Former Penn State president Graham Spanier told investigators hired by the university that he was not informed of an incident involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality, his lawyers said Tuesday.
The attorneys said Spanier was interviewed Friday in Philadelphia by investigators for former FBI director Louis Freeh, who’s looking into the child sexual abuse scandal. Freeh’s findings are expected to be released soon.
Both Spanier and Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno were ousted by school trustees a few days after Sandusky was arrested in November. Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month on 45 criminal counts.
”At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues,” said a statement from the lawyers, Peter Vaira and Elizabeth Ainslie.
Spanier declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press and deferred to the statement.
His comments to the Freeh group echoed his testimony before the state grand jury looking into Sandusky. That testimony concerned graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary’s report of seeing the retired defensive coordinator in the football team shower with a boy in 2001. Spanier was notified about the report by Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz, who oversaw campus police.
A grand jury report said Spanier testified that the two men came to him ”to report an incident with Jerry Sandusky that made a member of Curley’s staff `uncomfortable.”’ The grand jury said Spanier described it as Sandusky in a football team locker room ”with a younger child and that they were horsing around in the shower.”
The grand jury report said that even in April 2011 – presumably the date of his appearance before the grand jury – Spanier did not know that the staff member was McQueary.
”Spanier denied that it was reported to him as an incident that was sexual in nature and acknowledged that Curley and Schultz had not indicated any plan” to contact police or child welfare authorities, the jury said. Spanier also said he was not aware Sandusky had been investigated in 1998.
Sandusky was convicted last month of charges related to the 2001 incident, as well as abuse of nine other children.
The extent of Spanier’s involvement has come under scrutiny recently after CNN reported on emails that said Spanier was ”supportive” of a decision by Curley and Schultz not to report the incident. Spanier warned, however, that they might ”become vulnerable for not having reported it,” CNN said.
Spanier’s lawyers said the emails were selectively leaked without the full context, and were ”distorting the public record and creating a false picture.”
In May, Spanier filed a related civil lawsuit against Penn State seeking access to old work emails so he could better prepare for the school’s internal investigation. A university lawyer responded that state prosecutors asked the school not to share the emails so that the ongoing investigation would not be compromised.
A court hearing on the case is scheduled for Aug. 17, but Spanier went ahead and requested to speak to Freeh’s team. His lawyers said they would revisit the issue of the lawsuit now that the interview has taken place.
Spanier has said he turned in his resignation in November, while trustees have said he did not resign but rather was terminated without cause.
”Since November of last year, when he resigned his presidency, he has wanted the Freeh Group to create an accurate report and has been determined to assist in any way he can,” said the statement from Spanier’s lawyers. They ended their four-paragraph statement by saying they remained ”hopeful that truth and reason prevail.”