Two former Penn State administrators accused of covering up child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky pleaded guilty to reduced charges Monday, more than five years after the scandal rocked the university and led to the downfall of football coach Joe Paterno.
Tim Curley, a 62-year-old former athletic director, and Gary Schultz, 67, a one-time vice president, could get up to five years in prison for misdemeanor child endangerment. No sentencing date was set.
They struck a deal in which prosecutors dropped three felony charges of child endangerment and conspiracy that carried up to seven years each.
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, 68, was also charged in the scandal, and the case against him appears to be moving forward, with jury selection set for next week. His lawyers and the lead prosecutor had no comment.
The three administrators handled a 2001 complaint by a graduate assistant who said he saw Sandusky, a retired member of the coaching staff, sexually abusing a boy in a team shower. They failed in their legal duty by not reporting the matter to police or child welfare authorities, prosecutors said.
As a result, prosecutors said, Sandusky went on to abuse more boys, one of them in the Penn State showers.
Sandusky was not arrested until a decade later. He was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys and is serving 30 to 60 years behind bars.
Shortly after Sandusky’s arrest, Paterno was fired over his handling of the matter. Paterno, one of the winningest coaches in college football history, died of lung cancer a few months later at 85. He was never charged with a crime.
A report commissioned by the university and conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded that the beloved coach and the three others hushed up the allegations against Sandusky for fear of bad publicity.
Robert J. Donatoni, a past president of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said state sentencing guidelines indicate the defendants could get probation or a jail term of several months.
Kristen Houser of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape expressed concern that the defendants might be let off easy.
“It’s nice to have accountability, that’s important,” she said, “but the possibility of such a low level of punishment in the end does not seem to fit the very high level of disruption and harm and trauma that have been experienced, first and foremost, by the victims.”
Penn State’s costs related to the Sandusky scandal are approaching a quarter-billion dollars.
That includes a recent $12 million verdict in the whistleblower and defamation case brought by Mike McQueary, the former graduate coaching assistant whose testimony helped convict Sandusky.
The university has also paid $93 million in settlements with 33 people who claimed they were sexually abused by Sandusky. In addition, Penn State was fined $48 million by the NCAA.
The NCAA imposed other heavy sanctions against the football program, cutting scholarships, barring the team from postseason play and stripping Penn State and Paterno of 112 victories dating to 1998. The NCAA later eased its penalties and restored the wins.
This past season marked the return of Penn State football as a top program. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten championship and made it to the Rose Bowl.
According to investigators, McQueary went to Paterno a day after the shower encounter to discuss what he had seen. Paterno alerted Curley and Schultz, and McQueary met with both of them about a week later.
The administrators told Sandusky he could not bring children onto campus anymore, but they had no plan to enforce that rule, prosecutors said.
It was not until nine years later that an anonymous email sent to a district attorney led investigators to approach McQueary in the case.
Prosecutors on Monday also cited a 1998 complaint against Sandusky over his showering with a boy on campus that led to a campus police investigation and notification of the county prosecutor but no charges. Sandusky admitted hugging the youngster in the shower, and promised never to shower with a boy again.
That left Sandusky free to continue working with boys at his charity, his summer football camps and the nearby high school.
The U.S. Education Department fined the university a record $2.4 million for not recording the 1998 case on its daily crime log, as required under federal law.
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