HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Pennsylvania judge has named a special prosecutor to examine whether secrecy rules were violated in relation to the grand jury that investigated Jerry Sandusky and three former Penn State administrators who are currently facing criminal charges.
Lawyer James M. Reeder was given six months to look into the matter, according to a Feb. 8 order from Judge Barry Feudale first reported on Wednesday by The Associated Press.
The order relates to the 33rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, which issued reports in 2011 and 2012 that led to molestation charges against Sandusky and perjury charges against former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz.
Pennsylvania investigative grand juries often work on more than one matter, and it was unclear from the document whether the possible secrecy violations were related the Penn State cases or other cases before the panel. The order also applies to a Dauphin County grand jury investigation that in January 2008 reported on a casino license investigation.
But Feudale has recently been trying to sort out a legal dispute involving whether former Penn State lawyer Cynthia Baldwin should have been present at a grand jury proceeding, and his order made specific reference to a section of the state's criminal procedure rule titled "Who May Be Present During Session of an Investigating Grand Jury."
That section reads:
"All persons who are to be present while the grand jury is in session shall be identified in the record, shall be sworn to secrecy as provided in these rules, and shall not disclose any information pertaining to the grand jury except as provided by law."
Feudale also charged Reeder with looking into potential violations of another section, titled "Disclosure of Testimony Before Investigating Grand Jury." He also asked that the inquiry examine a law that criminalizes disclosure of grand jury proceedings by anyone but witnesses and another law that makes it a crime to obstruct the administration of law or other governmental functions.
In relation to the obstruction law, Feudale highlighted a portion that said it applied to "breach of official duty or other unlawful act."
Feudale said Reeder has the power to request immunity orders from state or county prosecutor's offices, can use a current grand jury to investigate, can employ an investigator and a support staffer if needed.
Reeder, the judge wrote, "shall have day-to-day independence and will be free to structure the investigation as he wishes and to exercise independent prosecutorial discretion whether, which and when any potential witness should be brought before the grand jury and/or whether, which and when any charges should be brought, including contempt of court."
Reeder will be paid $72 an hour, while his investigator or support staffer will earn $20 an hour. His report with any recommendations about possible changes to law, rules or practice will be sent to the state Supreme Court, Gov. Tom Corbett, Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the grand jury and Feudale himself. Portions may have to be blacked out, Feudale said.
Reeder is a former employee of the attorney general's office who played a role in the Sandusky prosecution. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined comment about the court order.
Lawyers for Spanier, Curley and Schultz have maintained their clients' right to legal counsel was violated by Baldwin's actions when the men testified before the grand jury in early 2011. Their request to have her barred from testifying at their preliminary hearing on charges filed in November is currently before Feudale.
The three are accused of what former Attorney General Linda Kelly said was a conspiracy to conceal reports that Sandusky was behaving inappropriately with boys.
Schultz attorney Tom Farrell noted that Feudale's order fell short of saying what precisely would be investigated.
"Our position is that Cynthia Baldwin was entitled to be there because she was our client's attorney," Farrell said. "However, if she were there in the grand jury room and was not there as personal counsel for a witness, then her presence violated the grand jury rules."
He said that could be a basis for dismissal of charges.
Lawyers for Curley and Spanier offered no immediate comment.
Sandusky, the school's former assistant football coach, was convicted last year of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving a decades-long state prison sentence. He maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals.
Baldwin is a former state Supreme Court justice and former Penn State trustee. Her lawyer, Charles De Monaco, has said she "at all times fulfilled her obligations to the university and its agents."
Schultz, Curley and Spanier face charges of perjury, obstruction, conspiracy, endangering the welfare of children and failure to properly report suspected abuse. They all dispute the allegations.