HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Three former Penn State officials urged a state appeals court on Tuesday to dismiss charges they tried to hamper an investigation of the child molestation case against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and then lied about it to a grand jury.
Lawyers for former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former athletic director Timothy Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz told a three-judge Superior Court panel that the case hinged on the role of then-university lawyer Cynthia Baldwin.
They said it was fatally tainted because she provided them with inadequate legal representation when they appeared before a 2012 grand jury looking into how Penn State handled allegations against Sandusky.The three men were charged in 2012 with perjury, obstruction, child endangerment, criminal conspiracy and failure to report suspected child abuse for not reporting Sandusky’s assaults.
Sandusky, 71, is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years for molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, some in the campus football showers.
Spanier, 67, Curley, 61, and Schultz, 65, covered up Sandusky’s crimes in a “conspiracy of silence” to protect the image of the school, a powerhouse in the world of college football, prosecutors said.
The school’s late head football coach, Joe Paterno, who was fired after Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011, was also aware of the incident, prosecutors have said.
The three former school officials are accused of lying to a grand jury when they said they were unaware of a 1998 allegation that Sandusky had showered with a boy. Baldwin helped the men prepare for their grand jury testimony.
The issue on Tuesday was whether Baldwin was representing them as individuals or merely as employees of the university, her main client. If she was not representing them as individuals, they contend they were denied their right to counsel. If she was, they contend she violated attorney-client privilege by testifying against them before the 2012 grand jury.
Defense lawyers accused former Sandusky prosecutor Frank Fina on Tuesday of “egregious” misconduct, first by calling Baldwin as a grand jury witness without giving them an opportunity to object, and then violating an agreement with a judge not to question her about privileged information she heard from the three men.
Amy Zapp, a deputy attorney general, told the court that Baldwin had properly disclosed she was Penn State’s lawyer, not the individual lawyer for the three defendants.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney