Wednesday, May 1

Spanier Verdict Vacated

U.S. Magistrate Karoline Mehalchick ruled that Spanier's Constitutional Rights were violated by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General

Ray Blehar
May 1, 2019, 8:35 AM EDT

Finally, some justice.

Former Penn State University (PSU) President Graham Spanier and his legal team battled for nearly six years to have the courts dismiss the charges of Endangering the Welfare of a Child (EWOC) on the grounds that it was an ex post facto application of the law.   Numerous judges in the Pennsylvania courts either dismissed the motions, refused to rule on them, and in the case of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, refused to hear the argument.

But yesterday, a Federal Judge ruled that Spanier's rights were indeed violated when then Attorney General Linda Kelly allowed prosecutors to charge Spanier with a 2007 version of the EWOC statute for an incident occurring in 2001.  She vacated the trial verdict.

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (PA OAG) has 90 days to retry Spanier.

The PA OAG alleged all along that the statute was applicable because Spanier's endangerment of children was a continuing act -- but the air was taken out of that argument at Spanier's March 2017 trial.  A Dauphin County jury found that Spanier decision in a 2001 decision regarding an incident of Jerry Sandusky showering with a young male was a single instance and not a continuing act.

Wrong Interpretation

The PA OAG and the Commonwealth courts have relied on a wrong-headed interpretation (below) of the Monsignor Lynn case in order to state that the 2007 statute did not effectively change the 1995 statute. 

Among the problems with applying the Lynn case to Spanier was the fact that Lynn was in a position of making decisions about priests that had histories of sexual abuse.   In 2001, Jerry Sandusky had no prior history of sexual abuse. 

Moreover, Spanier, as a University president did not supervise children or employ individuals that supervised children with the exception of the Hort Day Care Center on the PSU campus.  The only way the law could apply is if Spanier and/or supervisors at Hort failed to protect against an abusive employee.

None of the crimes in the Sandusky matter involved children at the day care center.

A Legal Scandal

Considering yesterday's decision and all of the other facts, the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State case is a legal scandal of epic proportions.

In November 2011, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former VP of Finance and Business, Gary Schultz, were implicated in the Sandusky case through a misapplication of the failure to report statute (FTR) that not only didn't apply to PSU officials but was outside of the statute of limitations.

Regardless, the  OAG's  FTR charge formed the basis for the media to use the court of public opinion to convict former legendary coach Joe Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier of turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children.

The FTR charge was later dismissed.

Schultz and Curley were also charged with perjury and their reputations were dragged through the mud for allegedly lying about what they were told by former PSU football coach Mike McQueary.

The perjury charges were later dismissed.

Also in November 2011, the PSU Board of Trustees hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh for the purpose of justifying the BOT's decision to remove Spanier and Paterno.   He came through magnificently by gratuitously piling on the OAG's dubious allegations when he delivered his report of investigation to a national television audience.

PA OAG officials, who perhaps illegally engaged with Freeh's team, added charges of endangerment, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy against Curley and Schultz in November 2012.  It also charged Spanier with those charges, plus perjury and FTR.

The majority of those charges were later dismissed.

The lone remaining charge of endangerment (to which Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty) has now been established as unconstitutional and, therefore, wrongfully charged.

The stories in the media yesterday and today simply address the fact that Spanier's lone conviction was overturned, but are missing the bigger picture.

An entire University community and the reputations of four men were dragged through the mud based on the misapplication of the law by Pennsylvania's top law enforcement officials.

Inquiring minds want to know how (and why) this travesty of justice happened.


  1. As always, Ray, well done. Thanks for always keeping us updated.

  2. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this will make the national news. Incredibly, just last night, I was in a bar hearing disparaging remarks made about Joe Paterno. The damage has been done and a national mea culpa will never be heard.

    1. Many media outlets are simply reporting the Associated Press coverage and, obviously, this is not being reported in the headlines or as a lead story on any news broadcast outside of PA.

      The national media has many mea culpas around this case -- especially CNN. They won't make a peep.

    2. CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN, USA Today, FoxNews, NY Times and many others have carried the story.

      CNN does appear biased because they put focus on Shapiro's appeal. Sara Ganim was not an author on CNN's piece.

      "Pennsylvania AG will appeal ex-Penn State president's overturned conviction in Sandusky case"

    3. Tim,
      I think we are in agreement here.

      ESPN, USA Today, et al, were running the AP story -- not doing their own reporting and certainly not reporting this in the head lines.

      As usual, the CNN column is not accurate, referring to a FEDERAL Magistrate simply as a district judge. Of course, CNN also doesn't mention that Spanier's Constitutional Rights were violated.

      Throughout this scandal, the legal experts have been 100% wrong. Not a single expert ever mentioned the statutes of limitations issue with the FTR charge nor the ex post facto applications of laws in the case. IIRC, the FTR case was brought on a law enacted in 2006.

  3. It's sad that the PA state judges and PA Attorney General had to be schooled on the US Constitution by a federal judge.

    I don't see that Shapiro has any grounds for appeal given that the Constitution is perfectly clear that states cannot apply laws retroactively.

    If Shapiro tries Spanier under the 1995 law, it would be prosecutor misconduct because what Spanier was accused of was not a crime in PA in 2001.

    1. Tim,
      Thanks for your comment.

      I agree with your points.

      I think that Shapiro's statement today was entirely political and for the purpose of feeding the news cycle.

      I sincerely doubt that he will follow through on the appeal.