STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Emails show former Penn State President Graham Spanier agreed not to take allegations of sex abuse against ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to authorities but worried university officials would be “vulnerable” for failing to report it, a news organization has reported.
The emails followed a graduate assistant’s 2001 report he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the team locker room shower, CNN reported. The existence of the emails was first reported earlier this month by NBC.
The emails show Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Vice President Gary Schultz intended to report the allegation, then reconsidered. Spanier responded that he was “supportive” of their plan, but he worried they might “become vulnerable for not having reported it.”
Sandusky was convicted this month of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys.
The scandal led to the ouster of Spanier and revered coach Joe Paterno and charges against Curley and Schultz, who are accused of perjury for their grand jury testimony and failing to properly report suspected child abuse. Spanier hasn’t been charged.
The CNN report cites an email from Schultz to Curley on Feb. 26, 2001, 16 days after graduate assistant Mike McQueary told veteran coach Joe Paterno about the shower assault. Schultz suggests bringing the allegation to the attention of Sandusky, Sandusky’s charity and the Department of Welfare, which investigates suspected child abuse, according to the report.
But the next night, Curley sent an email to Spanier, saying that after thinking about it more and talking to Paterno, he was “uncomfortable” with that plan and wanted to work with Sandusky before contacting authorities, the report said.
If Sandusky is cooperative, Curley’s email said, “we would work with him. … If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups,” according to the report.
Spanier wrote back and agreed with that approach, calling it “humane and a reasonable way to proceed,” according to the report. But he also worried about the consequences.
“The only downside for us is if message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it, but that can be assessed down the road,” the email said, according to CNN.
Spanier’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call from the Associated Press seeking comment Saturday.
The timing of their change in plans – coming after Curley’s discussion with Paterno – raises questions about whether the coach was more involved than he said in the decision.
Wick Sollers, the lawyer for the Paterno family, said in a statement Saturday that it would be inappropriate for the family to comment on the contents of the emails because the family didn’t possess them.
“To be clear, the emails in question did not originate with Joe Paterno or go to him as he never personally utilized email,” Sollers said.
Paterno, ousted by the school’s board of trustees for what was called his “failure of leadership” surrounding allegations against Sandusky, died of lung cancer in January. After Sandusky’s arrest, Paterno said through a spokesman that he reported the allegation to the head of his department and “that was the last time the matter was brought to my attention until this investigation and I assumed that the men I referred it to handled the matter appropriately.”
Sollers, the Paterno family lawyer, said Saturday that Paterno testified truthfully and to the best of his recollection to the grand jury. He said Paterno believed the matter would be “thoroughly and professionally investigated” and that the coach “did not interfere with or attempt to compromise any investigation.”
Schultz, 62, and Curley, 58, deny the allegations against them and have asked a judge to dismiss the charges. A status conference for their case is scheduled for July 11.