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Court Date Scheduled for Graham Spanier's Lawsuit Against Penn State

by on July 09, 2012 3:54 PM

The first court date has been set in the case involving former Penn State President Graham Spanier filed against Penn State in an attempt to force the university to turn over emails that are now a part of the Freeh investigation.

An Argument on Preliminary Objections is scheduled for Aug. 17 at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom 1 of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, according to court documents. 

It is unknown whether Spanier will be in court.

On May 25, Spanier filed a suit against Penn State to force the university to turn over emails now part of the Freeh investigation. Some of the emails he is seeking could date as far back as 1996. 

Spanier said in the initial filing he wanted the opportunity to "refresh his memory" were he to be questioned by law enforcement officials regarding his handling of incidents involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who recently was found guilty on 45 of 48 charges related to child sex abuse.

Penn State quickly fired back, saying not only was his complaint misdirected at the university, but the emails are no longer his possession. 

Attorneys for the university asked a judge to dismiss Spanier's complaint "in its entirety."

Penn State said in its rebuttal, filed June 14 that Spanier failed to "exhaust the right-to-know law," and his request for the emails is "at its core, an attack on the directive on the Office of the Attorney General not to disclose the emails it has obtained as a result of the investigation."

Penn State stated in its 70-page document that it has a "legal obligation" to cooperate with the Attorney General's Office.

Spanier then asked the court to overrule Penn State's objections, also in its entirety, on July 2. 

Attorneys representing Spanier filed documents Monday requesting an overruling of the university's request and asked that the court grant to Spanier "such other and further relief as is just and proper under the circumstances."

In the 26-page document filed this week, Spanier said he is correct in directing his complaint at Penn State, not at the Attorney General's Office, and "the university lacks merit" in its attempt to deflect the filing.

Spanier asserted that the university has not been "interposed" between the Attorney General's Office and Spanier.

"The university is under no compulsion to comply with the Attorney General's requests," the document reads. It says the right-to-know argument made by Penn State is invalid.

The documents also deny Spanier's emails are university property, because "not one of the authorities cited by the university holds that employees lack ownership rights over emails that they author and receive."

Meanwhile, the Freeh Report has yet to be published, though it is expected to be out in the coming weeks, most likely before the end of July.

As of May 4, the investigation led by former FBI director Freeh conducted at least 400 interviews with individuals affiliated with Penn State. The investigation is looking to uncover any potential wrongdoing that may have led to a child predator roaming free on campus.

Freeh and his team are expected to publish the report, which will be available publicly, by the beginning of the fall semester, though there have been reports it could be released later this month. 

Much speculation has surrounded some of the emails, potentially even those in question, after some of those involved in the Freeh Report were leaked to CNN, ABC and confirmed by ESPN. 

CNN reported last week that more than two weeks after former assistant coach Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky in a shower with a boy in the Lasch Football Building in 2001, three top Penn State administrators reportedly exchanged a series of emails about whether to contact The Second Mile or the state Department of Welfare.

In the report, CNN said former athletic director Tim Curley referenced a conversation with Spanier. Curley wanted to talk with Sandusky before taking any action, according to the emails.

An email from Curley also indicated he had talked with former football coach Joe Paterno about the situation.

The Penn State Board of Trustees terminated Spanier's contract, along with Paterno's, at a meeting on Nov. 9. 

The Board will meet for two days at Penn State Worthington Scranton this week.

Related coverage: 

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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