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Judge Asks Superior Court to Keep Stay in Place for Spanier Defamation Lawsuit

by on April 08, 2014 12:45 PM

The judge presiding over former Penn State President Graham Spanier's defamation lawsuit against Louis Freeh asked the Pennsylvania Superior Court not to change his decision to delay the lawsuit.

At issue is whether or not the defamation lawsuit against Freeh and his firm can be delayed until after Spanier's criminal case is resolved.

Freeh, former FBI director, conducted an independent investigation into Penn State's handling of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse. Freeh's firm found that Spanier and other administrators allegedly covered up the abuse. Separately, authorities criminally charged Spanier and two other administrators for the alleged cover-up.

Spanier argues that allegations in the Freeh report are false and defamatory. He's asking the court to delay the defamation lawsuit until the criminal case is resolved. Centre County Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Grine agreed with Spanier's argument and issued an order to delay the case.

Freeh has appealed the delay to the Superior Court. In response, Grine filed papers to the Superior Court on monday reiterating why he believes a stay is appropriate in this case.

Freeh's attorneys say the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should not be a factor in Grine's decision to delay the case because Spanier has not yet exercised that right. However, Grine argues that even though Spanier has not exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Spanier may exercise that right down the road -- therefore the case should be delayed until the criminal case is over.

Freeh's attorneys also say the delay eliminates defendants' opportunity to have the case moved to federal court, which has a one-year statutory limitation. However, Grine says defendants did not raise this issue initially. He points out that the federal court could make an exception to the one-year limit. Additionally, Grine argues that the plaintiff's Fifth Amendment right outweighs defendants' statutory rights.

Freeh's attorney say the lawsuit has damaged Freeh's and his firm's reputation and a delay would only further damage their image. "The court finds that although the potential for damage to appellants reputation exists that damage is outweighed by the court's analysis of other factors," Grine says.

Ultimately, the Superior Court will determine if a delay in the lawsuit is appropriate.

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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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