Much of the buzz around a 2001 email exchange in which it was decided to handle Jerry Sandusky internally has centered around evidence that suggests Joe Paterno may have been behind the decision not to report the now-infamous shower incident to police. Indeed, there's already talk that if Paterno was indeed involved, the NCAA could really drop the hammer on Penn State. But this morning's (Harrisburg) Patriot-News puts the spotlight right back where it belongs--on former Penn State president Graham Spanier.
The emails show that rather than merely sign off on athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz' decision to take a more "humane" approach to dealing with Sandusky, Spanier was closely involved from the beginning. And according to legal experts, that puts Spanier in deep legal doo-doo.
In the grand jury presentment, Spanier is reported to have told jurors that even though he signed a document barring Sandusky from campus, he didn't know the triggering incident was sexual in nature.Cohen thinks that Centre County prosecutors have a pretty good example to look to--the case of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia, who was convicted of child endangerment for failing to tell police and parishoners about priests abusing children. Marci Hamilton, an attorney for a Sandusky accuser whose case wasn't part of the recent Sandusky trial, thinks those emails also open Spanier up to perjury charges as well.
Other commentators on Saturday, having reviewed the emails, said Spanier's reported assessment of "the downside" of not reporting leaves them skeptical of that claim.
"If he didn't think it had anything to do with sex, what would he worry about," said Gerald Gurney, a longtime college athletic administrator who is a professor of higher education at the University of Oklahoma.
Walter Cohen, a former Pennsylvania attorney general who is in private practice in Harrisburg, said it's difficult to conclude whether Spanier perjured himself.
But Cohen and other attorneys reached Saturday said prosecutors may be considering filing a charge of endangering the welfare of children against Spanier.
Apparently Spanier knows he might have stepped in it as well. He's suing Penn State to get a raft of emails from 1998 to 2004. Penn State refused to provide them for fear of compromising the investigation.
When Spanier was forced to resign in November, it was obvious the only reason he wasn't fired altogether was because he's a tenured sociology professor at Penn State. It's very difficult--and justifiably so--to fire a tenured professor. But if the actions detailed in these emails don't meet that standard, what does? In any event, it looks like prosecutors may take that decision out of Penn State's hands by giving a lot of people who have been watching this case something they've wanted for a long time--Spanier perp-walked out of his office.