HARRISBURG, Pa. – Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was arraigned and released on bail at a brief court appearance Wednesday on charges he lied about and concealed child sex abuse allegations involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Spanier, accompanied by his wife, signed paperwork after his bail was set at $125,000, but he was not required to post any of that amount. He was ordered to forfeit his passport and be fingerprinted. He didn't enter a plea.
Afterward, defense attorney Elizabeth Ainslie told reporters her client is "not guilty, absolutely" and disputed prosecutors' claims Spanier conspired with university athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. She said Spanier, who testified before a grand jury in the matter, has not been given the opportunity to present his side of the story.
"This wasn't a conspiracy of silence," she said, echoing the charge made last week by state Attorney General Linda Kelly. "That is ridiculous."
Spanier, 64, was charged last week with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy for his actions in response to complaints about Sandusky showering with children. Spanier has claimed he is being framed for political purposes.
He served as Penn State's president for 16 years but was forced out a year ago after Sandusky was charged along with Curley and Schultz, who were two of Spanier's top underlings. Spanier is on paid leave as a member of the faculty.
Along with the charges against Spanier, prosecutors added counts against Curley and Schultz. They were arraigned Thursday. District judge William Wenner told Spanier and his lawyers the Nov. 16 preliminary hearing date would likely be delayed a month or two.
Curley, the athletic director on leave until the final year of his contract expires, and Schultz, now retired, await trial early next year on charges of failure to report suspected abuse and perjury. Like Spanier, they deny the allegations.
On Monday, state prosecutors filed paperwork telling the judge in the earlier Curley and Schultz case they did not object to their request to delay the planned Jan. 7 start of that trial. The attorney general's office said it would seek to combine those charges, the new charges, and Spanier's case.
The latest charges came almost exactly a year after details of the case against Sandusky sent a maelstrom through State College, toppling longtime head coach Joe Paterno and eventually leading to severe NCAA sanctions against the football team.
Sandusky, 68, vigorously contested the charges but was convicted in June of 45 counts of abuse of boys, including violent sexual attacks inside campus facilities. He was sentenced last month to 30 to 60 years in prison.
A grand jury report alleged Spanier testified falsely that he did not know of a 1998 complaint against Sandusky, made by a mother and investigated by university police.
It also claimed Spanier lied about a 2001 instance of abuse witnessed by a graduate assistant, when he testified that Curley and Schultz described it only as horseplay. Email traffic among the men, jurors wrote, "make clear they are discussing an event that involves the abuse of a child."
The grand jury report described how he addressed the growing scandal last year with the board of trustees, and how he put out statements supportive of Curley and Schultz after their arrest. The report said investigators were immediately able to get important records from the university after Spanier was replaced as president.
Spanier's lawyers put out a statement law week that accused Gov. Tom Corbett, who was attorney general when the investigation began, of orchestrating the charges to divert attention from questions about why it took three years to bring charges against Sandusky. They said there was no factual basis for the Spanier charges and said the grand jury report was "a politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man."
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Spanier's lawyers "are trying to divert attention from the fact that their client is charged with covering up for a convicted pedophile. The law applies to all equally, including men entrusted with the authority of university president."