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Superior Court Panel Upholds Spanier Conviction

by on June 26, 2018 6:29 PM

In a 2-1 decision, a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel on Tuesday affirmed former Penn State President Graham Spanier's conviction on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child for his handling of Mike McQueary's 2001 report about Jerry Sandusky with a boy in a locker room shower.

Spanier was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge on March 24, 2017. He was found not guilty on a second child endangerment charge and a conspiracy charge. Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz each pleaded guilty to a child endangerment charge ahead of trial.

In upholding Spanier's conviction, the court also upheld his sentence of two months incarceration followed by two to eight months of house arrest. Spanier has been free on bail pending his appeal. 

His attorneys told the Associated Press that Spanier plans to “plans to pursue his appellate options.”

The majority of Judge Victor Stabile and Judge Carolyn Nichols denied Spanier's arguments that charges were brought after the statute of limitations expired; that he was not supervising the child and had no duty of care; and that the child endangerment law at the time of the reported incident in 2001 did not apply to Spanier as a supervisor of someone else who may be supervising a child.

Spanier's "assertions of error lack merit," Stabile wrote in the majority opinion.

For the argument that the charge was time-barred, the majority ruled that an exception based on the presumed age of the child -- who has not been identified --  allowed for the charges to proceed.

Judge Lillian Harris Ransom, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that the prosecution violated Spanier's right to due process by failing "to inform him of its intent to rely upon an exception to the statute of limitations at a reasonable time before trial." She said she would have overturned Spanier's conviction. 

In his majority opinion, Stabile also wrote that Spanier was aware of an allegation against a "high-status former employee with access  to campus facilities" and that cited Spanier's email to Curley and Schultz that they "could become vulnerable for not reporting Sandusky if his behavior continued."

A lack of evidence that Spanier was "specifically responsible" for addressing alleged on-campus abuse of minors did not preclude the conclusion that he was responsible for supervising the welfare of a child, Stabile wrote. Spanier was aware of and oversaw the university's response to the 2001 report, the opinion said.

"To hold that [Spanier] was not supervising a child’s welfare when he oversaw PSU’s response to the Sandusky allegations, or to hold that he owed no duty of care in his exercise of that supervisory authority, would plainly not effectuate the purpose of sheltering children from harm," Stabile wrote.

Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse and is serving a sentence of 60 years in state prison. He maintains his innocence and continues to appeal.

Curley and Schultz have both reported to Centre County Correctional Facility in July 2017 and completed their sentence of confinement. Schultz was released in September and Curley in October.



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