Some of the criminal charges against a trio of former Penn State administrators were dropped today, following a decision by a Superior Court panel.
The ruling involves the grand jury testimony of former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin. A Dauphin County judge ruled last January that the testimony can be used against them, but the panel of judges reversed that decision today.
Former athletic director Tim Curley, former senior vice president for finance Gary Schultz, and former university president Graham Spanier have had a slew of the criminal charges facing them quashed as a result of the ruling. They successfully argued that using Baldwin's testimony would be a violation of attorney-client privilege.
The argument centered around whether Baldwin was representing Spanier, Curley, and Schultz as individuals or as university officials. If the former was the case, her testimony would be privileged in the case of a criminal trial against the three former administrators. However, Dauphin County judge Todd Hoover initially ruled that Baldwin was testifying as university counsel, which makes her testimony fair game in the trial, prompting the appeal that was ruled on today.
Spanier still faces charges of child endangerment and failure to report suspected child abuse, but his charges of perjury, obstruction, and conspiracy were dropped.
Schultz had the same three charges dropped, and still faces charges of child endangerment and conspiracy. Curley had obstruction and conspiracy charges dropped, while he still faces charges for perjury, failure to report suspected child abuse, and child endangerment.
"We hold that Ms. Baldwin was incompetent to testify as to Curley’s communications with her," the panel wrote in a ruling related to Curley specifically, though similar wording was offered in all three opinions. "We find that, even assuming Ms. Baldwin represented Curley in an agency capacity, his communications to her regarding being subpoenaed to testify before the criminal investigating grand jury were privileged."
But the panel went on to say that there's no reason to assume Baldwin represented Curley as an agent of Penn State -- and even if she did, the university would still need to waive its own attorney-client privilege for the testimony to be fair game in these criminal matters involving the former administrators. Penn State has not waived its privilege.
"Certain communications between a corporate attorney and an employee of the corporation still may be personally privileged," the judges ruled. "Moreover, the corporation must still waive its own privilege in order for communications between its agents and counsel to be disclosed."
The state Supreme Court could choose to appeal the decision of the lower Superior Court, but for the time being, the three former Penn State administrators can sleep just a little easier.