A jury convicted the former president of Penn State University of child endangerment on Friday for his handling of a 2001 report that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was seen molesting a boy in a campus shower.
But jurors in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, acquitted Graham Spanier of a second count of child endangerment and of conspiracy.
The verdict ends the last criminal case in the Sandusky scandal, which shocked the Penn State community and ended the career of famous football coach Joe Paterno, who oversaw the school’s team for 45 years. Paterno, who died in 2012, was never charged.
The school eventually paid more than $90 million to settle civil claims filed by accusers.
Sandusky himself is serving 30-60 years after he was convicted in 2012 of molesting several boys over a period of years.
One of Sandusky’s victims testified anonymously at Spanier’s trial.
Spanier, 68, who served as president from 1995 until he was forced to resign in 2011, faces up to five years in prison but could receive a lesser penalty under the state’s sentencing guidelines. He showed no emotion when the verdict was announced.
Although born in South Africa to a Holocaust survivor father, Spanier grew up in Chicago after his parents fled the apartheid regime. His father beat all three of his children, according to what he told The New York Times in a feature-length profile in 2014. The beatings were serious enough that he needed to have multiple operations to correct the deformities caused by the beatings.
But the case was not related to any of Spanier’s actions, rather from a singular omission in an otherwise extraordinary career spent transforming the university from “a remote outpost” to a “top-tier public university.” The case arose from a 2001 complaint filed by a graduate student, Michael McQueary, who said he witnessed Sandusky having sex with a boy in a shower in the football building.
The jury found Spanier failed to prevent Sandusky from bringing more boys to campus through his charity, thereby endangering the welfare of future victims. Sandusky was able to continue abusing boys, prosecutors said.
Spanier’s lawyer, Samuel Silver, said he would appeal.
“We are disappointed that Mr. Spanier was convicted of one count, but happy he was found not guilty of two others,” Silver said.
Former athletic director Timothy Curley and former vice president Brad Schultz pleaded guilty a week before the trial.
Defense lawyers had argued that Curley and Schultz did not tell Spanier of the sexual nature of Sandusky’s actions but described it as “horseplay.”
The lead prosecutor, Laura Ditka, a niece of former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, told reporters she had kept the focus on the children.
“We’re three for three,” she said, referring to Spanier, Curley and Schultz.
The graduate student, McQueary, was awarded $12.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages last fall in a lawsuit that accused Penn State of retaliating against him for testifying to a grand jury about what he saw in the shower.
—Reuters (Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Joseph Ax and Grant McCool)