Spanier attempts to delay lawsuit

HARRISBURG – A judge heard arguments on whether former Penn State president Graham Spanier can delay filing his defamation lawsuit against Louis Freeh, the former FBI director the university hired to investigate and report on the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal.

Spanier wants to delay the lawsuit – he’s only filed court notice that he intends to sue Freeh – until after he and two other former Penn State administrators are tried on criminal charges that they covered up past complaints about Sandusky before he was charged in November 2011 with molesting 10 boys. No trial date has been set on the cover-up charges against Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley.

Freeh’s attorney, Robert Heim, on Tuesday asked Centre County Judge Jonathan Grine to force Spanier to file the lawsuit before granting the delay, because it’s the only way Freeh can begin defending himself.

Freeh’s 2012 report concluded that Spanier, football coach Joe Paterno and other school officials failed to protect children from abuse. Spanier contends the Freeh report is false and defamatory.

Freeh “wants this cloud of committing a knowing falsehood explored,” Heim said, according to the Centre Daily Times.

But Spanier’s attorney, Elizabeth Ainslie, argued that forcing Spanier to spell out his allegations against Freeh could prejudice Spanier’s defense because it might keep some witnesses from testifying in both cases which, she argued, overlap “85 to 90 percent.”

Judge Grine didn’t immediately rule on Spanier’s request to delay the lawsuit.