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Perjury, though, is rarely charged and is famously difficult to prove at trial. A jury has to find corroborating evidence of the falsehood, and the lie has to be intentional, not a simple misstatement. In Paterno’s case, prosecutors would have had to prove that Paterno had not simply forgotten about the 1998 investigation, according to University of Pennsylvania law professor Chris Sanchirico.

When the scandal broke wide open last November, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said Paterno was not an investigative target. On Friday, Kelly spokesman Nils Frederiksen refused to discuss the investigation, citing the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings.

Spanier’s lawyers had no comment Friday but have denied he knowingly covered up Sandusky’s crimes.

On the civil side, Paterno’s role in the scandal could expose his estate to liability, said Altoona lawyer Richard Serbin, who has pursued lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions in Pennsylvania for the past 25 years. Paterno was considerably wealthy; he and his wife donated millions to the university, and in April the school paid millions in retirement benefits to his family and estate.

“When a responsible party passes away, that does not mean to say their wrongful conduct is excused by death,” said Serbin, who does not represent any of Sandusky’s victims. “Their estate becomes the representative of that person, and assets of their estate … remain exposed to any verdict or judgment.”

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Dale contributed to this report from Philadelphia.