By Geoff Rushton
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office wants Graham Spanier to go to jail.
The former Penn State president is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday morning along with former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. Each was charged for their handling of a 2001 report by former Penn State football assistant Mike McQueary of seeing Sandusky with a boy in a locker room shower. Sandusky, a former Penn State football defensive coordinator and founder of the now-defunct Second Mile charity for at-risk youth, was convicted in 2012 on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse.
Spanier, Curley and Schultz have maintained McQueary did not report having witnessed sexual activity. Each had initially been charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts, but ultimately Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child prior to their scheduled trial in March.
Spanier declined a plea agreement and was convicted on the same count. He was found not guilty on a felony child endangerment charge and a felony conspiracy charge.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka, the lead prosecutor in the case, recommended to Judge John Boccabella that Spanier receive jail time, which according to sentencing guidelines could amount to nine to 12 months. Per the terms of their plea agreements, a sentencing recommendation was not made for Curley and Schultz, though Ditka did offer factors that should be considered.
Spanier, Ditka wrote, “has shown a stunning lack of remorse for his victims,” who were abused by Sandusky after the 2001 report. She argued that Spanier was aware of Sandusky’s behavior in 2001 and in a 1998 report but made the decision not to report him to avoid bad publicity. Spanier has said he does not remember ever being informed of the 1998 report.
“Spanier needs to be punished for choosing his personal reputation and that of the university instead of the welfare of children,” the memorandum states.
In a memorandum on behalf of Spanier, his attorney, Sam Silver, made several arguments for a sentence of probation, community service and fines.
Silver said that the 69-year-old Spanier is suffering from increasing health complications, including cancer and heart problems. Spanier has had five operations in the past year, three requiring hospitalization, and “is being regularly evaluated for possibly imminent open-heart cardiac valve replacement surgery.”
Spanier also has advanced prostate cancer that has required radiation treatment, Silver said.
Silver also cited more than 200 letters submitted to the court speaking positively of Spanier’s character. They came from Penn State and State College community members, government, military and national security officials, the commissioner of the Los Angeles Police Department, and college and university administrators around the country.
Spanier has no hope of ever returning to work in the field of education and he has positively impacted thousands in his life’s work, Silver said.
For Curley, who is battling cancer, prosecutors have agreed to home confinement if incarceration is part of his sentence, on the condition that he provide medical proof that he could not tolerate jail time.
After pleading guilty, Curley testified as a prosecution witness at Spanier’s trial but often failed to recollect details of conversations.
“While Curley deserves credit for taking responsibility for his actions in the form of admitting his guilt, his repeated claims of memory lapses around critical events surrounding the crime was nothing short of bizarre,” Ditka wrote.
His memory was “markedly more clear” when he gave a statement to investigators a week before the trial, Ditka wrote.
“The Commonwealth’s position is that Curley’s testimony in the Spanier trial was designed to protect those who deserved to share blame with Curley for the decisions that led to the colossal failure to protect children from Sandusky,” the memorandum said. “His ‘forgetfulness’ also allowed him to save face in a room full of supporters who publicly called this trial a ‘witch hunt’ and a fraudulent prosecution.”
Schultz, meanwhile, should be given credit for his guilty plea and expressing remorse on the stand, Ditka wrote, but that he needs to answer for failing to direct university police, which he oversaw, to investigate Sandusky and failing to follow up with Curley and Schultz about the status of the situation.
“Of particular concern during Schultz’s testimony in the Spanier trial was Schultz’s seeming unwillingness to acknowledge that what McQueary reported to him about the 2001 shower incident was sexual in nature,” Ditka wrote. “It defies common sense, using the standard of a reasonable person, to interpret what Mike McQueary reported to Schultz as anything but a sexual assault — especially considering Schultz’s knowledge of the 1998 incident.”