At the Graham Spanier trial last month, Mike McQueary, the alleged whistleblower in the Penn State sex abuse case, made a surprising disclosure from the witness stand that backfired on the prosecutors who called him to testify.
On March 21st, Deputy Attorney General Laura Ditka asked McQueary when he first heard that Jerry Sandusky was going to get arrested. Sandusky is the retired coach that McQueary allegedly saw naked in the Penn State showers with a boy.
It was during a bye week in the 2011 football season, McQueary told Ditka.
"I was on my way to Boston for recruiting and I was going from the F terminal over to the B terminals over in Philadelphia Airport," McQueary said. "And there was one of those little trams. The AGs called," he said, specifically naming Assistant Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach. And, according to McQueary, Eshbach "said we're going to arrest folks and we are going to leak it out."
Then, McQueary, perhaps catching himself, said, "Let me back up a little bit. We heard rumors that I had heard that -- the week before that arrests were imminent and that it was going to be more than Jerry Sandusky."
The state Attorney General's office has a known problem with leaks. Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane lost her job after she was convicted last August of nine criminal charges, including leaking "confidential investigative information" in 2014 from a past grand jury probe to Chris Brennan, then a Philadelphia Daily News reporter.
Kane had to resign from her job and was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail after she was convicted of perjury, conspiracy, leaking grand jury information and then lying about it, to cover it up.
In the Jerry Sandusky case, prosecutors testified at a post-trial hearing last August that they had no knowledge of how the media found out that Sandusky and others in the Penn State scandal were about to be arrested. And how the media knew that there was a grand jury investigation of Sandusky in progress.
"If we can establish there were leaks by government agents, it could result in dismissal of case," Al Lindsay, Sandusky's lawyer, told reporters after the appeals hearing last August.
When reached for comment late today, Lindsay was on the case.
"We received a portion of that transcript from Mike McQueary," Lindsay said. "And it's certainly something we're studying to see whether or not it might be a fertile field for us to develop with regard to Mr. Sandusky's motion for a new trial," Lindsay said on behalf of client, now serving 30 to 60 years in prison.
A spokesperson for the state Attorney General's press office, where they're known for hiding under their desks, did not respond to a request for comment.
On the witness stand at the Spanier trial last month, McQueary testified that immediately after the AG's office told him they were going to leak news of the impending arrests, he ran over to the office of Assistant Athletic Director Fran Ganter.
"I remember it clearly," McQueary testified. "And I said, you gotta call Timmy's. Those guys are in trouble."
"Tim Curley," Ditka asked, referring to the former athletic director at Penn State.
"Yeah," McQueary testified. "And, you know, he kind of passed it off or shrugged me off," McQueary said about Ganter. "I'm not sure they believed me. And that's all that happened with that."
"So, a week later, I'm in that airport and I get a call," McQueary testified. "And then the media starts gettin' ahold of everything, and it's all kind of downhill after that."
When McQueary testified about the AG planning to "leak it out," I was in the courtroom but did not grasp the significance of what McQueary said. I had to have others explain it to me. And then it took a while to get the court transcript via a money order sent out snail mail to the Dauphin County Courthouse, to verify what McQueary had to say.
But Penn State veterans got it right away. Like Maribeth Roman Schmidt, the head of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
"Mike's assertion under oath that the AGs leaked information about the PSU admins' arrests confirms suspicions we've had all along about prosecutorial misconduct on a number of levels," she said.
"It's now exceedingly obvious that the Attorney General was trying to manipulate public perception of the Penn State case from the very beginning, and they were willing to commit a crime to do it."
"This bombshell places the integrity of the entire Penn State case squarely at the feet of [newly elected AG] Josh Shapiro," Schmidt said about the new Attorney General who's yet to come out of hiding.
"If he's serious about restoring confidence in the AG's office," Schmidt said, "There is no other place for him to start than reviewing the conduct of prosecutors in this case from top to bottom."
Ray Blehar, who writes a blog, notpsu.blogspot.com, first reported the McQueary admission on March 25th, after he was tipped by Schmidt, who called it the "shocker of the day."
"McQueary Becomes Real Whistleblower," was Blehar's headline. In his blog post, Blehar quoted a transcript from McQueary's whistleblower and libel suit against Penn State, where McQueary scored a total of $12 million.
In the transcript from the McQueary trial, McQueary recounts how he was traveling to Boston, from Philadelphia Airport terminal B. It was Friday Nov. 4th after the Illinois game. McQueary testified how he got a phone call from then Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach.
"And she said a screw up had occurred or some kind of leak or a computer system malfunction, and she said all of the charges are going to be released," McQueary testified.
"For years, Penn Staters have complained about the lack of an investigation into the leaks related to Jerry Sandusky," Blehar wrote. "Now, AG Josh Shapiro has the name of at least one of the Sandusky leakers. And it came from the Commonwealth's star witness in the Sandusky and Spanier cases."
Blehar called for Eshbach to be prosecuted "just as vigorously as former AG Kathleen Kane."
Eschbach, now running for York County District Attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.
For reporter John Ziegler, another regular chronicler of the Penn State scandal, the McQueary admission at the Spanier trial shines some light on a bigger picture.
"Anyone who uses his brain can only interpret this statement as an accidental admission that, just as I have long assumed, the AG's office prematurely leaked the grand jury presentment so that their favorite reporter, Sara Ganim, could 'find' it and start to set their false narrative," Ziegler said.
"Once you realize this is true, you must then also conclude that the entire basis of Ganim's article from March of that year revealing the existence of the grand jury was illegal AG leaks intended to jumpstart a case that was extremely weak because they had no credible accusers."
Related: Ziegler responds to those who want to get him fired.
Blehar: Is Frank Fina facing a perjury rap?