Ex-Penn St. as­sis­tant wins $7.3M in law­suit

Jury finds that univer­sity de­famed McQueary over his role in child sex-abuse case

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Travis John­son

BELLEFONTE, PA. — A jury awarded a for­mer Penn State as­sis­tant foot­ball coach $7.3 mil­lion in dam­ages Thurs­day, find­ing the univer­sity de­famed him after it be­came pub­lic that his tes­ti­mony helped pros­e­cu­tors charge Jerry San­dusky with child mo­lesta­tion.

Ju­rors de­lib­er­ated for about four hours in Mike McQueary’s defama­tion and mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion suit.

Judge Thomas Gavin still must de­cide McQueary’s whistle­blower claim that he was treated un­fairly as the school sus­pended him from coach­ing du­ties, placed him on paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave, barred him from team fa­cil­i­ties and then did not re­new his con­tract shortly after he tes­ti­fied at San­dusky’s 2012 trial.

McQueary re­mained stoic as the ver­dict was read, and he and his lawyers made no com­ment as they left the court­house.

A Penn State spokesman said the univer­sity would not com­ment on the case and the jury’s de­ci­sion un­til a fi­nal de­ci­sion is ren­dered on all counts.

McQueary had been seek­ing more than $4 mil­lion in lost wages and other dam­ages, say­ing he was de­famed by a state­ment the school pres­i­dent re­leased the day San­dusky was charged, re­tal­i­ated against for help­ing with the San­dusky in­ves­ti­ga­tion and mis­led by school ad­min­is­tra­tors.

San­dusky, a for­mer de­fen­sive coach at Penn State, was con­victed in 2012 of sex­ual abuse of 10 boys and is serv­ing a 30- to 60-year prison sen­tence. He main­tains his in­no­cence.

“He should not have been the scape­goat,” lawyer El­liot Strokoff said of McQueary, speak­ing to ju­rors.

In clos­ing ar­gu­ments ear­lier Thurs­day, Penn State at­tor­ney Nancy Con­rad em­pha­sized McQueary had said he was dam­aged by pub­lic crit­i­cism that he did not to go to po­lice or child wel­fare au­thor­i­ties when he saw San­dusky sex­u­ally abus­ing a boy in a team shower in 2001. In­stead, he re­ported it the next day to then-head coach Joe Pa­terno.

“Mr. McQueary was not dam­aged by any ac­tion of the univer­sity,” Con­rad ar­gued. “Mr. McQueary, as he tes­ti­fied and as he rec­og­nized, if he was harmed, was harmed by na­tional me­dia and pub­lic opin­ion.”

McQueary tes­ti­fied he has not been able to find work, ei­ther in coach­ing or else­where, but Con­rad blamed that on an For­mer as­sis­tant foot­ball coach Mike McQueary’s charge that Penn State mis­treated him for whistle­blow­ing is still pend­ing. in­ad­e­quate net­work of con­tacts and the lack of a na­tional rep­u­ta­tion.

McQueary was not al­lowed to coach in the school’s first game after Pa­terno was fired, a home loss to Ne­braska.

“That sends a very clear sig­nal to those in your net­work that the univer­sity doesn’t want you to be sup­ported,” Strokoff said. “‘Stay away, you’re a non­per­son.’ ”

Penn State has ar­gued it put McQueary on leave out of safety con­cerns, as threats were fielded by the univer­sity.

Strokoff said there was no ev­i­dence of mul­ti­ple death threats against his client and called McQueary’s treat­ment out­ra­geous.

Ju­rors awarded McQueary $1.15 mil­lion on the defama­tion claim and $1.15 mil­lion on the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion al­le­ga­tion that two ad­min­is­tra­tors lied to him when they said they took his re­port of San­dusky se­ri­ously and would re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately. They also awarded $5 mil­lion in puni­tive dam­ages.

Con­rad in­sisted the univer­sity did take steps to in­form McQueary about the ac­tions it was tak­ing, which in­cluded telling San­dusky to stop bring­ing chil­dren into team fa­cil­i­ties and meet­ing with San­dusky and an of­fi­cial from the chil­dren’s wel­fare char­ity he founded.

The defama­tion claim in­volved a state­ment is­sued by then-Penn State Pres­i­dent Gra­ham Spanier ex­press­ing sup­port for the two ad­min­is­tra­tors when they were charged with per­jury for al­legedly ly­ing about what McQueary told them in the weeks after the 2001 in­ci­dent.

A state ap­peals court ear­lier this year dis­missed the per­jury charges against the ad­min­is­tra­tors, for­mer Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Tim Cur­ley and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Gary Schultz. But Cur­ley, Schultz and Spanier still await trial in Harrisburg on­charge­sof fail­ure to prop­erly re­port sus­pected child abuse and en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren.

GENE J. PUSKAR/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.