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Penn State administrators in Sandusky scandal could get off scot-free

Penn State’s money has been good to the three administrators facing charges related to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. The tab covering them — as well as assorted other employees involved in Sandusky-related litigation — totaled $12.4 million as of the end of fiscal year 2015 and is almost certainly higher now. It’s easy to where the millions have gone.

Lawyers for former president Graham Spanier, former VP Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley have challenged the charges through voluminous motions and court filings in a way defendants with lesser means couldn’t. A development on Friday illustrated how the strategy is working, and more positive news for them could follow.

On Friday, the Office of the Attorney General announced it would not appeal the Superior Court’s decision to throw out three criminal counts against them. Spanier and Schultz will officially not face charges of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice (Curley still faces the perjury charge), leaving the men who supervised Sandusky facing only counts of failure to report and endangering the welfare of children. And a defense motion yet to be answered could derail even those charges.

Back in the summer of 2012, attorneys for Schultz and Curley filed a motion seeking to throw out the failure to report charge (Spanier, who wasn’t charged until November 2012, joined their motion). Their reasoning was the statute of limitations had expired. In Pennsylvania at the time, the statute of limitations for this offense was 10 years. The incident for which they’ve been charged took place in February 2001. Curley and Schultz were charged in November 2011 and Spanier in November 2012.

When the motion was originally filed, expert attorneys said the failure to report charge would likely be dropped. The prosecution argued the statute of limitations hadn’t been exceeded because the administrators never reported the incident, so their alleged crime could have continued in the years between 2001 and when the investigation of Sandusky began in 2008.

Failure to report is a summary offense. In other words, not very serious. A conviction could lead to a maximum fine of $300 and a maximum prison sentence of 90 days. Sandusky’s former attorney Joe Amendola once compared the failure to report charge faced by the administrators to a traffic ticket.

The more serious charge remaining is endangering the welfare of children, a third-degree felony. It’s connected to the failure to report charge. The Grand Jury report stated “Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz endangered the welfare of children by failing to report the incident witnessed by Michael McQueary to any law enforcement agency.”  

“If the charge of failure to report is dropped,” said Harrisburg defense attorney Corky Goldstein, “they would have difficulty with that other charge.”

The chances of Spanier or Schultz ending up in prison is unlikely even if they’re convicted on the two remaining counts. Bruce Antkowiak, a criminology professor at St. Vincent College and a former federal prosecutor, said there’s a “theoretical chance” of prison time but sentencing guidelines would likely call for a punishment that doesn’t include prison.

“These men are still accused of being high-ranking officials being involved in activities that would send a shock through any administration,” Antkowiak said. “But again it’s simply not the serious charges in the entirety as it was when the grand jury initially issued a presentment.”

Bruce Castor, recently hired as Pennsylvania’s Solicitor General, wrote in the decision the remaining charges against the administrator were sustainable and they would continue preparing the case for trial. Antkowiak and Goldstein say they expect the case will eventually make it there. Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, who has long been outspoken against the charges, said the saga has been a waste of taxpayer money.

“I do think the house of cards is going to collapse now that the charges that were quashed were not appealed by the Office of the Attorney General,” he said. “We’ll see. There’s a dynamic there we don’t know or understand with the office. It’s hard to predict.”

Perhaps the only thing worth predicting at this point is that this case is bound to be delayed for even longer. Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover said in August 2012 he would need to schedule a hearing to determine whether the failure to report charge should be thrown out. Hoover still hasn’t done that. And for now, he can’t.

He’s been on medical leave since April 2015. There’s no date set for his return. Just plenty of time for the billable hours to continue piling up.

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