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Curley, Schultz and Spanier May Serve Time in Jail in Penn State Scandal, But it Doesn't Feel Like Enough

Finally, I hoped, some justice would prevail.

It had been 19 years since the then-President of Penn State, Graham Spanier, had emails hit his inbox that Gerald Sandusky was being investigated about an incident involving Sandusky and a child in the showers in Penn State's Lasch building.

Recently, Spanier had opted for a public trial in an effort to prove his innocence, but a former Penn State athletic director, Tim Curley, and former Penn State legal counsel, Gary Schultz, had pleaded guilty for the lesser charge against them - endangering the welfare of children - to avoid that spectacle.

Spanier chose instead to fight his way in court that he was innocent - that the reams of information unearthed by Louis Freeh's report were wrong about his involvement with Sandusky's crimes.

Late on Friday afternoon, on a day of many other news events and distractions, the verdict was in: Spanier was found guilty of the same crimes for which Curley and Schultz pleaded guilt last week - endangering the welfare of children, the cold, sanitized description of the act of allowing Sandusky to go free without much consequence and continue to go throughout Centre County, and even all of Pennsylvania, to molest more children.

It's a verdict that seems to make nobody happy, and also appears to be a compromise that doesn't seem to fit the facts, whether you find Spanier guilty of a cover-up or innocently trying to do the right thing for Sandusky and the Penn State football program.

Curley, Schultz and Spanier may serve some time in jail.  But even if they do, it doesn't feel like enough.

After the trial, the prosecution declared victory.

Chief Deputy AG Laura Ditka (Teresa Bonner/
“I’d be foolish to be disappointed,” said Laura Ditka, the  chief deputy attorney general who was the lead prosecutor, citing the fact that three school administrators were now guilty in a court of law of not doing enough to protect children.

"Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Timothy Curley were the most powerful men who ran the Pennsylvania State University. Today, they are convicted criminals," was the leader of a volcano of a statement by Louis Freeh, who broke his silence late Friday after the verdict came down.

The cry of justice seemed genuine.

Yet to me, it felt like there was little comfort in the label "convicted criminals."

On the other side of the ledger were a core of friends of Spanier, who vowed to fight on.

"He’s a man of integrity," Mr. Albert R. Lord, member of Penn State's board of trustees, said after the trial. "I wish I could say the same thing for the prosecution. That show that Laura Ditka put on yesterday, it was an embarrassment to the American legal system."

Spanier's lawyers said he would appeal, in attempt for vindication.  It seemed like their initial statement at the beginning of the trial, calling the charges a “politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man,” was something they truly believed, and they would continue to try to prove.

Spanier ended up not even taking the stand, the defense so confident in one of the charges not being proven - conspiracy to commit a crime - that they presented no witnesses.

Fans of the defense, clearly, were outraged that Spanier - an innocent man, in their eyes - was convicted of anything.  "Political motivation" seemed to be their excuse for convicting Spanier - even though the excuse of political motivation seems to shift every time there's a new Pennsylvania attorney general's office.  (Since the original case came about, there have been three.)

It seems like any time Penn State's institutional misdeeds in the sad saga of Jerry Sandusky are brought to light, the same people circle the wagons, for and against.  Few minds appear to ever be changed.

But I'm still enraged by it all over again, every time I read about it.

The one part that never changes is that Tim Curley, Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno and Gary Schultz never once turned to each other and said, "holy shit, a kid is a victim of sexual abuse!  Let's get that kid help!"

Every fiber of all of their testimony and actions say that they turned to each other and said, "holy shit, how do we deflect the blame for this elsewhere?"

The broad strokes of the events of 1998 and 2001, two separate incidents involving Sandusky and children and the Lasch building showers, haven't really changed after this trial.

In 1998, campus police wrote up a report about Jerry Sandusky allegedly molesting a boy in the shower.  Through email, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley were aware of the police report, and Curley once even emailed Schultz and said "Coach [Paterno] is eager to know where this stands."  We also learned after the most recent trial, Schultz also kept notes on the incident, and kept a secret file on the case in his office, but there wasn't a bombshell moment to reveal.

"As a rule, I tried to keep the president well informed," Schultz said in this trial for the prosecution, specifically about the 1998 allegation. "Something of this magnitude he should know about."

In 2001, former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessed, through a mirror, alleged child molestation by Sandusky and another boy.  McQueary went to Joe Paterno directly about it, and Paterno brokered a meeting between Schultz (who was deeply involved in the 1998 incident) and Curley, who then also involved Spanier.

Originally, the trio's plan was to obey the law and report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, which is required by law when someone in a position of authority hears an allegation of sexual abuse.  In the state of Pennsylvania, school teachers and school administrators are required to report any allegation, even if it's not necessarily true, and if they don't comply, they face fines or jail time.

But after initially agreeing on a plan to bar Sandusky from the campus and doing what the law required, Curley came up with another plan.  Instead, Curley would tell Sandusky not to shower with boys on Penn State's campus and he would inform the charity Sandusky founded, The Second Mile, of the incident.  Spanier signed off on this course of action.

Scott Robbins, Courtroom Sketches
"Tim: This approach is acceptable to me," Spanier wrote.  "It requires you go a step further and your conversation [with Sandusky] will be all the more difficult, but I admire your willingness to do that and I am supportive.  The only downside for us is it the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it [to DPW].  But that can be assessed down the road.  The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed."

