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Ex-Penn State officials accused of 'conspiracy of silence'

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 1, 2012 -- Updated 2201 GMT (0601 HKT)
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier faces charges for the first time in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier faces charges for the first time in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ex-Penn State president, two others face charges related to Jerry Sandusky scandal
  • Attorney general accuses three of turning "a blind eye to serial predatory acts"
  • Spanier's attorney: There's "no factual basis" to charges, says politics is at play
  • Charges come on same day Sandusky is moved to prison where he'll serve sentence

(CNN) -- Three former Penn State University officials -- including ex-President Graham Spanier -- have been charged with conspiring to cover up years of sexual abuse against children by former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Spanier, along with former Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz, each face the same eight counts related to the Sandusky scandal, including perjury, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly announced Thursday.

Curley and Schultz are scheduled for a preliminary arraignment at Magisterial District Judge William C. Wenner's office at 2 p.m. on Friday, and Spanier's preliminary arraignment is slated for next Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the same judge's office, according to a Pennsylvania courts spokesman Jim Koval. Each of the three men is expected to attend his arraignment, said Koval.

This is the first time Spanier has been charged in the wake of the scandal, which started unfolding publicly a year ago. Curley and Schultz previously had been charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse.

The three men "essentially turned a blind eye to serial predatory acts" by Sandusky, Kelly told a news conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Jerry Sandusky proclaims his innocence in jailhouse audio recording

"This was not a mistake by these men. It was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part. This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard for the children who were Sandusky's victims in this case," she said.

Spanier's attorneys said "there is no factual basis to support these charges" and accused Kelly of acting as a pawn for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who they said "has made no secret of his personal hostility toward Dr. Spanier."

"These charges are the work of a vindictive and politically motivated governor working through an unelected attorney general, Linda Kelly, whom he appointed to do his bidding and who will be a lame duck five days from now," according to a statement from the attorneys.

They also accused Kelly and her staff of "steadfastly" refusing to meet with Spanier or his legal representatives "despite repeated attempts to do so."

Gov. Corbett's spokesman Kevin Harley responded, "Graham Spanier's statement is the ranting of a man who has just been indicted for covering up for a convicted pedophile. His arrogance reveals a man who has just found out that he is not above the law after all."

As a result of the charges, Penn State said Spanier -- who was removed as president in November 2011 -- will be placed on immediate leave. He had continued to serve as a tenured professor, although he was on a sabbatical.

Attorneys blast Freeh report as Spanier speaks out

Penn State said it recently informed Curley that his fixed-term contract will not be renewed when it expires in June. Schultz had retired after he was initially charged last year.

The university refused to comment on the charges "out of respect for the legal process."

Curley's attorney Caroline Roberto said prosecutors didn't give her team any advance notice of the new charges.

"To be clear, Tim Curley is innocent of all charges," Roberto said in a statement. "We are carefully reviewing the presentment and will reserve a more comprehensive comment for a later time."

Roberto filed a pre-trial motion Wednesday, asking to dismiss or suppress Curley's grand jury testimony. The motion alleges a conflict of interest because the woman Curley believed was representing him at the time, was actually representing Penn State University.

CNN has reached out to Schultz's attorney Thomas Farrell, who previously said Schultz is innocent of the initial charges and he would fight to clear Schultz's name.

Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse, ranging from corruption of minors to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, which were laid out in graphic testimony by his accusers over the course of the less-than-two-week trial. Last month, he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, meaning he'll likely die behind bars.

Speaking Thursday, Kelly cited as evidence a series of e-mails among Spanier, Schultz, and Curley from February 2001, referring, somewhat in code, to the infamous incident in which assistant coach Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a university shower room.

CNN first reported in June about the allegedly incriminating e-mails.

Ousted Penn State president says he was abused as a child

In July, in a 267-page report commissioned by the university, former FBI Director Louis Freeh blamed the three men and legendary former head football coach Joe Paterno for having "never demonstrated ... any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest," while the board of trustees failed to perform its oversight duties.

Paterno died on January 22.

"I'm not going to speculate or comment on Mr. Paterno's relationship to this investigation," Kelly said Thursday. "He's deceased, and that's the end of it."

In an August interview published in the New Yorker magazine, Spanier ripped the Freeh report.

"It's unfair, it's deeply flawed, it has many errors and omissions," the former university president told Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and CNN senior legal analyst. "They interviewed, they say, over 430 people; many of those folks have spoken to me about their interviews. Many of them describe those interviews to me as a witch hunt."

Curley and Schultz are scheduled for a January trial on the initial two charges. Kelly said she thinks now that Spanier has been charged, the three men should face a joint trial, because of the intertwined nature of the charges.

In July, the National Collegiate Athletic Association vacated Penn State's football wins dating back to 1998, the year when allegations that Sandusky was abusing children were first made. That penalty removed Paterno from the top of the list of Division I college football's winningest coaches.

Sandusky, Paterno's top defensive assistant for more than two decades, has been placed in protective custody at the State Correctional Institution at Greene in Waynesburg, where he'll serve out his sentence for sexually abusing boys.

Penn State review recasts story of football hero Paterno

"Given the high-profile nature of this individual, coupled with the nature of his crimes, this makes him very vulnerable in a prison setting," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.

He was transferred to the state prison Wednesday from the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, where he was physically and mentally evaluated.

In the 1,800-inmate prison in Waynesburg, the former coach is being held in a single cell and has additional supervision and an escort when he's out of his cell for the three showers and five hours of exercise he is allotted weekly.

All meals and any counseling or medical visits will take place in Sandusky's cell, according to a statement from the state's Department of Corrections.

All visits will be "noncontact," the statement said. Sandusky will be allowed to have a television, radio and other personal property as authorized by prison officials.

Jurors determined that Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, used his access to university facilities and his foundation for underprivileged youths to abuse the boys sexually. During the trial, a 23-year-old man identified as Victim No. 4 testified that he was 13 when Sandusky sexually abused him in a university shower.

Sandusky is appealing his conviction.

CNN's Deborah Doft, Ross Levitt, Sara Ganim and Mark Morgenstein contributed to this report

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