A federal judge has thrown out the conviction of former Pennsylvania State University president Graham B. Spanier on child endangerment charges in connection with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case.
Philly.com reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick granted Spanier a last-minute reprieve just hours before he was due to surrender to jail.
The magistrate ruled that the ex-university executive had been improperly tried under a version of a law passed six years after his alleged mishandling of a 2001 complaint involving Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State.
Mehalchick gave state prosecutors three months to retry the case under the statute in place at the time of Spanier’s alleged crime. That version of the law did not specifically require supervisors who oversaw staff responsible for the welfare of children to report suspected abuse — something legislators added in 2007.
Prosecuting him under the newer revision “unreasonably expanded the scope of the pre-amendment child endangerment statute in such a way that it would have been unforeseeable to Spanier in 2001 that his conduct could result in criminal culpability,” Mehalchick wrote.
Spanier, 70, had been ordered to report to jail Wednesday morning to begin serving a minimum two-month jail sentence followed by two months’ house arrest.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said prosecutors were reviewing the judge’s opinion carefully.
Spanier and two top aides — former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and ex-university vice president Gary Schultz — were convicted in 2017 for failing to adequately respond to a complaint from then-graduate student Mike McQueary, who reported in 2001 that he saw Sandusky abusing a boy in a locker-room shower.
Curley and Schultz both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges on the eve of their trial and testified as government witnesses in Spanier’s case. Both have since served jail terms.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence at a state prison.