HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former Penn State president Graham Spanier lost an appeal Tuesday of his misdemeanor conviction for child endangerment over his handling of a 2001 complaint about Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy in the football team locker room.
A Superior Court majority rejected Spanier’s claims that too much time had passed to charge him, he was not legally obligated to care for the boy, and should not have been charged because he did not supervise children directly.
“To hold that (he) was not supervising a child’s welfare when he oversaw PSU’s response to the Sandusky allegations, or to hold that he owed no duty of care in his exercise of that supervisory authority, would plainly not effectuate the purpose of sheltering children from harm,” wrote Judge Victor Stabile, joined by one other jurist in the 2-1 decision.
Spanier’s lawyers said he is deeply disappointed and “plans to pursue his appellate options” in hopes of vindication.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office prosecuted Spanier, said his office was gratified by the decision.
“We will continue to pursue anyone who looks the other way in the face of child sexual abuse,” Shapiro said.
Spanier, 69, has been free on bail while appealing, so he has not served his sentence of two months in jail followed by two months of house arrest.
Two of Spanier’s top deputies when he ran Penn State, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, pleaded guilty to child endangerment and testified against him last year.
In a dissent, Judge Lillian Harris Ransom said Spanier should have been told at a reasonable time before trial that prosecutors planned to rely on an exception to the two-year statute of limitations. She said she would have reversed his conviction.
Spanier, who did not take the stand in his own defense, has said Sandusky’s attack on the boy, whose identity remains in dispute, was characterized to him as horseplay.
He told the sentencing judge he regretted he “did not intervene more forcefully.”
Stabile’s opinion recounted Spanier’s own words in an email to the top aides, that the three could become vulnerable for not reporting Sandusky if his behavior continued.
The judge said Spanier was uniquely positioned to take action.
“The lack of evidence that (he) was the ‘point man’ in the case of alleged on-campus abuse of minors, or that he was ‘specifically responsible’ for addressing all such cases does not undermine or preclude a conclusion that he was supervising the welfare of a child,” Stabile wrote.
The university has said Spanier is a tenured faculty member on administrative leave. His separation agreement as president paid him $600,000 annually over five years.
Sandusky is serving a decades-long sentence on a 45-count child sexual abuse conviction. He maintains he was wrongly convicted and is pursuing an appeal.
The scandal has cost the university more than a quarter-billion dollars, including payouts to people who say Sandusky abused them as boys.