Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Curley And Schultz Score Points For Defense Before Prosecutors Rest Lame Case Against Former Penn State President Spanier
With their recent plea bargains in hand, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz showed up at the Penn State sex abuse trial today to testify against their old boss, former PSU President Graham Spanier. And by day's end, they seemed to have scored more points for the defense then they did for the prosecution.
Curley, the former Penn State athletic director who is battling lung cancer, seemed extremely uncomfortable with his role as a cooperating witness for the prosecution in front of a courtroom packed with many Penn State loyalists, including football icon Franco Harris. On the witness stand, Curley professed an amazing lack of memory about most of the key events in the official Penn State sex abuse story line.
"I can't recall the specifics," Curley said about a meeting he had with former football Coach Joe Paterno to discuss what Mike McQueary heard and saw in his infamous 2001 visit to the Penn State locker room. "I have no recollection of that particular encounter," Curley said about a Sunday morning powwow he and Schultz had at Paterno's house to discuss what McQueary had witnessed in the showers. "I don't recall what his [Paterno's] response was."
About a meeting he and Schultz had with Spanier, Curley said, "We gave Graham a head's up." But he added, "I don't recall what the conversation was."
About another meeting Curley and Schultz had in President Spanier's office, Curley said, "I don't recall any of the conversation."
Well, asked the prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte, wasn't the meeting about what Mike McQueary said he heard and saw in the showers?
"I don't remember the specifics," Curley said.
Did McQueary say what he saw Jerry Sandusky doing with that boy in the showers was "sexual in nature," Schulte asked.
"No," Curley said.
Did McQueary say what he witnessed in the shower was horseplay, the prosecutor asked.
"I don't recall Mike saying that," Curley said. "I just walked through what Joe [Paterno] told us" about what McQueary told him about his trip to the locker room.
Well, the frustrated prosecutor asked, did you ever do anything to find out the identity of the boy in the shower with Jerry?
"I did not," Curley said. "I didn't feel like someone who is in danger," he said about the alleged victim.
But when the subject returned again to Curley's talks with Paterno, Curley responded, "I don't recall the specific conversation I had with Joe."
Curley downplayed the problems with Sandusky.
"I thought Jerry had a boundary issue," Curley said about Sandusky's habit of showering with young boys.
And what happened when Curley talked with Sandusky about that boundary issue, the prosecutor asked. Did Sandusky admit guilt?
"No, he didn't," Curley said.
Well, what did he say?
"I don't recall the specifics of the conversation," Curley replied.
The prosecutor reviewed for the jury's benefit Curley's guilty plea on one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child. In the guilty plea, Curley admitted that he "prevented or interfered with" the reporting of a case of suspected sex abuse, namely the boy that Mike McQueary saw in the showers with Sandusky.
"You know other kids got hurt" after the McQueary incident, the prosecutor asked Curley.
"That's what I understand," Curley said.
On cross-examination, Spanier's lawyer, Samuel W. Silver, asked Curley about his guilty plea. The defense lawyer specifically wanted to know who was it that Curley prevented or interfered with to keep that person from reporting a suspected case of child sex abuse.
Faced with the chance to finger Spanier, Curley blamed only himself.
"I pleaded guilty because I thought I should have done more," Curley told Silver. "At the end of the day, I felt I should have done more."
Silver, seemingly delighted with that answer, ended his cross-examination after only a couple of minutes.
"I appreciate your candor," Silver told the witness. The prosecutors, however, appeared to have a different opinion of Curley's performance while they glared at him.
The day in Dauphin County Court began with the prosecution calling a couple of witnesses who worked as assistants to Gary Schultz, and used to do his filing.
Joan Cobel recalled how Schultz told her about a manilla folder he was starting with Jerry Sandusky's name on it.
"Don't look at it," Cobel recalled Schultz advising her about the Sandusky file, which was kept under lock and key.
"He never used that tone of voice before," Cobel conspiratorially told the prosecutor.
Lisa Powers, a former spokesperson for PSU and a speechwriter for Spanier, told the jury how she "kept feeling that something wasn't right" about the Sandusky rumors that reporters were asking her about. She recalled that when she asked another Penn State official about what was really going on with Sandusky, she was told, "The less you know the better."
The implication was that a big sex scandal was brewing at Penn State. Whether the jury buys all this hokum is another matter.
The prosecution, which rested its case today after only two days of testimony, seemed to be playing up the drama in the absence of hard factual evidence against Spanier.
Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka, Iron Mike's niece, got Powers to tell the jury how Spanier insisted on posting statements from lawyers defending both Curley and Schultz on the university's website after the sex scandal broke.
Then Ditka got Powers to admit that while the university was posting those defenses of Curley and Schultz, it didn't run a statement expressing sympathy for Sandusky's alleged victims.
Ditka also managed to give a speech, in the form of a question, asking Powers if Spanier told her "they did nothing to locate that child that was in that shower with Jerry Sandusky."
To hammer home the plight of the alleged victims in the scandal, the prosecution put "John Doe" on the stand, a 28-year-old known previously at the Sandusky trial as "Victim No. 5."
Judge John Boccabella seemed to cooperate with the theatrics. John Doe was sworn in as a witness in the judge's chambers. And when he came out to testify, the judge had extra deputies posted around the courtroom, to make sure that no spectator used their cellphone to take photos or video of the celebrity witness.
Conditions during the short Spanier trial have bordered on the draconian. The judge typically wants spectators seated in his courtroom by 8:30 a.m. Anybody who shows up late can't get in. Anybody who leaves the courtroom can't come back. Nobody can talk. And anybody caught using a cell phone not only in the courtroom, but anywhere on the fifth floor of the courthouse, faces a contempt of court rap that carries a penalty of six months in jail.
John Doe told the jury how he had begun attending Second Mile activities when he was 9 or 10, at the suggestion of a teacher, who thought it would improve his English.
The prosecution introduced photos of the boy.
"That was taken in Jerry and Dottie's house," John Doe told the jury about one shot of him posing with Jerry.
The whole point of John Doe's trip to the witness stand was to tell the jury that John Doe was sexually abused in the Penn State showers later in the same year that McQueary made his famous visit there.
The prosecution's final witness was Gary Schultz. He dutifully told the jury about how he had just pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child, because he prevented or interfered with the reporting of a possible sex crime against a minor.
Once again, Schultz was referring to the boy Mike McQueary saw in the showers with Jerry Sandusky.
Schultz, the university's former vice president for finance and business, had a better memory than Curley. He recalled how he gave Spanier three updates about the 1998 accusation against Sandusky, made by the mother of an 11-year-old, who had objected to Sandusky giving her son a bear hug in the shower.
When McQueary came forward in 2001 to make his accusations, Schultz said his mind immediately flashed back to 1998. And he "wanted Jerry to get professional help."
Schultz outlined the original plan for coping with the McQueary allegations about the shower incident with Sandusky. The PSU administrators, Curley, Schultz and Spanier, wanted to confront Sandusky, and tell him he wasn't allowed to bring children into Penn State facilities any more. They also wanted to revoke his key to all of Penn State's athletic facilities.
The PSU administrators planed to inform the president of Sandusky's charity, the Second Mile, about what had happened in the showers. And then they were going to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare.
But Curley had second thoughts, thinking it was more "humane" to confront Sandusky first, and then inform the Second Mile, and finally, DPW.
Schultz told the jury how he reluctantly went along with Curley's change of heart. The PSU administrators did confront Sandusky. And they did inform a child psychologist who was the head of the Second Mile charity. But the PSU administrators never reported the shower incident to DPW.
"We should have reported it," Schultz told the jury. "We should have followed the original plan."
The prosecutor asked if PSU had made that report to DPW, would it have spared future victims?
"Who knows," Schultz said. "But it would have been the right thing to do."
On cross-examination, Silver, Spanier's lawyer, pointed out that today on the witness stand, Schultz had described McQueary's description of the shower incident as Sandusky standing behind the boy, with his arms around him.
"That's the first time we've heard that version," Silver said, pointing out to the jury that only after he became a coopering witness did Schultz start singing the prosecution's tune.
As he did with Curley, Silver asked Schultz who he had prevented from filing a report of possible child sexual abuse.
As Curley had done, Schultz blamed himself.
"I had been deficient in not reporting it myself," Schultz said. "I really thought we should report it to DPW."
After the prosecution rested, Spanier's supporters looked happy as they filed out of the courtroom.
"The case wasn't strong," Franco Harris said. He wondered why the prosecution had brought it in the first place.
Tomorrow, when the court reconvenes at 8:30 a.m., the defense plans to call up to four witnesses, which may or may not include Graham Spanier. The expectation is that the jury will have the case by the end of the day.