By Mark Scolforo
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The “conspiracy of silence” that protected Jerry Sandusky extended all the way to the top at Penn State, prosecutors said Thursday as they charged former university President Graham Spanier with hushing up child sexual abuse allegations against the former assistant football coach.
Prosecutors also added counts against two of Spanier’s former underlings, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who were already charged with lying to a grand jury.
“This was not a mistake by these men. This was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part,” said state Attorney General Linda Kelly. “This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials to actively conceal the truth.”
Spanier’s lawyers issued a statement that asserted his innocence and described the new charges as an attempt by Gov. Tom Corbett to divert attention from the three-year investigation that began under his watch as attorney general.
“These charges are the work of a vindictive and politically motivated governor working through an unelected attorney general … whom he appointed to do his bidding,” the four defense lawyers wrote.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said the defense statement “sounds like the ranting of a desperate man who just got indicted.”
Curley’s lawyer Caroline Roberto said he was innocent of all charges, as he has asserted in the past. She said the new documents were being reviewed and would have a more comprehensive comment later. Schultz also has maintained his innocence; his lawyer did not return a message seeking comment.
At a Capitol news conference, Kelly said all three men “knowingly testified falsely and failed to provide important information and evidence.”
Spanier was charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy. Curley and Schultz face new charges of endangering the welfare of children, obstruction and conspiracy.
The charges were filed with a suburban Harrisburg district judge, whose office said Curley and Schultz were expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon and Spanier tentatively scheduled to appear Wednesday. They came nearly a year to the day that Sandusky was arrested.
Sandusky, who spent decades on the Penn State staff and was defensive coordinator during two national championship seasons, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. He has maintained he is innocent and was transferred to a maximum security prison on Wednesday, where he is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.
Curley, 58, the athletic director on leave while he serves out the last year of his contract, and Schultz, 63, who has retired as vice president for business and finance, were charged a year ago with lying to the grand jury and with failing to properly report suspect child abuse. Their trial is set for early January in Harrisburg.
Spanier, 64, of State College, had been university president for 16 years when he was forced out after Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest. He remains a faculty member but was placed on paid leave Thursday.
Prosecutors said Spanier, Curley and Schultz knew of complaints involving Sandusky showering with boys in 1998 and 2001.
“They essentially turned a blind eye to the serial predatory acts committed by Jerry Sandusky,” Kelly said.
The grand jury report included with the charges said “the actual harm realized by this wanton failure is staggering,” and listed instances of abuse detailed at Sandusky’s criminal trial that happened after 1998.
“The continued cover-up of this incident and the ongoing failure to report placed every minor child who would come into contact with Sandusky in the future in grave jeopardy of being abused,” jurors wrote.
The grand jury report indicates Curley, Schultz and Spanier told the university’s lawyer they had no documents that addressed Sandusky having inappropriate contact with boys.