Former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s criminal conviction means he is barred from pursuing defamation claims against former FBI director Louis Freeh, a judge ruled on Wednesday.
Spanier, who said Freeh made false statements about him in a scathing 2012 report on Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, was convicted in March of covering up a 2001 abuse allegation against the retired assistant football coach.
Citing Spanier’s conviction, Freeh’s lawyers argued the defamation suit should be dismissed. Senior Judge Robert Eby said in his ruling that lawyers for both sides agreed Spanier’s conviction on a child endangerment count barred him from pursuing his civil claims.
Freeh, in a statement issued by his lawyer, said he was “not surprised that this frivolous and malicious claim has finally been dismissed.”
Freeh concluded in his report for Penn State’s board of trustees that Spanier, two other administrators and late football coach Joe Paterno concealed abuse allegations against Sandusky for more than a decade out of a desire to avoid bad publicity for the university.
Former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz pleaded guilty to child endangerment and were sentenced to jail.
Spanier faces two months in jail but is free on bail while he appeals. He said in a statement Wednesday that he’s confident he will win his appeal and will be able to resume his defamation case against Freeh.
Sandusky was found guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving 30 to 60 years in prison. He has maintained his innocence.
Penn State has paid out nearly a quarter-billion dollars in fines, settlements and other costs associated with the sex abuse scandal, and the football program suffered heavy NCAA sanctions. More than 100 of Paterno’s victories were briefly erased from the record books.
Paterno’s family and supporters hotly dispute Freeh’s findings.