UNIONTOWN, Pa. – Penn State University has reached tentative settlements with several men who claim to have been sexually abused by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, the school's Board of Trustees announced Friday.
The school won't be commenting on specifics until the deals have been made final, which could happen in the coming weeks. University president Rodney Erickson called approving the settlement offers "another important step toward the resolution of claims from Sandusky's victims."
"As we have previously said, the university intends to deal with these individuals in a fair and expeditious manner, with due regard to their privacy," Erickson said in a statement issued after the settlement resolution was approved.
Sandusky, 69, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including violent attacks on boys inside school facilities, after a three-week trial last summer in which eight victims testified against him. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term and maintains he was wrongfully convicted. He is pursuing appeals.
The school said it won't comment until settlements have been finalized, executed and delivered. More than 30 claimants have come forward with sexual abuse allegations involving the longtime assistant to late coach Joe Paterno.
The deals will be limited to a range of dollar values and subject to final approval by a committee empowered by the board to handle the claims.
Legal experts say the "value" of a child sexual abuse claims depends on several factors, including the victim's age and the nature and frequency of the abuse. Many details about the Sandusky abuse claims have not been made public, but other cases suggest Penn State may have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to several million, to get settlements.
Ira Lubert, the trustee who chairs the board's Committee on Legal and Compliance, told the board that "tentative settlements have been reached on a number of existing claims" without detailing how many have settled, how many remain and how much money — individually or in the aggregate — might be involved.
Lubert said his committee was empowered to authorize the settlements itself, but though it was important that the trustees approved the move in a public meeting. The trustees voted unanimously to make the settlement offers with no discussion after a brief explanation by Lubert.
The committee was briefed in detail on the proposed settlements during a June 25 executive session and another such meeting Friday morning, before the trustees met publicly at Penn State-Fayette, a satellite campus near Uniontown, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh.
Harrisburg attorney Chuck Schmidt said his client was one who expects to finish a deal based on terms provided by the university over the past week. He said only confidentiality provisions remain to be ironed out.
"We have an offer, and we have, basically, an agreement with the client to accept the offer," Schmidt said.
Schmidt's client, who filed a lawsuit that has been on hold, did not testify against Sandusky.
The firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP has been hired to help the university reach the settlements. The firm has helped broker mass litigation settlements stemming from incidents as varied as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Virginia Tech shooting massacre.
The university's general counsel, Stephen Dunham, declined to comment on the ongoing settlement process.
Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pa.