June 2, 2017 / 10:08 AM / 3 months ago

Prosecutor urges jail for Penn State ex-president in sex abuse scandal

FILE PHOTO: Penn State University President Graham Spanier poses in his office in the Old Main building in State College, Pennsylvania, in this February 26, 1997 file photo.Craig Houtz/File Photo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Prosecutors urged a judge to sentence Pennsylvania State University's former president to jail on Friday for his role in covering child sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach convicted of molesting 10 boys.

Graham Spanier, once the nation's highest paid public school president, and two other former Penn State officials are due to be sentenced on Friday on child endangerment charges in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas in Harrisburg.

Spanier, former athletic director Timothy Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz, who oversaw the university police department, each face up to five years behind bars for a single misdemeanor count of child endangerment but could receive a lesser penalty under the state's sentencing guidelines.

Spanier, 68, Curley, 63, and Schultz, 67, were accused of covering up a 2001 complaint filed by a graduate student, Michael McQueary, who said he witnessed then assistant football coach Sandusky having sex with a boy in the campus football showers.

None of the school officials reported the incident to law enforcement or youth services.

Sandusky, 73, is serving 30 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He continues to appeal his conviction.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in a sentencing memorandum, asked that Spanier be jailed for up to 12 months, saying he ignored the 2001 report to protect his personal reputation. If he had ordered an investigation, it is "highly likely Spanier could have spared some if not all of the victims who were molested by Sandusky," Shapiro said.

"Spanier's sentence should make it loud and clear that the protection of the welfare of Pennsylvania's children should never take a back seat to the reputation of one man ever again," Shapiro said in the memorandum.

Spanier's lawyer argued against incarceration, saying his client suffers from advanced prostate cancer, a heart condition, depression and anxiety.

"Graham Spanier has already suffered severely through public shaming, loss of employment and significant reputational harm," his lawyer Samuel Silver said in a sentencing memorandum.

A jury in March convicted Spanier of child endangerment. Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to the same charge a week before the start of the trial.

Shapiro did not recommend a particular sentence for Curley and Schultz.

The sentencing ends the last criminal case in the Sandusky scandal, which broke in 2011 and led to the firing of long-time football coach Joe Paterno. The beloved coach known as "Joe Pa" was never charged. He died in 2012.

A charity Sandusky founded for at-risk youth, the Second Mile, where he met his victims, was dissolved in 2016.

McQueary, who later became a Penn State assistant football coach, was fired by the university in the wake of Sandusky's arrest in 2011. A Pennsylvania judge last year ruled that McQueary qualified as a whistleblower under state law and awarded him a total of $12 million from Penn State.

Since Sandusky's conviction, Penn State has paid more than $90 million to settle civil claims filed by accusers.

Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker

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