Harrisburg, Pa. • Penn State's ex-president and two former top school administrators were ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges accusing them of a cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, a court ruling that promises to prolong the media attention and court battles casting a shadow over the university.
Prosecutors showed enough evidence during a two-day preliminary hearing to warrant a trial for ex-President Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley, District Judge William Wenner concluded. Wenner called it "a tragic day for Penn State University."
The men engaged in a "conspiracy of silence," the lead state prosecutor, Bruce Beemer, said during his closing argument. They covered up their failure to tell police about a 2001 allegation that Sandusky was molesting a boy in a university locker room shower, despite knowing that police investigated complaints about Sandusky showering with boys in 1998, Beemer said.
"When they were finally asked about [the 1998 investigation], it was 2011 and what happened in the interim?" Beemer said.
The key testimony centered on a series of emails among the three defendants that discussed the 1998 and 2001 cases and the account of Mike McQueary, a former team assistant and quarterback who said he had immediately told Schultz, Curley and the late longtime football coach Joe Paterno that he had seen Sandusky molesting a boy dubbed Victim 2 in court documents in the shower in 2001.
Sandusky's conviction includes charges for molesting the boy known as Victim 5 in court papers in those showers a mere six months later, sexually abusing Victim 3 around the same period and molesting Victims 1 and 9 in later years.
Sandusky, a defensive coordinator under Paterno until his retirement in 1999, was convicted last year of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and received a 30- to 60-year state prison term. He maintains his innocence and is appealing.
Anthony Lubrano, a Penn State trustee who watched the two days of testimony, said he had not expected Wenner to throw out the case, given the low level of evidence necessary to send the case to trial. However, he said, "if you get an unbiased jury [at a trial], it'll be hard to get those charges to stick."
Maribeth Roman Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the alumni watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, said it was premature to comment in detail because testimony wasn't offered in its entirety at the preliminary hearing.