Former Penn State Administrators Set to Have Pre-Trial Hearing Tuesday
A pre-trial hearing is slated to begin Tuesday for former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz.
The three defendants are accused of trying to cover up the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The trio face multiple charges, including perjury and failing to report child abuse. Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, was convicted for sexually abusing boys and sentenced to 30-60 years in prison.
Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and failure to report shortly after Sandusky was indicted on Nov. 4, 2011. Spanier was charged with the same crimes on Nov. 1, 2012. All three men were also charged with endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The perjury charges stem from their testimony during a 2011 grand jury proceeding during the Sandusky investigation.
The pre-trial hearing will be held at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg before President Judge Todd Hoover. The hearing could last up to four days.
James Koval, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, says the number of defendants and issues involved are factors that could make this a lengthy hearing.
"The court thought it prudent to schedule what it thinks will be a sufficient number of days to have a complete hearing," Koval says.
As with all court proceedings, the hearing date is subject to change.
The case stems from a grand jury presentment, therefore the grand jury judge had the discretion to assign the case to the county where the alleged crimes occurred or the county in which the grand jury sat, Koval says.
The judge assigned the case to Dauphin County, which is where the grand jury met and also where the charge of perjury allegedly occurred.
A matter that could potentially be part of the pre-trial hearing is a motion filed Nov. 21 by Curley's attorney, Caroline Roberto, to dismiss the charges, suppress his Jan. 12, 2011 grand jury testimony and order an evidentiary hearing where Curley can submit expert testimony regarding court testimony by former Penn State Counsel Cynthia Baldwin.
At issue is Baldwin's role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and whether her testimony violated attorney-client confidentiality. Curley and Schultz say they believed Baldwin was representing them during the Sandusky investigation. Baldwin later testified against the men before a grand jury.
Curley's attorney says Baldwin prepared Curley and Schultz for their grand jury testimonies, accompanied each to a pre-testimony interview with the Attorney General's Office, and attended their testimony in a grand jury hearing room, as only counselor for a witness may do.
An original appeal filed by Spanier, Schultz, and Curley argued that the case against them is flawed because it is largely built on Baldwin's testimony. The defendants argue Baldwin's testimony breached their attorney-client privilege.
Legal expert Matt McClenahen believes the defendants have a strong argument in their motions for dismissal given the circumstances surrounding Baldwin's role in the case.
"If she was allowed in the room by definition she was representing them and then later she ends up testifying herself ... So I think they have a pretty strong argument here. And what's strange about it is someone like Baldwin should have known better," he says.
McClenahen said it is possible the judge could dismiss the charges.
"I've never seen a case like this before so I can't go by prior experience ... This is so unusual, it doesn't normally happen ... but a judge would have the discretion to dismiss the charges if the judge just feels it's so egregious," McClenahen says. "Although judges are reluctant to dismiss charges for prosecutorial misconduct ... it's rare."
McClenahen belives the pre-trial hearing will likely include testimony. Additionally, he says the judge will likely ask all attorneys to submit a memorandum with case law supporting their arguments. The judge is not likely to make any decisions immediately, he says.
"The judge is going to want to make sure he gets it right. He's going to spend some time to look at it," McClenahen says. "This is a complex legal issue, the judge is going to want to take it under advisement.
The length of the hearing could be due to the number of witnesses testifying as well as that three defense attorneys will have the opportunity to ask questions.
Tom Farrell, the attorney for Schultz, declined to talk about the pre-trial hearing.
Roberto and Elizabeth Ainslie, Spanier's attorney, could not be reached for comment.