Jury hands ex-Penn St. as­sis­tant over $7 mil­lion in defama­tion case

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Travis John­son

BELLE­FONTE >> 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 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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer Penn State Univer­sity as­sis­tant foot­ball coach Mike McQueary leaves the Cen­tre County Court­house An­nex for lunch Oct. 17 in Belle­fonte, Pa.

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