HARRISBURG — On Halloween night last year, rumors started flying that new charges were being handed down from the grand jury that had been investigating the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case.
Sure enough, during a news conference in Harrisburg the next day, then-Attorney General Linda Kelly delivered a bombshell in describing a “conspiracy of silence” in accusing three Penn State administrators of hiding abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago.
Facing charges for the first time in the Sandusky scandal was former university president Graham Spanier. He was accused of lying under oath, obstructing law authorities trying to investigate, endangering the welfare of children, conspiracy and failing to report abuse.
Former athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz, already indicted and awaiting trial on perjury and failure to report abuse charges, were hit with additional charges of obstruction, child endangerment and conspiracy.
The three men turned themselves soon after for a brief arraignment in suburban Harrisburg, and they were released on unsecured bail awaiting their first formal court appearance, a preliminary hearing. The defense attorneys filed a flurry of motions, such as barring a key prosecution witness from testifying or throwing out the charges, to the various hierarchies of the state court system, and as a result, stalled the start of the preliminary hearing for months.
Now, after almost nine full months since the charges were brought, Spanier, Curley and Schultz will have their first chance to defend themselves against the evidence that prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office outlined in a 59-page presentment. For the public, the hearing may or may not reveal new information to help fill in the holes about what is already known about the response to the Sandusky scandal, which led to the dismissal of beloved football coach Joe Paterno.
The preliminary hearing starts at 9 a.m. today in courtroom No. 1 in the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg with District Judge William Wenner presiding. The hearing could spill over into Tuesday, and court officials have cleared the courtroom’s schedule for Thursday if a third day is needed.
The charges are based on emails that were discovered during the investigation and testimony from Penn State officials such as former university police chief Thomas Harmon and former general counsel Cynthia Baldwin.
Spanier’s lawyers asked a Dauphin County-level judge to get a look at the prosecution’s evidence before the preliminary hearing, but the judge denied the request.
The lawyers also moved for a dismissal of the charges, saying they are based on Baldwin’s unlawful testimony and some of the statute of limitations have expired.