It was the case that ruined a reputation and nearly destroyed one of the top college football programs in the nation. And it’s still in court, which means negative headlines popping up for Penn State time and again.
Jerry Sandusky, the longtime coach, convicted of molesting young boys has been in prison since 2012. He will be there the rest of his life. Since the verdict and sentence, Joe Paterno has died, and Penn State has worked to rebuild its reputation and its program.
But now another former Penn State employee is in court facing charges related to the sex abuse scandal. Former University President Graham Spanier has been charged with acting illegally in “handling” reports of sexual abuse by Sandusky. Spanier’s attorneys claim there is “no evidence at all” their client acted inappropriately in dealing with reports that Sandusky was seen showering in an athletic facility on campus with a young boy.
“They made judgment calls… They did not engage in crimes. They did not enter in a conspiracy…” one attorney said.
But the Pennsylvania Attorney General has another perspective, arguing that Spanier and other Penn State officials chose to protect the school and their own reputations at the expense of young boys. If that’s the case, Spanier has already paid one price for his actions … or inactions. He was forced out of his position just as the Sandusky trial was getting under way.
Some of the evidence in the case is troubling, especially an email exchange between the three men who decided to restrict Sandusky rather than reporting the alleged criminal activity. Given the plain language of the communication, it might be tough for Spanier to argue he did all he could have. Of course, he doesn’t have to argue that in order to get clear of the criminal charges. Repairing his reputation, though, is a different animal.
Regardless of what comes of the criminal investigation, Spanier and other decision makers will have to deal with quotes such as these from the prosecution, which have been duly reported in the press: “All they cared about was their own self-interest… they let Sandusky run wild…” and, the prosecution said, they did so with full knowledge of repeated complaints against Sandusky.
These allegations, even if they aren’t proven in a way that stands up in court, will follow Spanier until he is able to create a new narrative based on his brand. The longer the trial continues, and the more graphic the quotes are, the harder this will be for the accused to overcome … and many will still say that’s the least they have coming to them.