Former Penn State President Graham Spanier will begin serving a two-month county jail sentence in July, more than four years after he was convicted of child endangerment.
At a hearing on Wednesday in Dauphin County, specially presiding Judge John Bocabella ordered Spanier to begin serving his sentence on July 9. It will be followed by two months of home confinement.
Spanier was convicted in 2017 on one misdemeanor count stemming from his handling of a 2001 report about former assistant football coach and Second Mile charity founder Jerry Sandusky with a boy in a campus locker room shower, more than a decade before Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
In 2019, a day before Spanier was scheduled to begin serving his jail sentence, a federal district court found the conviction to be unconstitutional. In December, however, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction, ruling that the lower court erred in tossing that conviction on the grounds that Spanier’s due process rights were violated.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office filed a motion asking a specially-presiding Court of Common Pleas judge to enforce Spanier’s sentence, arguing that no legal barrier remained to doing so.
Bocabella denied a request from Spanier’s attorneys that he be allowed to serve all four months from home with electronic monitoring, mostly because of his high risk to COVID-19. The 72-year-old has advanced prostate cancer and had open-heart surgery in 2019.
On Wednesday, PennLive reported, attorney Sam Silver noted that the Department of Corrections began granting reprieves from incarceration for non-violent offenders at high risk for the disease. Spanier is fully vaccinated, Silver said, but does not know what the risk will be for an older person with underlying conditions.
Silver said it would be “blind to reality, and callous,” to have Spanier incarcerated, according to the Associated Press
Prosecutors objected and said the Centre County Correctional Facility, where Spanier will serve his sentence, currently has no COVID-19 cases, is only at 41% capacity and is capable of handling Spanier’s short-term medical needs, according to PennLive. He could also be granted an emergency medical furlough if it became necessary.
“The victims of the defendant’s crime do not believe that he’s ever going to be held accountable for the crime he’s been convicted of,” Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte said, according to the Associated Press.
Bocabella upheld the jail sentence and set the reporting date, saying the pandemic situation is “not as dire” as a year ago, though did agree with the defense that Spanier does not pose a danger to society.
“He made a mistake and he’s going to pay for his mistake, but I don’t consider him to be a danger to society as I would a criminal,” Judge John Boccabella said.
Bocabella authorized Spanier to participate in work release and also ordered him to serve 200 hours of community service.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro issued a statement saying “there are consequences for failing to protect children in Pennsylvania.”
“Today marks the end of a long road towards justice for the children endangered by Mr. Spanier’s inaction— choosing to cover up the abuse at the hands of Jerry Sandusky rather than reporting it to law enforcement,” Shapiro said.
Spanier has maintained former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz only described horseplay in relaying the report made by then graduate assistant football coach Mike McQueary. They agreed to report the incident to Sandusky’s charity for at-risk youth, where prosecutors said he found most of his victims, and instruct him not to bring children to campus facilities. They did not take the matter to law enforcement of child welfare officials.
Spanier was forced out as Penn State president after the incident came to light in November 2011, when Sandusky was charged with child sexual abuse following a grand jury investigation.
Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison. He maintains his innocence and his most recent appeal to overturn his convictions was denied earlier this month.
Spanier was charged in 2012 for his handling of the report and after years of court battles went to trial in March 2017. Though convicted on one misdemeanor count, he was found not guilty on a felony charge of endangering the welfare of a child, which alleged a ‘course of conduct’ for not reporting Sandusky, and a felony conspiracy charge.
He did not testify at his trial, but Spanier said during sentencing in 2017 that he wished he had gone further in reporting Sandusky.
“I am sorry for my place in what has occurred…I wish that I had been more sensitive to the possibilities of what I heard 16 years ago,” he said.
Curley and Schultz both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges in 2017. They each served short jail sentences later that year in Centre County.