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Jury Awards McQueary $7.3 Million in Defamation Case Against Penn State

by on October 27, 2016 7:00 PM

A Centre County jury on Thursday night awarded Mike McQueary a total of $7.3 million in damages after finding in favor of the former Penn State assistant coach on claims of defamation and misrepresentation against the university.

Specially-presiding Judge Thomas Gavin still must rule on McQueary's whistleblower claim against Penn State. Gavin is expected to make that ruling in the next week.

The jury, which deliberated for about four hours after the nine-day trial, awarded McQueary $1.15 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages on his claim that former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz misrepresented how they would handle his report of seeing Jerry Sandusky in a locker room shower with a boy. McQueary has argued that the administrators were aware of a previous allegation of abuse by Sandusky, and failed to appropriately investigate and report the 2001 incident. He says that branded him in the public eye as having been part of a cover-up.

Sandusky was charged and later convicted on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse. Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury (since dropped) and failure to report suspected child abuse after testifying to a grand jury that McQueary had not told them of witnessing anything sexual.

McQueary also was awarded $1.15 million in compensatory damages for defamation. He claimed that former Penn State President Graham Spanier's statement of support for Curley and Schultz, which expressed confidence the charges against them would be found to be "groundless," implied it was McQueary, not the administrators, who lied to the grand jury.

Penn State had argued that McQueary was never mentioned in the statement and elicited from a number of witnesses that no one involved in the statement's drafting had mentioned McQueary and no one who read it inferred that it was connected to McQueary.

In closing arguments on Thursday morning, McQueary attorney Elliot Strokoff noted that Spanier and others involved with creating the statement said it was written and published before they had read the presentment or knew what the exact charges against Curley and Schultz were.

"Nobody read the presentment before this thing was released and put out there forever,” Strokoff said. “If there ever was a reckless indifference to the truth, this is it.”

Neither McQueary nor attorneys for either side spoke after the verdict was returned, except for Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad who said the court had directed the parties not to comment.

McQueary's team has argued throughout the suit, first filed in October 2012, that because of Penn State's actions, including placing him on administrative leave and not renewing his contract, have poisoned his reputation and made it impossible for him to find work in coaching and other fields.

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