Two former Penn State officials, ex-athletic director Tim Curley and ex-vice president Gary Schultz, pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor child endangerment in connection with the Jerry Sandusky case. They could get up to five years in prison in a deal with prosecutors, who dropped three felony charges of child endangerment and conspiracy.
It is unclear if Curley, 62, and Schultz, 67, have agreed to testify against Graham Spanier, the former Penn State president who has also been charged with helping to cover up the ongoing abuse of boys by Sandusky, a longtime assistant to legendary head football coach Joe Paterno. Jury selection in the 68-year-old Spanier’s trial is set for next week.
At issue are two occasions, in 1998 and 2001, in which the Penn State administrators were allegedly informed that Sandusky had molested a boy and failed to notify proper authorities. Monday’s guilty pleas were specifically tied to the 2001 incident, when Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant and former Nittany Lions quarterback, told Paterno that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower. Paterno then relayed that information to Curley, who, according to prosecutors, failed to contact police or child-welfare authorities and made no effort to locate or identify the boy, as did Schultz and Spanier.
The officials’ inaction allowed further crimes by Sandusky, then retired but still closely tied to the football program and in the habit of bringing onto campus boys involved with his charitable foundation. Sandusky was arrested in 2011 and convicted in 2012 of 45 counts related to the abuse of 10 boys, receiving a sentence of 30 to 60 years.
Paterno was fired during the 2011 season, as was Spanier, and he died a few months later of lung cancer. Many at the school and among its alumni, including several former football players, have been vocal in claiming that the former coach did nothing wrong and that his legacy has been unfairly tarnished.
After the 2001 incident, Sandusky was told not to bring boys onto Penn State’s campus, but prosecutors said that the three officials did nothing to enforce the ban. In addition, Curley, Schultz and Spanier have been portrayed in court as understanding the gravity of McQueary’s allegations but choosing to keep Sandusky’s punishment in-house. From a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A series of 2001 emails — now key to the government’s case — show that the men at least considered the situation serious enough to warrant contacting police. They ultimately rejected the idea, opting instead to bar Sandusky from bringing children on campus, to urge the former coach to submit to counseling and to inform his children’s charity, the Second Mile, of the allegations.
“The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon,” Mr. Spanier wrote, signing off on the decision. “We then become vulnerable for not having reported it.”
All three men had been informed in 1998 about another investigation led by Penn State’s campus police into a report that Sandusky had showered with and potentially abused a different boy. That case never led to charges, but Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz corresponded frequently with then-police Chief Thomas Harmon about the progress of his investigation. Mr. Spanier was copied on at least two of those exchanges.
Mr. Schultz kept his handwritten notes on the 1998 investigation in a locked file that investigators found years later. “Other children? Is this opening of Pandora’s box?” he had written.
A few years after the 2001 incident, Sandusky began a sexual relationship with another boy culled from his charity. The boy eventually told his mother about it, and she informed his high school, which led to a grand jury investigation. Now 73, Sandusky is still appealing his conviction.