HARRISBURG – The criminal case against three former Penn State administrators has been conducted under strict court secrecy for the past six months, with the judge sealing all filings – including a news organization’s effort to force them into the open.
Nearly three years after two of the defendants were first charged with covering up child sex abuse complaints about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, there is still no trial date for Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley.
Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover told the Associated Press in May he hoped to get the case “on track for later this summer.” But this week, his office referred questions to a court spokesman, who said he can’t comment on the timetable or on the sealed filings.
It’s been more than eight months since Hoover held an open court hearing about the legal dispute holding up the case. In that time, the judge has not indicated what he plans to do regarding the actions of Penn State’s then-chief counsel Cynthia Baldwin when the three men testified before a grand jury investigating the Sandusky matter in 2011.
The online court document indicates there have been at least 23 sealed filings – and no publicly available filings – since early spring, the most recent being separate documents filed by the attorney general’s office and Spanier’s lawyer Aug. 12. The attorney general’s office and lawyers for the defendants either declined to comment or didn’t return phone messages.
Ed Marsico, Dauphin County district attorney and communications chairman of the state prosecutors’ association, said the unusual grand jury issue may be contributing to the delay, but it’s not how most cases play out.
“I’m sure there are reasons, between the attorneys and the judge, that it’s taken this length of time, but it certainly is longer than the normal case,” Marsico said.
It’s also uncommon to have so many documents sealed, Marsico said.
Among the sealed filings is a request by PA Media Group – publisher of pennlive.com and The Patriot-News of Harrisburg – to unseal records.
Craig Staudenmaier, PA Media Group’s lawyer, said this week he couldn’t provide much information on the case, which attracted considerable public interest.
“The judge has issued an order basically sealing the documents that were filed until he has a chance to further review them,” Staudenmaier said. “In fact, my clients haven’t even seen some of the responses filed.”
The criminal case, and the Baldwin issue in particular, involves grand jury matters that are subject to secrecy under Pennsylvania court rules. Spanier, the former university president; Schultz, a retired vice president; and Curley, the former athletic director, argued that they believed Baldwin was representing them and that her actions violated their right to legal counsel.
Baldwin later testified about Spanier, which raises issues of attorney-client privilege. She indicated she represented Penn State but did not correct the records when the defendants said she was their lawyer. If she wasn’t their lawyer, grand jury rules would normally prohibit her from being in the room when they testified.
Curley, Schultz and Spanier face charges of perjury, obstruction, conspiracy, failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children.
Sandusky, a Washington native, who served as an assistant coach under Joe Paterno, was convicted two years ago of 45 counts of child sex abuse and is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence at SCI-Greene.