” …’it would appear,’ Strokoff wrote in his filing for McQueary, ‘that the university has avoided seeking to discover evidence that might further confirm the plaintiff’s allegation’ of wrongful termination.”
| 6/24/16 | Charles Thompson | pennlive.com
A Thursday court filing in one of the flurry of civil cases spawned from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal contained an interesting detail:
It states that then-Penn State Counsel Wendell V. Courtney says – in the wake of a graduate assistant’s account of a 2001 shower room incident involving Sandusky and a boy – he told Penn State administrators they should report the former football coach to state child welfare officials.
In a May 31, 2016 deposition, Courtney is quoted as saying that in a call to then-PSU vice president Gary Schultz on Feb. 11, 2001, “I do remember that the advice I gave was to report to DPW (the state Department of Public Welfare.)”
Attempts to reach Courtney for this story were not successful.
It has long been known Courtney was asked to review Penn State’s position via state child protection laws shortly after the graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, made his report to Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley.
What hadn’t been laid out so clearly until now was what exactly Courtney told the officials.
The deposition statement could be relevant in separate criminal proceedings against Schultz, Curley and former Penn State President Graham Spanier, all of whom are facing child endangerment charges for their failure to report the 2001 case to either child welfare officials or police.
Efforts to reach the former administrators’ defense attorneys were not immediately successful.
The brief deposition excerpt disclosed Thursday does not continue with any further description of Courtney’s call-back to Schultz after several hours of research.
Here’s why this came up now.
McQueary, who was placed on leave and later fired from his own assistant coaching job in the frenzy following Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest, has filed a whistleblower suit seeking up to $4 million in damages from the university for wrongful termination.
Schultz and Curley were initially charged with failure to report child abuse at the same time.
They have contended that they never understood McQueary’s allegation against Sandusky to rise to the level of child abuse, and that they considered it to be more like “horseplay.”
McQueary has argued statements issued by Spanier in the days after the administrators’ arrests cast him as a liar, and that he was later left go from the football program because of his whistle-blowing.
In a second prong of his case, the 41-year-old State College native asserts Curley and Schultz lied to him when they said they would pursue his report about Sandusky. When they didn’t, McQueary claims, his reputation suffered because he wound up being criticized for not having personally done more.
Penn State is seeking a stay in the civil case until after the criminal case against Curley, Schultz and Spanier is resolved, arguing that the defendants’ attorneys have placed them off limits until then.
Attorney Elliot Strokoff’s filing Thursday, meanwhile, presented the Courtney deposition as proof that – along with Schultz and Curley’s 2011 grand jury testimony and the university-commissioned Freeh report – there are a number of other channels through which Penn State has had a chance to make its case.
“it would appear,” Strokoff wrote in his filing for McQueary, “that the university has avoided seeking to discover evidence that might further confirm the plaintiff’s allegation” of wrongful termination.
Strokoff, too, could not be reached for this story.
But in arguing against a stay, he noted McQueary has earned less than $10,000 since his Penn State severance payments expired in December 2013, and that he is entitled to a resolution of his claim.
Penn State spokesman Lawrence Lokman took issue with one element of Strokoff’s filing Thursday evening.
Lokman noted that Penn State commissioned the Freeh Report, and Freeh’s investigators tried to interview Courtney, but Courtney refused on the advice of counsel.
As a result, Lokman said, Strokoff’s implication that Penn State has never tried to get Courtney’s input on his work on the McQueary report “is simply not correct.”