HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania prosecutors want a judge to order former Penn State president Graham Spanier to begin serving a county jail sentence for endangering children by the way he responded to a complaint that Jerry Sandusky had attacked a boy on campus.
The attorney general’s office wrote in a Monday letter to Judge John Boccabella that no legal impediment prevents him from enforcing the minimum sentence of two months in jail, followed by two months of house arrest.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte told the judge he would support allowing Spanier work release with medical furloughs, and suggested the judge could order Spanier to report at some future date to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Spanier, 72, was convicted by a jury of misdemeanor child endangerment for his handling of a report that Sandusky, a former football team assistant coach, had attacked a boy in a team shower.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month overturned a federal magistrate judge’s decision to vacate Spanier’s conviction.
Sam Silver, Spanier’s defense attorney, on Friday asked Boccabella to revise the sentence to house arrest with electronic monitoring. Spanier had heart surgery in 2019 and suffers from an advanced stage of prostate cancer, Silver wrote.
Silver said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday that Spanier is a first-time, nonviolent offender and called it astonishing that prosecutors want to send him to jail at this time.
“It’s simply absurd and irresponsible right now,” Silver said.
Spanier was forced out as university president shortly after Sandusky was arrested in 2011 on child molestation charges. A year later, Spanier was himself accused of a criminal cover-up, although many of those counts were later thrown out. A jury acquitted him of what remained, except for the single count of child endangerment.
A graduate assistant told Spanier’s top aides he saw Sandusky abusing a boy late on a Friday night in a team shower. Spanier has said the abuse of the boy, who has not been conclusively identified by authorities, was characterized as horseplay.
When those aides proposed not reporting the matter to police, Spanier approved, writing in an email that “the only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.”
Spanier did not testify at his trial and told the judge at sentencing that he regretted not intervening more forcefully.
Sandusky has lost a string of appeals and is serving a lengthy state prison sentence.