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Attorney General's Office Continues to Fight Spanier Lawsuit

by on April 21, 2014 2:12 PM

The Attorney General's office continues to make a case in federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Spanier is fighting to get rid of his criminal charges stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The suit specifically targets the tactics of former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, who was lead prosecutor in the Sandsuky child sexual abuse grand jury investigation, saying Fina used dishonesty to obtain Spanier's testimony.

Spanier's attorney, Elizabeth Ainslie, argues Fina allowed Spanier to testify before the grand jury after Penn State Special Counsel Cynthia Baldwin said she represented Penn State as an institution, not Spanier individually.

Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and retired Senior Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz say they thought Baldwin was their personal attorney. They believe her testimony before the grand jury violated attorney-client privilege therefore criminal charges should be dismissed or her grand jury testimony suppressed from any criminal trial.

Ainslie argues the Attorney General's office violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that no state may, "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Chief Deputy Attorney General Gregory Neuhauser filed a memo last week in U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania in support of Attorney General Kathleen Kane's earlier motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Kane argued the federal court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the matter and that Spanier has failed to explain a course of action under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

Neuhauser says the Supreme Court recognized in 1971 that a federal court should not interfere with state criminal prosecutions.

"Equity teaches that even when federal rights are at issue, a court should not act to restrain a criminal prosecution 'when the moving party has an adequate remedy at law and will not suffer irreparable harm,'" the brief states. "Moreover, the burdens of having to defend against a single prosecution do not amount to irreparable harm."

Neuhauser also argues the federal government should respect and allow state institutions to perform their separate functions.

"It is beyond question that the Courts of Common Pleas are courts of unlimited original jurisdiction, unless otherwise provided by law, and that they exercise concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts in cases arising under the United States Constitution," Neuhauser writes. "Thus, the state court is fully able to deal with the issues surrounding Baldwin's conduct before the grand jury either through the plaintiff's motion to quash the criminal complaint or through renewal of his motion to preclude Baldwin's testimony at trial."

Neuhauser also says Spanier does not elaborate on how the matters alleged in the complaint violated his right to due process.

"To the extent he contends that his rights were violated by the conduct of Fina and Baldwin before the grand jury, he will receive all of the process he is due in the pending state criminal proceeding," he writes. "In this case, state criminal procedures afford plaintiff a sufficient opportunity to remedy any deprivation he allegedly suffered before the grand jury."

Prosecutors have argued through legal documents that Baldwin's testimony was not part of the evidence used to establish probable cause during the defendants' preliminary hearing therefore the prosecution has a legitimate case.

The prosecution also says the defendants' claim that Baldwin had a conflict of interest by representing both the defendants and Penn State is wrong. Instead, they say the defendants and Penn State shared interests.

Additionally, the Attorney General's office argues that any advice Baldwin provided the defendants would not have changed the outcome of the grand jury investigation. And if the defendants assumed Baldwin represented them individually, the agency says the claim of an attorney-client privilege violation still does not exist due to a crime-fraud exception.

Dauphin County President Judge Todd Hoover is presiding over the case for Spanier, Curley and Schultz. The criminal proceeding is taking place in Dauphin County because that is where the grand jury met and where the charge of perjury allegedly occurred.

Hoover has not issued a ruling on defendants' motions to dismiss charges and suppress Baldwin's testimony from trial.

All three defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison for 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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