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Judge Dismisses Spanier Lawsuit Against Freeh

by Geoff Rushton

Graham Spanier’s defamation lawsuit against Louis Freeh has been dismissed.

Specially-presiding Judge Robert Eby on Wednesday granted Freeh’s motion to enter a judgment in his favor. Eby’s order stated that both parties agreed that Spanier’s conviction in March on a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child precludes — for now — Spanier’s claim that Freeh maliciously published false statements about the former Penn State president in a report on the university-commissioned investigation of the circumstances surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Eby’s order, however, acknowledged that Spanier is appealing the criminal conviction and if it is overturned Spanier can file a motion to have the judgment in the lawsuit set aside and resume the case.

In a filing in August, responding to Freeh’s motion for summary judgment to end the suit, Spanier’s attorneys wrote that he “fully expects” the criminal conviction to be overturned and would reserve the right to set aside any judgment entered against him in the civil case.

Spanier was convicted on March 24 on one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child, while being acquitted on felony charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. Freeh had argued that Spanier’s conviction, as well as his admission in earlier filings that he did not follow up on a 2001 report by Mike McQueary about Sandusky in a shower with a boy, show that the statements Freeh made were not false.

Spanier’s attorneys countered that the defamation case focused on Freeh’s state of mind when he made the statements in 2012, years before Spanier’s criminal trial.

Spanier also denied that he has ever admitted as true Freeh’s statements that he actively concealed Sandusky’s child abuse, knowingly failed to act to stop Sandusky and failed to show concern for Sandusky’s victims. His attorneys wrote that Spanier didn’t know Sandusky was abusing children and all of his filings “emphatically deny” that he ever had such knowledge.

Spanier initiated a lawsuit for defamation and tortious interference against the former FBI director and judge in 2015. In addition to alleging false statements accusing him of concealing and doing nothing about Sandusky’s actions, Spanier claimed Freeh’s action caused a government agency to end its “current and prospective business relationship” with him. But Eby tossed the tortious interference claim last fall saying it was past the statute of limitations and inadequately pled.

Earlier this year, Eby winnowed to 11 the number of potentially defamatory statements related to the handling by Spanier and others of reports about Sandusky.

In the criminal case, Spanier’s attorneys have indicated they will appeal on grounds that the charge of child endangerment was barred by the statute of limitations and that prosecutors provided no evidence that he had a legally-defined duty of care for children abused by Sandusky. He also contended that the trial judge erred in reinstating a conspiracy charge that was dismissed by Pennsylvania Superior Court and gave incomplete instructions to the jury.

Spanier was sentenced to two months in the Centre County Correctional Facility followed by at least two months house arrest, but will not be required to report until resolution of his appeal.

Former administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who pleaded guilty to child endangerment before trial, reported to the county jail on July 15 to begin serving their sentences. Curley is serving three months followed by at least four months of house arrest. Schultz was sentenced to serve two months followed by at least four months house arrest. Schultz was paroled on Sept. 7.

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