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Penn State says Sandusky settlements appear close

Sanduskysettlements.jpg

Dec. 13, 2011: In this file photo, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing boys, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa. (AP)

Penn State's negotiator for civil claims involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky said Friday the school has been in talks with 28 people and settlement discussions with some claimants could soon produce results.

The number of claimants is 18 more than were involved in Sandusky's criminal case this summer, when eight young men testified they were assaulted by Sandusky. Prosecutors were not able to identify two victims.

Ken Feinberg told The Associated Press that the talks have gone well and he is hopeful they will yield settlements in the coming weeks.

No one has pulled out of the negotiations, and he said a realistic timetable for settlements is "the near future. I think the process will be successful, yes I do."

Harrisburg attorney Ben Andreozzi, who represents multiple claimants in the talks, said there was "still some ground that needs to be made up."

"I wouldn't say I'm quite as optimistic as he is," Andreozzi said. "I do think it's been a positive process and both parties are acting in good faith so far. I would say I'm cautiously optimistic."

Feinberg said the 28 claims are being handled on an accelerated basis now that the holidays are over.

"This is not a group settlement," he said. "We're looking at each individual claim."

Based on other cases, some of the factors that can go into putting a value on a child sexual abuse claim are the age of the victim, the length of time the child was abused, the types of acts involved, where they took place and evidence it has affected them.

Sandusky's November 2011 arrest immediately touched off a massive scandal that cost Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno his job, as well as the university president. Former school President Graham Spanier and two other top administrators currently face charges they covered up allegations involving Sandusky to protect the university's reputation. They maintain their innocence.

Penn State announced in September it was bringing in Feinberg, who helped resolve claims from the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Virginia Tech massacre.

The university said after Sandusky's guilty verdict in June on 45 counts that it wanted to "privately, expeditiously and fairly" settle with victims of the former assistant football coach. In some cases, the victims have filed lawsuits.

Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence. Sandusky maintains he is innocent and is pursuing appeals. Most recently, he was in court for argument on post-sentencing motions, including a claim his lawyers lacked sufficient time to prepare for trial, and a ruling from the trial judge is pending.

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