky before signing a separation agreement.
The former president also has an active lawsuit against Louis Freeh, who led the internal investigation commissioned by the university. Spanier claims that Freeh’s investigation report defamed him, and that Freeh’s actions caused a government agency to end a current and prospective business relationship.
In the fall of 2016, McQueary was awarded more than $12 million in a civil lawsuit against Penn State that claimed defamation, intentional misrepresentation and violation of the state’s whistleblower law. A jury sided with McQueary on his claims that Curley and Schultz misrepresented to him how they would handle his report about Sandusky and that Spanier defamed him in statements of support for Curley and Schultz. A judge meanwhile ruled that Penn State violated the whistleblower statute through the university’s treatment of him after it was revealed McQueary was the unnamed assistant in the grand jury report who testified about a 2001 incident.
The victim in that 2001 case was not identified at trial.
Spanier testified at the McQueary trial, though Curley and Schultz did not, having asserted Fifth Amendment rights during depositions.
He testified that he had no knowledge of an earlier 1998 allegation about Sandusky that was investigated by Penn State Police and which the Centre County District Attorney at the time, Ray Gricar, declined to prosecute. Emails showed Curley and Schultz knew of the allegation, and that Spanier had been copied at the end of a string of emails which said the matter had been resolved.
Spanier said he had no recollection of the email, and that he had been traveling when it was sent and probably received with a large volume of emails when he returned. He said he probably did not read every email he received at the time, and if he had seen it, he would have noted the issue had been resolved.
Of the 2001 incident, Spanier testified that he met briefly with Schultz and Curley who told him an athletic department staff member was uncomfortable after seeing Sandusky “engaged in horseplay” with a child. Spanier said he asked if anything more than horseplay had been reported and was told no.
McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky engaged in a sexual act with the boy.
Spanier said he had left Curley to handle the situation and that nothing that by what had been mentioned to him, it did not occur to him that an investigation might be warranted.
Ultimately, as Spanier testified and emails showed, the three administrators agreed to tell Sandusky not to bring children to the locker rooms and to tell the director of Sandusky’s Second Mile charity for at-risk youth. In an email, Spanier told Curley “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”
Sandusky, meanwhile, was convicted on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse and was sentenced to 30-60 years in state prison. He maintains his innocence and is continuing to appeal under the Post-Conviction Relief Act. His next hearing in that appeal is scheduled for March 24.