Penn State trustees hire law firm

Updated: November 17, 2011, 8:27 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State's trustees have hired Reed Smith, a large Pittsburgh-based law firm, to represent them in relation to the child sex-abuse scandal for which three current and former university employees face criminal charges.

Reed Smith spokeswoman Jamie Moss said Thursday that the firm will be working on issues related to the arrest of Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach accused of sexual abuse involving eight boys over 15 years, as well as administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who are charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and perjury.

Moss declined to say whether Reed Smith, which lists more than 1,700 lawyers on its website, would be focusing on criminal or civil matters.

Penn State university police said a continuing search on Thursday turned up no record to support a former graduate assistant's claim he reported a sexual assault by Sandusky on a 10-year-old boy in a campus shower.

Mike McQueary, who is now an assistant coach but has been placed on administrative leave, wrote in an email to friends that was given to The Associated Press that he had "discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police" about what he saw. In the email, McQueary did not specify whether he spoke to campus or State College police.

State College borough police chief Tom King said McQueary didn't make a report to his department. Penn State has said campus police did not have any record of a report filed in 2002 by McQueary.

University police spokeswoman Annemarie Mountz said additional searching has been fruitless. She noted that the 23-page grand jury report was the state attorney general's summary of testimony, so it's unclear what McQueary's full testimony was. McQueary and a law firm representing him have not returned phone calls.

On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wants former Steelers and Penn State player Franco Harris to step down as chairman of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program because Harris has questioned football coach Joe Paterno's firing last week.

Harris has said he felt Penn State trustees erred in firing Paterno, who fulfilled a legal requirement by alerting his superiors but has been criticized for not doing more when he learned of a sex abuse allegation against Sandusky in 2002.

Ravenstahl's press secretary and Harris did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are planning a special commission to examine the legal issues raised by the scandal, which has prompted questions both ethical and criminal about why allegations of abuse went unreported for so long.

The scandal has resulted in the ousting of school president Graham Spanier and Paterno, and has brought shame to one of college football's legendary programs. Curley has been placed on administrative leave, Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down.

Schultz, Curley and Sandusky have all maintained they are innocent.

Penn State said Spanier offered to resign last week to university trustees in the wake of the child sex abuse case that has enveloped the school.

The board announced after a meeting Nov. 9 that it decided Spanier was "no longer president." Spanier said in a statement the same night "there is wisdom in a transition in leadership." Neither the board, nor Spanier, specified if he resigned.

School spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday that Spanier offered his resignation in the best interests of Penn State. School officials could not immediately confirm whether the resignation was accepted or whether Spanier was let go regardless.

The board named provost Rod Erickson to replace Spanier on an interim basis initially. Then at another Nov. 11 board meeting, Erickson's "interim" tag was removed, but school officials said a search would still occur at an undetermined time in the future.

Powers confirmed a Patriot-News of Harrisburg report that there were no plans to find a replacement.

Since last week, "the board has indicated ... that it has put its full support behind Erickson as the 17th president and we would not begin the search process," Powers said. "They have put their full faith in his leadership of Penn State."

A commission being set up by Pennsylvania lawmakers will consider changes to state law in the wake of the scandal. The plan was described as being in the planning stage, including meetings of leaders and their aides.

There have been other proposals for legislative action in Harrisburg, as well as in Washington, where U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., has introduced a bill that would strengthen child-abuse reporting requirements.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. George Miller of California said scandals at Penn State and The Citadel in South Carolina demonstrated a need for the House Education and the Workforce Committee to study potential changes to federal laws that protect children and students.

Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, told the committee's chairman, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., in a letter that a hearing should be called to look at whether changes are needed in federal laws designed to protect children and students.

The Citadel's president acknowledged this week that the South Carolina military college lost public trust by not aggressively pursuing a 2007 report of sexual abuse allegedly committed at its former summer camp by an ex-counselor.

Committee spokeswoman Alexandra Haynes Sollberger said the panel is monitoring the situation at Penn State and will assess the need for action after the U.S. Department of Education finishes its investigation.

Sandusky's lawyer, Joe Amendola, appeared with him on NBC's "Rock Center" on Monday night and cast doubt on the evidence in the case. Sandusky, 67, appeared on the show by phone and said he had showered with boys but never molested them.

It remains unclear how many accusers have surfaced more than a week after state police and the attorney general's office said at a news conference they were seeking additional potential victims and witnesses.

State police spokeswoman Maria Finn said investigators have told her that published accounts reporting how many people have come forward are inaccurate and they are not disclosing their internal figures.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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