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Superior Court Issues Order in Spanier-Freeh Lawsuit

by on March 31, 2014 4:04 PM

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has issued an order in connection with former Penn State President Graham Spanier's defamation lawsuit against Louis Freeh.

The court order, filed Monday, is in response to Freeh and his firm's appeal regarding the delay of the Spanier lawsuit.

Last week, Freeh's attorney, Robert Heim of Philadelphia, filed an appeal with the Superior Court in response to Centre County Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Grine's decision to delay a lawsuit targeting Freeh's investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Subsequently, Grine issued an order Wednesday asking attorneys to explain the appeal to the Superior Court within 21 days.

Now, the Superior Court says it wants a copy of that explanation as well as a response from Grine explaining reasons for the ordered delay.

After receiving the responses, the court says it will issue a decision on the appeal to delay the case.

Heim argues it could be years before Spanier's criminal case is resolved, further delaying the civil case. Additionally, he argues delay in the case prevents Freeh the opportunity to transfer the case to federal court, which has a one-year deadline.

"Defendants are thus unfairly between the classic 'rock and a hard place,'" Heim wrote in an appeal.

In February, Grine ruled the lawsuit filed by Spanier could be delayed until the resolution of Spanier's criminal case related to an alleged cover up of Sandusky's abuse.

Grine ruled in Spanier's favor last month, saying "There is a substantial risk that ... any or all of these individuals could invoke their Fifth Amendment rights during the civil action and refuse to participate in the discovery process (of the lawsuit)."

Heim filed an emergency motion last week asking the judge to reconsider his decision to delay the case. Grine denied the request the following day without a hearing.

Penn State hired Freeh, former FBI director, to investigate the handling of the Sandusky scandal. Spanier claims he was defamed in the subsequent Freeh Report, which found that senior Penn State administrators intentionally covered up Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse.

In his report, Freeh says Spanier and others, "repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, [PSU's] Board of Trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large."

Spanier's attorneys claim those allegations are both false and defamatory. They are asking for monetary damages.

Spanier and two other former Penn State administrators face several criminal charges including perjury, failing to report child endangerment and conspiracy related to the alleged Sandusky cover up.

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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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