STATE COLLEGE — Attorneys for former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier have issued a statement in response to Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s announcement that he will appeal a federal judge’s decision to overturn Spanier’s conviction for child endangerment.
The ruling Tuesday from Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick said that the application of a 2007 version of the child endangerment statute related to his conduct in 2001 was unconstitutional. She added that the jury instruction based on the same statute was unconstitutional as well.
Spanier was found guilty of one count of child endangerment in March 2017. The case was brought against Spanier after he was accused of failing to take a report of child sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky to authorities.
Shapiro announced his intention to appeal the decision Wednesday.
“Graham Spanier, as President of Penn State University, was personally advised that children were being sexually abused on school property,” said Shapiro in a press release. “Evidence proved he chose not to help the children—but instead to cover up the abuse, despite being well aware of his responsibility as a supervisor.
“In a last-minute and highly unusual decision yesterday evening, a federal magistrate set Spanier free just before he was finally about to begin serving his deserved sentence. Federal courts have very limited power to act in state criminal proceedings, and this ruling plainly exceeded that power.”
Samuel W. Silver and Bruce P. Merenstein issued the following statement in response to Shapiro:
“We are dismayed that the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the highest law enforcement official in the state, would blatantly and prejudicially misrepresent facts in a public announcement of his intent to appeal the federal court’s ruling that Graham Spanier’s conviction violated the United States Constitution.
“Contrary to Attorney General Shapiro’s statement, there is no evidence that Graham Spanier was personally advised that children were being sexually abused. And Attorney General Shapiro knows that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made nothing “crystal clear” about Dr. Spanier’s conduct, as it did not hear this case on the merits at any time.
“We are stunned that Mr. Shapiro accuses Dr. Spanier of engaging in a “cover-up,” when a jury expressly acquitted Dr. Spanier of having engaged in a conspiracy or a continuing course of conduct.
“We will continue to defend Dr. Spanier against this overzealous and unlawful prosecution. And we will continue to do so in the courts, where the dispute belongs — and not through hyperbolic statements like that of the Attorney General.”