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Freeh Asks Judge to Put Paterno-NCAA Lawsuit on Hold; Faces Challenge to Credibility in Federal Court

by on February 27, 2015 9:21 AM

Louis Freeh says the Centre County Court of Common Pleas has made a mistake, and he wants the judge to fix it.

The international law firm of Pepper Hamilton -- which acquired Freeh's law firm in 2012 -- wants to put the lawsuit between the estate of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and the NCAA on hold. Pepper Hamilton has made this request before and was denied, but new court documents filed Wednesday ask the judge to reconsider.

Pepper Hamilton, which is not a party to the lawsuit, is trying to stop a subpoena that the Paterno estate intends to serve against it. The subpoena asks the law firm to turn over a pile of documents related to Freeh's investigation at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Pepper Hamilton says the documents are protected by the legal tools of attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine, and should remain out of the lawsuit. The court overturned those objections last year -- a decision that Pepper Hamilton appealed to the superior court. Pepper Hamilton wanted to press pause on the Paterno-NCAA lawsuit until the appeal was settled, but the court denied that request last November.

Pepper Hamilton now asks the court to reverse the decision, issue a stay of the case, and let the appeal play out.

"Pepper Hamilton and Penn State will suffer irreparable injury without the stay... a stay will not substantially harm the interest of the other parties to this action... and the public interest strongly supports the issuance of a stay," the filing reads.

The plaintiffs in the suit -- which includes the Paterno estate, former Penn State assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney and former university trustee Al Clemens -- first filed their suit against the NCAA in May 2013. They argue that the NCAA overstepped its authority in the aftermath of the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, ultimately decreasing the value of the Paterno estate and making it more difficult for Jay Paterno and Kenney to find work.

Pepper Hamilton is entangled in the case because it acquired the law firm of Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan in 2012. Freeh and his team of investigators were hired by Penn State in 2011 to determine what actions or inactions allowed the Sandusky scandal to unfold. The Freeh Report was released in 2012, and ultimately formed the basis for the NCAA's punitive sanctions against Penn State.

But the Paterno lawsuit wasn't the only legal battle that Freeh had to contend with this week.

A Lousiana lawyer named Christine Reitano filed suit against Freeh and the Freeh Group in federal court on Monday. She alleges that Freeh destroyed her legal career and professional reputation by "publishing on the internet false, malicious and reckless accusations of felony crimes and professional misconduct."

Freeh was hired to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption that came out of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Freeh's findings implicated Reitano in a kickback scheme, but she says she provided Freeh with "concrete, admissable and credible evidence" to the contrary.

"Mr. Freeh is fully aware of what false accusations can do to a person and their life," Reitano's complaint reads. She is seeking a jury trial and at least $75,000 in damages, though she wants the jury to determine the total amount.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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