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Pa. Judges Weighing Spanier vs. Freeh Case, Outgrowth of Penn State Scandal

By Mark Abrams

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Three judges from the Pennsylvania Superior Court will hear arguments today in Philadelphia in a case that pits former Penn State University president Graham Spanier against former judge and FBI director Louis Freeh.

It's a case that stems from Freeh's investigation of Penn State's handling of former football coach Jerry Sandusky, now serving a prison term, and his abuse of boys while an employee of the university.

As a result of the Sandusky scandal, Penn State's board of trustees hired Louis Freeh and his law firm to conduct an internal investigation of what happened and who, if anyone, knew about Sandusky's activities -- and, if they did, when did they know.

Freeh concluded that then-PSU president Graham Spanier helped to cover up Sandusky's behavior -- behavior which eventually led to Sandusky's conviction on 45 counts of child sex abuse (see related story).   He remains behind bars (another related story) and his most recent appeal was rejected by a court.

Spanier and two Penn State athletic officials are facing a criminal trial on charges they knew what was going on with Sandusky and failed to act or report it to authorities.   Lawyers for those three defendants have been trying to get that criminal case dismissed.

What's going on today here in Philadelphia is related to a civil defamation suit brought by Spanier against Freeh for the conclusions in the so-called "Freeh Report," presented to the PSU board (see related story).

A couple of months ago, a Centre County (Pa.) Court judge granted Spanier a delay in proceeding with that defamation suit until the criminal case against him is decided (related story).   The judge ruled that some of the same issues in Spanier's defamation suit are likely to be part of the criminal case, and witnesses could exercise their right against self-incrimination in declining to answer questions during depositions for the civil case if the criminal case isn't resolved by that time.

Today's hearing was actually granted by the Pennsylvania Superior Court to Freeh, who calls Spanier's defamation suit "frivolous" and "without merit" because it lacks specific allegations against Freeh.

Freeh's lawyers are expected to argue that the criminal case involving Spanier could take years to resolve and that Freeh's reputation is harmed by Spanier continuing to make claims in public against the Freeh Report.  Freeh's lawyers want the defamation suit dismissed or set for a trial.


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