Penn State requests stay of civil case by Sandusky victim until conclusion of criminal proceedings against former university officials

By Jon Campisi | Sep 26, 2012

Attorneys for Penn State University recently filed a motion to have a civil suit against the

school stayed pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against two former Penn State employees, which relate to the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

In late June, Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted of sexually abusing 10 underage boys during a 15-year time period.

About a month later, one of his victim’s, identified in the grand jury report only as Victim 1, filed suit in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court against Sandusky, Penn State and The Second Mile, the youth charity started by Sandusky in the late 1970s where the former coach is said to have met and groomed many of his young victims.

On Sept. 11, attorneys Joseph F. O’Dea, Jr. and James A. Keller, of the Philadelphia firm Saul Ewing, filed a motion for extraordinary relief at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking to have a judge halt the civil case until the resolution of the criminal trial against former Penn State employees Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

The two face charges in connection with their alleged failure to report information concerning Sandusky’s abuse of young children.

The criminal trial is scheduled to occur in early 2013.

In light of the fact that the criminal proceedings against Curley and Schultz have not yet begun, and the fact that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is still apparently conducting an investigation surrounding the matter, Penn State’s lawyers argued that the civil case should be put on hold until the other matters are concluded.

The motion states that the court has already stayed two other similar pending civil actions, and should do the same in this matter so as not to prejudice the rights of the parties involved in the criminal proceedings.

“Plaintiff will not be prejudiced if the Civil Action is stayed,” the motion reads. “Indeed, the resolution of the criminal proceedings should be of interest to the Plaintiff in this civil action.

“On the other hand, Defendant risks real prejudice if the civil action moved forward while parallel criminal proceedings are active,” the motion continues. “The Pennsylvania State University is being sued in this Civil Action with allegations being made against current or former employees Sandusky, Curley and Schultz, and those same individuals are criminal defendants, with both Curley and Schultz still awaiting trial. It would be highly prejudicial to force Defendant to move forward in litigation, and discovery, while it is subject to parallel criminal proceedings.”

The motion says that the criminal proceedings should conclude first without “diverting resources to or muddying up the Civil Action.”

The plaintiff in the civil case is identified only as John Doe A.

In the grand jury report he was referred to as Victim 1.

In their response to the motion for extraordinary relief, the lawyers representing the plaintiff say the man “vigorously opposes the instant request.”

In their response, which was filed Sept. 21, attorneys Michael J. Boni and Slade H. McLaughlin wrote that the plaintiff’s psychotherapist has provided a written statement that details the risk of harm associated with any significant delay of the resolution of the civil matter.

“The unlimited stay sought by defendant thus arbitrarily subordinates the legitimate interest of an undeniably traumatized and victimized child to Penn State’s selfish interest in insulating itself from possible criminal liability associated with an alleged ‘on-going and active,’ but entirely undefined, criminal investigation,” the plaintiff’s attorneys wrote.

The plaintiff’s attorneys also wrote that any stay issued by a judge would prevent the plaintiff from conducting discovery that would not, in any way, unfairly prejudice the university.

The response also says that the defendant stands to gain “strategic advantage” if a stay is granted, since it would provide the university with additional time to review and scrutinize its internal memoranda and other evidence, while denying the plaintiff access to those same materials.

It is not yet clear when a judge would rule on either of the motions.

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