Judge throws out ex-Penn State president’s conviction in Sandusky case
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Wednesday he plans to appeal a district court judge’s decision to throw out the conviction of former Penn State President Graham Spanier as part of the Jerry Sandusky case.
Spanier had been convicted on one count of endangerment of the welfare of a child relating to the Sandusky sex abuse case, and he was set to begin serving a two-month prison sentence on Wednesday, according to CNN affiliate WNEP.
But on Tuesday, Judge Karoline Mehalchick vacated his conviction, according to court records, because it was based on a criminal statute that did not go into effect until after his conduct was alleged to have taken place.
The child endangerment statute was from 2007, while his conduct took place in 2001, according to court documents.
Shapiro said the federal judge’s last-minute decision was “highly unusual” and exceeded the court’s power.
“As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made crystal clear, Spanier’s conduct was illegal,” Shapiro said. “The Office of Attorney General will quickly appeal this ruling to hold him accountable for his conduct covering up child sexual abuse. No one is above the law.”
The state has 90 days to retry Spanier, according to court documents.
Spanier was president of Penn State University from 1995 to 2011, where he was one of the nation’s highest-paid university presidents.
He was fired in 2011, four days after Sandusky, the Penn State football team’s former defensive coordinator, was arrested for the sexual abuse of boys over at least 15 years.
Sandusky was found guilty for the abuse of 10 people in 2012.
Emails recovered in an internal investigation first reported in 2012 show that two of the cases were discussed by Spanier and two other administrators in February 2001.
In the emails, the three allegedly discussed plans to tell Sandusky to seek professional help. They also allegedly planned to inform him that his “guests” — children Sandusky brought on campus — would no longer be allowed to use Penn State facilities.
In a sentencing memo filed in Dauphin County court, prosecutors said Spanier has “shown a stunning lack of remorse of his victims” and called for him to be punished for “choosing to protect his personal reputation and that of the university instead of the welfare of children.”
“Spanier was the ultimate decision-maker when it came to reporting Sandusky,” prosecutors wrote.
Before Spanier’s sentencing, his attorney Sam Silver noted that more than 200 letters from college presidents, deans, professors, clergy members and others were submitted in support of Spanier. He said Spanier “devoted a substantial part of his career to the welfare of children, youth and families.”
Spanier was arrested in 2012, convicted in March 2017 and sentenced three months later.
CNN’s Janet DiGiacomo, Ray Sanchez and Julian Cummings contributed to this report.