Penn State former president calls aides’ charges ‘injustice’

Former Penn State University assistant football coach Mike McQueary, center, leaves the Centre County Courthouse Annex in Bellefonte, Pa., Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The trial for McQueary's defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against Penn State over how it treated him for complaining about assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a boy got underway with opening arguments on Monday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Mike McQueary, center, leaves the Centre County Courthouse Annex in Bellefonte, Pa., Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The trial for McQueary's defamation and whistleblower lawsuit against Penn State over how it treated him for complaining about assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a boy got underway with opening arguments on Monday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Former Penn State President Graham Spanier testified Thursday that he issued a statement the day two of his top lieutenants were charged in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, calling the allegations groundless, because he had developed deep trust of them.

Spanier took the stand in former assistant coach Mike McQueary’s lawsuit against the university that alleges the former president’s statement made it appear McQueary was a liar.

Spanier said he came to trust Tim Curley and Gary Schultz after working closely with them for many years. They were charged with perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse.

“This was an unbelievable injustice, that these two guys, who are like Boy Scouts, would be charged with a crime,” Spanier said. “And that’s what was in my head as I was giving this opinion.”

Spanier began drafting the statement about a week earlier. He said that’s when the school’s then-general counsel got a tip through the attorney general’s office that Sandusky, Curley and Schultz would be charged.

At issue was how Curley and Schultz responded after McQueary described to them in 2001 that he saw Sandusky sexually abuse a boy in a team shower one evening.

Spanier told jurors he directed the lawyer to share a draft with Curley’s lawyer before it was published on the university’s new sites as a courtesy.

“Two of the people holding among the most important leadership positions in the university were going to be charged,” Spanier said. “And with my belief that after working daily with these individuals for about 16 years, and knowing their honesty, their integrity, believing that they never withheld information from me, and recollecting rather clearly that meeting from 2001 … and what they described to me at the time, that it merited my unconditional support.”

Spanier was forced out by the board of trustees a few days later, and the next year he also was charged over his handling of the Sandusky matter. A state appeals court earlier this year threw out several of the charges against all three administrators, but they remain accused of failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children. They await trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Spanier, who remains a Penn State faculty member, testified he had no knowledge of a 1998 police investigation into Sandusky showering with another boy on campus, and had limited recollection of responding with Curley and Schultz to the 2001 incident McQueary said he witnessed.

When the first set of charges were announced in November 2011, Spanier said he took the draft statement that day to an assemblage of about 30 of the university’s senior executives.

He said he told them that if they were falsely accused of a crime, he would issue the same type of statement on their behalf.

“Everybody in the room worked with them for years and had exactly the same sentiment I had,” Spanier testified.

McQueary’s defamation, whistleblower and misrepresentation lawsuit is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages. The trial is expected to continue into next week.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012 and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. A hearing in his appeal regarding the identity of the young man seen by McQueary is scheduled for next month.

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