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Judges Hear Arguments in Spanier Appeal

by on February 07, 2018 2:35 PM

A panel of Superior Court judges heard oral arguments on Wednesday as former Penn State President Graham Spanier seeks to have his conviction on a charge of endangering the welfare of children overturned.

Spanier was found guilty in March on the misdemeanor charge related to his handling of a 2001 report about Jerry Sandusky, but the jury found him not guilty on a felony child endangerment charge and a felony count of conspiracy.

The two-year statute of limitations had long run out when he was charged in 2012, he argues. Spanier's attorney, Bruce Merenstein, said trial judge John Boccabella made a post-trial ruling granting an exception for an extension that applies to a child endangerment charge when a minor under the age of 18 was the victim of a sexual offense, until the victim is 50, according to the Associated Press.

That issue was never raised before Boccabella made the post-trial ruling and Spanier's attorneys had no opportunity to address it, Merenstein argued.

Prosecutors instead argued that Spanier's actions in not reporting former football assistant Mike McQueary's account of seeing Sandusky with a boy in a locker room shower to law enforcement or child welfare authorities constituted a continuing course of conduct. The jury acquitted Spanier of the felony child endangerment charge that represented a course of conduct, Merenstein argued, according to PennLive, and that the misdemeanor conviction was specifically related to the 2001 case, for which the statute of limitations had expired.

Deputy Attorney General Gregory Simatic said that Boccabella and other judges had already decided the statute of limitations matter before the trial, PennLive reported. But Merenstein argued that if it had been decided, it would have raised other issues including the age of the boy McQueary saw in the shower with Sandusky and Spanier's defense never had the opportunity to raise those issues.

Spanier's defense argues that if the panel of three Superior Court judges overturns the trial court's ruling, the case would have to be dismissed entirely because the statute of limitations expired in 2003.

The former university president was informed in 2001 of McQueary's report by former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Senior Vice President Gary Schultz. Spanier maintains he was only told of a former coach being engaged in horseplay with a boy and that he was not told of reported sexual abuse. McQueary has testified that he described what he saw to Curley and Schultz as being sexual in nature.

Curley and Schultz both pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor child endangerment before trial

Spanier was sentenced to two months in county jail and two months of house arrest, but has remained free pending his appeal.  Curley and Schultz were sentenced to three and two months in county jail, respectively, followed by house arrest. Both have already served their periods of confinement.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012 on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse and is serving a 30 to 60 year sentence in state prison. 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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