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Hearing On Spanier Jail Sentence Set For May

A judge will hear arguments next month about whether former Penn State President Graham Spanier should begin serving a two-month county jail sentence for his conviction on a child endangerment charge.

According to the Associated Press, Dauphin County President Judge John F. Cherry on Monday ordered the May 26 hearing to address a motion filed in January by state prosecutors seeking to enforce the jail sentence, which would be followed by two months of home confinement.

Spanier was convicted in 2017 on one misdemeanor count stemming from his handling of a 2001 report about former assistant football coach and Second Mile charity founder Jerry Sandusky with a boy in a campus locker room shower.

In 2019, a day before Spanier was scheduled to begin serving his jail sentence, a federal district court found the conviction to be unconstitutional. In December, however, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction, ruling that the lower court erred in tossing that conviction on the grounds that Spanier’s due process rights were violated.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office then filed a motion asking a specially-presiding Court of Common Pleas judge to enforce Spanier’s sentence, arguing that no legal barrier remained to do so.

Spanier’s attorneys have asked to alter the sentence to house arrest with electronic monitoring, noting that the 72-year-old had heart surgery in 2019 and has advanced prostate cancer.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte wrote at the time that he would support work release with medical furloughs and that Spanier’s jail reporting date could be set for a later time when the risk of COVID-19 would be lower.

Spanier has maintained former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz only described horseplay in relaying the report made by then-assistant coach Mike McQueary. They agreed to report the incident to Sandusky’s charity for at-risk youth, where prosecutors said he found most of his victims, and instruct him not to bring children to campus facilities. They did not take the matter to law enforcement of child welfare officials.

Spanier was forced out as Penn State president after the incident came to light in November 2011, when Sandusky was charged with child sexual abuse following a grand jury investigation

Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts in June 2012 and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison. He maintains his innocence and is still continuing appeal efforts.

Spanier was charged in 2012 for his handling of the report and after years of court battles went to trial in March 2017. Though convicted on one misdemeanor count, he was found not guilty on a felony charge of endangering the welfare of a child, which alleged a “course of conduct” for not reporting Sandusky, and a felony conspiracy charge.

He did not testify at his trial, but Spanier said during sentencing in 2017 that he wished he had gone further in reporting Sandusky.

“I am sorry for my place in what has occurred…I wish that I had been more sensitive to the possibilities of what I heard 16 years ago,” he said.

Curley and Schultz both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges in 2017. They each served short jail sentences later that year in Centre County.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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