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Experts: Ex-Penn State president still could face charges
Question of the Day
Mr. Spanier also remains a tenured faculty member at Penn State, although he is on sabbatical until December and it is unclear whether he will return. University spokesman Dave La Torre said only that Mr. Spanier’s “status is under review,” declining to elaborate.
There’s no indication that Penn State has launched disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Spanier, who did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
The release of the Freeh report has raised questions about Mr. Spanier’s handling of a 2001 allegation by a former graduate assistant who caught Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the Penn State football showers.
Mr. Spanier, in his five-hour interview with Mr. Freeh, told investigators that Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley gave him few details of the incident, telling him only that Sandusky had been “horsing around” with a boy. Mr. Spanier said he told Mr. Curley that Sandusky would be banned from bringing youths into Penn State showers.
“Had I known then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky … I would have strongly and immediately intervened,” Mr. Spanier, whose professional expertise is in family therapy and sociology, wrote in a July 23 letter to the Penn State board of trustees. “Never would I stand by for a moment to allow a child predator to hurt children.”
Yet the Freeh investigation uncovered documents from 2001 that seem to indicate that Mr. Spanier had deeper knowledge, including an email in which the president appeared to agree with Mr. Curley’s decision to keep the 2001 assault from child-welfare authorities, and instead work directly with Sandusky and Sandusky’s charity for at-risk youths.
“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,” said Mr. Spanier’s email, dated Feb. 27, 2001. “The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”
Mr. Spanier has denounced the Freeh report as “full of factual errors,” asserting it took the email out of context and “jumps to conclusions that are untrue and unwarranted.” Penn State accepted the conclusions of the report, which the NCAA used as the basis for leveling severe penalties against Penn State, including a $60 million fine, a multiyear bowl ban and a reduction in athletic scholarships.
Penn State is paying the legal bills of Mr. Spanier, Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz under an indemnity policy for trustees and officers. Mr. Spanier also has retained the title of president emeritus. Mr. La Torre, the Penn State spokesman, said Mr. Spanier is contractually entitled to it.
In a July 23 letter, the once-powerful and nationally regarded president lamented that his reputation has been “profoundly damaged.” He asked the board of trustees for an audience so he could give his side.
So far, he’s gotten no response.
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