Jon Campisi Oct. 24, 2013, 8:20am


A lawyer for Graham Spanier has asked a court to put on hold the former

Penn State president’s defamation action against former federal judge and FBI Director Louis Freeh pending the resolution of a criminal case against Spanier. In a motion to stay civil proceedings filed Oct. 21 at the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, Elizabeth K. Ainslie, a lawyer with the Philadelphia firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, urged a state judge to delay a civil case Spanier plans to bring against Freeh, who had been hired by Penn State to conduct an internal probe of the school’s knowledge of events surrounding the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse matter. Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for the Nittany Lions, was convicted in June 2012 of sexually molesting a number of underage boys over a 15-year time period. His conviction and sentence – 30-to-60 years in state prison – were recently upheld by a state appellate court panel. Meanwhile, Spanier, who was dismissed from his position following the sex-abuse scandal, filed court papers in July that signaled a pending lawsuit against Freeh. The filing, known as a writ of summons, did not include an actual complaint breaking down the allegations against Freeh, although the matter appears to include claims of libel, slander and/or defamation. And despite the fact that months have passed since the writ’s filing, Ainslie still has yet to file an actual lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Record previously reported that the matter is likely to revolve around the report released by Freeh and his team of investigators that had been released last summer and concluded that Penn State officials likely concealed information relating to the crimes perpetrated by Sandusky on the young boys. Spanier, along with former university Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Timothy Curley, are facing criminal charges relating to the sex-abuse scandal, which include obstruction of justice, child endangerment and perjury. The three former higher-ups stand accused of failing to report allegations of child sex-abuse perpetrated by Sandusky. In her Monday failing, Ainslie, Spanier’s attorney, wrote that Freeh’s report is “false and defamatory as it relates to Spanier.” Spanier, the attorney wrote, “did not once conceal facts about Sandusky’s child abuse, let alone ‘repeatedly’ do so.” Ainslie noted that in early June, she wrote to Freeh to request that he enter into a tolling agreement on behalf of himself and his law firm, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan – the firm is now defunct, having since merged with Pepper Hamilton, where Freeh currently serves as chairman – that would obviate the need to commence a lawsuit against Freeh and the firm in July. Freeh, however, subsequently declined that request, Ainslie wrote. Had Spanier not filed his writ of summons in July, an action that begins the civil legal process, his defamation claims against Freeh would be barred by a one-year statute of limitations for libel and slander actions under Pennsylvania law, Ainslie’s filing states. Spanier’s civil action and the paralleling criminal case against him and the other two former Penn State officials are predicated on the same allegations, Ainslie wrote, and therefore failing to stay the litigation could greatly prejudice Spanier. “There is likely to be significant overlap in the witnesses called for each case, and witnesses may refuse to testify in this matter on Fifth Amendment grounds, leading unfairly to adverse inferences against Spanier in this case and an inability to fairly litigate his claims,” Ainslie wrote. “A stay would also promote judicial efficiency of this action, as the resolution of the criminal trial, which concerns the same allegations at issue here, will likely sharpen the issues in this matter or eliminate the necessity of litigating certain issues.”

More News