Schultz replied: "I can support this approach, with the understanding that we will inform his organization [The Second Mile].  We can play it by ear to decide about the other organization [DPW]."

The broad particulars of those facts did not change after this trial, though some new, important details were added.

Most notably, McQueary, who took the stand, was vehement that he never used the word "horseplay" to describe what he saw.
"Did Mike McQueary ever tell you that what he saw was horseplay?" Ditka asked. 
"No," Schultz said. 
"Did you ever tell Graham Spanier that this was horseplay?" the prosecutor continued. 
"Yes," Schultz replied. "That's what Joe Paterno told us, that (Sandusky) was horsing around." 
To be very clear, Schultz is claiming that Paterno, at a bare minimum, was downplaying Sandusky's behavior, teetering very close to saying that Paterno was covering up Sandusky's behavior.  "Horseplay", he's saying, was Paterno's word, later co-opted by Spanier and used to describe Sandusky's actions in a P.C. way.

Furthermore, we also know that Curley, Spanier, presumably Paterno, and especially Gary Schultz were very aware of Sandusky's 1998 molestation charge when the 2001 incident came to their attention.

It came out that Schultz went to Penn State's legal counsel about the allegation, Wendell Courtney.  His suggestion to Schultz was to report the crime to DPW, meaning the solution to simply talk to Sandusky was crafted against the legal advice given to Schultz.

The recurring theme here, over and over and over again, is protecting Penn State, their own behinds, and Joe Paterno's behind, over the safety of Jerry's possible victims.  They were willing to always give Sandusky the benefit of the doubt over multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

These two small, but important, details add to a tapestry of different actions that Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz consistently went out of their way to provide for Sandusky.

Like Spanier's efforts to broker meetings get a feasibility study to start a football program at Penn State-Altoona, specifically to give Sandusky a shot at building a football program.

Or Spanier's, Paterno's, Schultz' and Curley's personal involvement in Sandusky's retirement plan, which involved highly-unusual "emeritus status," usually reserved for professors and academics.

In factm Spanier went well beyond the call of duty, making a personal promise to Sandusky to grant him this special status, while Paterno's own notes show the detail he got involved with his retirement package: he figured out that taking a lump sum from the University and life insurance was better for Jerry financially than an annuity.  Additionally, based on hand-written notes on Sandusky's retirement request, there were negotiations about an official Penn State title for Sandusky, and access to the workout facilities at Penn State.

("Sandusky asked for access to training and workout facilities," a Deadspin article noted.  "Paterno put a check mark next to that request. In a sidebar, Paterno asked if this was for Sandusky's personal use, or for Second Mile kids, and indicated that due to liability problems, facility access should not be extended to Second Mile kids.")

Or Sandusky's retirement statement in 1999, Curley wrote the following press release: "His success as a coach is authenticated by the numerous All-America players he has developed over three decades.  His achievement as a human being is splendidly demonstrated by the thousands of youngsters he touches annually through The Second Mile."   (Oddly, there doesn't appear to have been any public ceremony to celebrate Sandusky's retirement, which one might expect from someone who had worked for 31 years under Joe Paterno - only the press release.)

The Freeh report is careful to mention that there is "no evidence to show that [these actions] were related to an earlier allegation of sexual abuse by Sandusky in 1998" [emphasis mine].   However, the facts remain that:

* In 1998 Curley claimed via email that Paterno was "anxious to know where it stands" with the Sandusky allegations.  Could Curley have been lying?  Possibly.  But there's little motive for him to do so.

* Schultz kept a file of the 1998 incident and made notes to the effect that he was wondering whether it could be considered sexual abuse or not - the infamous "is this the opening of Pandora's Box?  Other children?" notes he made when fielding the phone call on the incident.

* Schultz kept Spanier and Curley (and, through Curley, Paterno) informed of these very serious charges against a Penn State employee.

* Before Curley met with Sandusky, the trio had done research, reviewed Sandusky's history since 1998, and come up with a plan to confront him about it that didn't involve DFW, and arranged to discuss with Paterno their plan before going through with it.  "There is no indication that Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, Curley or any other leader at Penn State made any effort to determine the identity of the child in the shower or whether the child had been harmed," the Freeh report concluded.

What to make of all this?

Certainly Curley, Spanier, Schultz and Paterno had first and foremost Penn State's interests and image in mind when all of this happened.  Nobody thought to involve authorities, or identify the victim - to them, the victim was an object, a nobody, in the way of Penn State's (and by extension, Joe Paterno's) reputation.

It's also clear that Spanier, Schultz and Curley spent quite a bit of time and energy researching Sandusky's actions, and crafting a solution that would absolve them of having to do anything - in essence, looking the other way.

And in that sense, it reflected Joe Paterno's wishes.  Whether Paterno was involved directly in the cover-up or not, what is abundantly clear is that Paterno had zero interest in following up on what had been revealed.  When confronted with McQueary with a specific incident and a specific charge, his instincts were to have his "higher-ups" deal with it (even though Curley felt like he needed Paterno's OK to go ahead with their plan).  This was said by Joe Paterno himself.

In terms of Schultz, Curley, and Spanier, though, it still feels very unsatisfying to have them enjoy freedom, limited jail time and (in the case of Spanier) a Pennsylvania state-funded paycheck.  Certainly, they should have done more.  And to me, they should have to pay more in the form of punishment, because they put their own reputations, Penn State's reputation, and Joe Paterno's reputation above the victims of Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse.

Curley, Schultz and Spanier may serve some time in jail.  But it doesn't feel like enough.


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