Former Penn State president Graham Spanier found guilty of child endangerment

Dr. Saturday
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was found guilty of misdemeanor child endangerment Friday in the trial related to his handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.

Spanier did not take the stand in the trial and his lawyer, Sam Silver, rested the defense’s case Thursday without calling a single witness to the stand. Per PennLive.com, the defense said the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the 68-year-old Spanier knowingly put children in danger or conspired to avoid reporting Sandusky to child protective services.

A jury of seven women and five men ruled otherwise after around 12 hours of deliberations, finding him guilty on one charge of child endangerment for knowingly violating the duty of caring for a child he was responsible for. However, Spanier was found not guilty on two other charges — another child endangerment charge (preventing a report) and felony conspiracy (for the alleged coverup).

Spanier, who was allowed to leave the court room free on bail after the verdict was read, faces “a minimum sentence later this spring that — for most first-time offenders — falls between probation and 9 months in prison, but could range higher,” per PennLive.com.

Spanier’s culpability in the Sandusky case stems from an incident that took place in 2001. Mike McQueary, who was then serving as a graduate assistant after playing quarterback for the Nittany Lions, testified that he saw Sandusky, then two years removed from his final game as a PSU assistant coach, abusing a boy in a shower at the football team’s facility. McQueary said he told then-PSU head coach Joe Paterno, who is said to have passed the information up the chain of command to athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. Spanier was informed thereafter.

Curley and Schultz were also charged in the case but each struck plea deals for a reduced (from felony to misdemeanor) child endangerment charge earlier in the month. Spanier, who has long declared his innocence, opted not to strike a deal. Both Curley and Schultz testified for the prosecution Wednesday. Schultz said he recalled “kind of being informed that everything was handled” by a person he “thinks” was Spanier. He also testified that Spanier was aware of a 1998 investigation into Sandusky that led to no charges against the coach, who was then PSU’s defensive coordinator.

[Follow Dr. Saturday on social media: Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr]

From PennLive.com:

Schultz looked exhausted as [prosecutor Laura] Ditka quizzed him on the 2001 incident and on a 1998 report about Sandusky being naked and “bear-hugging” another boy in a Penn State shower. No criminal charges were filed after a probe of the 1998 case.

Emails concerning updates on the 1998 investigation by university police, the state Department of Public Welfare and the Centre County District Attorney’s Office were copied to Spanier, Schultz said. He said he kept Spanier informed of its progress.

“As a rule, I tried to keep the president well informed,” he said. “Something of this magnitude he should know about.”

Even though no charges were filed in 1998, Schultz said the hope was that Sandusky would “learn his lesson” and stop bringing boys to the Penn State showers, Schultz said. “I was unhappy about [Sandusky’s] behavior,” he said.

Curley admitted Wednesday he could have done more (Schultz also expressed regret) after learning what McQueary witnessed. That, he testified, is why he agreed to a plea deal. He also said he, Schultz and Spanier kept the allegations in-house because he did not think what McQueary relayed to Paterno was sexual in nature or that Sandusky was actively assaulting boys.

Deputy attorney general Laura Ditka, arguing for the state, suggested otherwise. From Philly.com:

And she suggested that Curley, Schultz and Spanier wouldn’t have been calling weekend meetings and consulting with the university’s lawyer if they truly believed that he was only engaged in “horseplay” with boys in the shower.

“Use your common sense. They knew exactly what it was,” she said.

Sandusky was not arrested until November 2011, a decade after the men were informed of McQueary’s concerns. Sandusky’s arrest led to the firing of Paterno, who testified in winter 2011 that McQueary told him he had seen Sandusky “fondling a young boy” and that it was “of a sexual nature” without getting into specifics. Paterno, the winningest coach in FBS history, died in January 2012 of lung cancer. Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 counts of child molestation and is currently serving 30-60 years.

Both Curley and Schultz also await sentencing.

After Spanier’s verdict was handed down, Penn State issued a statement:

First and foremost, our thoughts remain with the victims of Jerry Sandusky.

Five years ago, as the crisis emerged, Penn State’s Board of Trustees took immediate action to change the leadership of the University, instructed the administration to institute new policies and procedures, and set in motion a process to ensure the University was doing everything it could to establish a model ethics and compliance culture meant to ensure the safety of the Penn State community. The University launched a series of new initiatives with the sense of urgency demanded by the Board, while at the same time waiting for the justice system to bring a measure of resolution to the criminal cases that emerged. With today’s decision, we have that closure.

A jury today found former President Graham Spanier guilty of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Recently, two former senior level administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child, reportedly stating in part that, in the case of Curley: “I pleaded guilty because I felt like I should have done more,” and Schultz: “I felt I had been deficient in not reporting it myself.” The verdict, their words and pleas indicate a profound failure of leadership.

You can read the full statement here.

For more Penn State news, visit BlueWhiteIllustrated.com.

– – – – – – –

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next