HARRISBURG - 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.
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, even after they were aware that police investigated complaints about Sandusky showering with boys in 1998, Beemer said.
The key testimony centered on a series of emails among the three defendants that discussed the 1998 and 2001 cases and the testimony 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 in the shower in 2001.
Sandusky, a defensive coordinator under Paterno until his retirement in 1999, was convicted last year of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. He maintains his innocence and is appealing a 30- to 60-year state prison term.
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."
Spanier testified to a grand jury that he was unaware of the 1998 investigation while Curley and Schultz testified that McQueary reported only that Sandusky and the boy were engaged in naked, inappropriate horseplay that made him uncomfortable. Once the defendants became aware of an investigation into Sandusky in 2010 or 2011, they did nothing to stop it, obstruct it or hide evidence, their lawyers said.
"What was reported was not a report of any activity that was sexual in nature," Spanier told the grand jury in testimony read aloud in court Tuesday. "I know better than to jump to conclusions about things like that."
The three were charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy. Those charges include allegations of hiding evidence from investigators and lying to the grand jury.
Penn State and the Paterno family declined to comment.
Curley and Schultz were initially charged in November 2011, when Sandusky was arrested, and accused of perjury and failure to properly report the incident.
Spanier was forced out as president at that time. A year later, he was charged with covering up a complaint about Sandusky while additional charges were filed against Curley and Schultz. Spanier remains a faculty member on administrative leave.
Paterno was fired and died in January 2012.