Former Penn State President Criticizes Former General Counsel For Failures In Sandusky Scandal

We have previously discussed the role of former General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin in the disastrous handling of the Sandusky scandal by Penn State. Baldwin is cited in the Freeh Report for her alleged failure to fully informed university officials and her opposition to an independent review that might have protected the university from the scandal and recently imposed heavy penalties against the school. Now former Penn State president Graham Spanier is joining in that criticism, saying that Baldwin failed to hire an experienced law firm during the grand jury probe.

The recently announced NCAA sanctions included Penn State with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998.

Spanier said that, as an abused child himself, he would have acted if Baldwin had fully informed him of the allegations.

Had I known then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky, had I received any information about a sexual act in the shower or elsewhere, or had I had some basis for a higher level of suspicion about Sandusky, I would have strongly and immediately intervened. Never would I stand by for a moment to allow a child predator to hurt children. I am personally outraged that any such abusive acts could have occurred in or around Penn State and have considerable pain that it could perhaps have been ended had we known more sooner.

He told trustees in a five-page letter that Baldwin failed to give him key details during a grand jury’s investigation of Jerry Sandusky and that she kept him in the dark despite receiving subpoenas from prosecutors who were interviewing top administrators. He also said that Baldwin failed to prepare him for a grand jury investigation while “much to my surprise (Baldwin) handed over to the judge a thumb drive containing my entire history of emails back to 2004.”

Baldwin is a former state Supreme Court justice who chaired the Penn State Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2006.

Baldwin has not responded and her legal representatives noted that legal ethics obligations compelled her to remain silent. Those obligations usually refer to the continued need to protect the confidentiality of her client. However, when a client attacks an attorney and accuses her of wrongdoing, an attorney is usually allowed to respond.

If Baldwin was trying to protect the President and the university, she failed to do so. The alleged opposition to an independent investigation had a particularly negative impact on the university. Such an investigation would have gone a long way in showing no effort to coverup the allegations and to be proactive in response to the scandal. The failure to inform the former president that his emails had been handed over to prosecutors is also a problematic omission if true. Baldwin was in a tough position with a criminal investigation in the field. She had to avoid any allegation of tampering with evidence or witnesses. However, the former president did have a right to know about productions of evidence in the case that would be relevant to his grand jury testimony.

The impression left by the Freeh Report is that the university lawyers failed to protect the interests of the school but being too defensive and obstructive. If so, this would not be the first time that schools did greater harm to themselves by adopting a defensive and passive stance. However, Baldwin is entitled to a response on such matters and, in light of the former president’s attack, I do not see what legal ethics rules would not allow some response. Usually such disclosures occur during formal proceedings. Under Pennsylvania ethics rules, a lawyer may reveal confidential information to establish a claim or defense when accused by a client of wrongdoing to establish a defense to proceedings brought against the lawyer. PA-R 1.6(c)(3). Moreover, a lawyer may reveal confidences or secrets “to establish or collect his fee or to defend himself or his employees or associates against an accusation of wrongful conduct.” DR 4-101(C)(4).

One obvious step for Baldwin is to seek a waiver from the university to allow her to respond to these attacks by Freeh and Spanier. It might not give it or require approval of a statement by Baldwin. However, if she is concerned about the disclosures, that would be an expected move in such a circumstance. There is also the question of defamation if Spanier’s account is false about failing to inform him of critical facts and opposing the appointment of experienced independent counsel. However, such actions are frowned upon by the courts and the bar.

While there is a legitimate basis to question the decisions made by Baldwin, Spanier may be putting too much blame on others. He was clearly informed of the allegations though perhaps not as detailed as he would have wanted. He had ultimate authority to demand more information and more action in this matter.

Baldwin has had an impressive career with many notable distinctions. After graduating from Duquesne Law School, she served as a Fulbright Lecturer and Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. She was a trial judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas for 16 years and then appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of The Pennsylvania State University from 1995 until 2010 and chaired the board from 2004-2007.

Here is the letter: Spanier Letter

Source: ABA Journal and and Trib Live

39 thoughts on “Former Penn State President Criticizes Former General Counsel For Failures In Sandusky Scandal”

  1. It needs to be stated that the issues at hand are the product of the administrative staff and BOT. The Students, educators, alumni and fans had no role in the entire sad affair. The NCAA is clearly as corrupt as the “adults” involved. Yet it is only the innocent that are being punished. Regardless of the crimes I do not see the punishment of innocent people being appropriate. It is also is clear that the only people/groups that are improved by this Heinous situation are those who stand to make money. This directly affects many other aspects of the educational system such as the hiding of crime on campus and the failure of due process of students involved. The Due Process Joe Paterno did not receive and do not forget the due process that never took place to people who have broken many laws running big football.

    There is a pervasive, dark element involved in college football because of the money. This reflects the deterioration of our society and our educational system. You should assume that what you see on TV is bunk.
    Placing the success of Paterno’s ,” Grand Experiment”, football team completely aside the accomplishments of the graduated football players, the superior graduation rate, the students’ commitment to improving society and the true record of the many instances of the Paterno’s positive impact of the football team as men stands for itself and is a superior record, well above society in general.

    Piers Morgan pressed Michael Moore to comment on gun violence after the shooting at Aurora that the quantity of guns was the problem. After trying to not answer he commented that less ammunition available would reduce the victims he went on to state that the problem really is the culture of hate that exists in society. We see examples of this culture in these posts. THE Pennsylvania State University is as victim of Sandusky as well.
    The way I see it Sandusky screwed boys and the BOT, the NCAA and the media have been screwing us since. People are always trying to tear down successful people.

    “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” – Mark Twain

    “The history of the race, and each individual’s experience, are thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal” Mark Twain

  2. This story will just not go away. Expect the fallout to continue for some time to come. I am not sure how I would handle this if I were a Penn State alumni. Probably scrub my CV and wear a bag over my head.

    State Attorney General Linda Kelly is expected to announce today that former Penn State University President Graham Spanier has been charged in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, according to sources close to the investigation.

  3. Bettykath, that is very interesting. I have noted to a member of my family who is an alum that I have never seen people more proud, maybe more possessive of their college then Penn Staters. Maybe it is the closed ranks menatlity that filtered down to the students too.

  4. Bad behavior and coverup are the order of the day, and not just in the football arena.


    The Place: Hate Culture

    The main campus of Pennsylvania State University is located in State College, PA, a tiny exurb of the aptly named Centre County, the geographical center of Pennsylvania. When I first visited in 2007, I thought the university was nestled in a pleasant enough college town. A place of great natural beauty, State College sits deep in a valley just east of the Allegheny Mountains. It’s a town that seems lovely on the outside. It took some time for me to realize just how oppressive the environment could be.

    Central Pennsylvania is often denigrated as “Alabama in Pennsylvania,” largely because of its extremely conservative political landscape. Sure, the residents of State College usually vote for Democrats, as towns that revolve around large universities often do. But Central Pennsylvania as a region is hate group central. It houses the national headquarters of both the Aryan Nation and the Association of Independent Klansmen Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The latter is located in Lemont, just a 10-minute drive from Penn State. Plus, smaller militia and/or neo-Confederate groups are sprinkled throughout the area, and continue sprouting up. People in the region commonly note that State College has the “highest per capita hate group membership” in the United States.
    The University: Rape Culture

    Just as racism and, to some extent, homophobia, are omnipresent in State College in ways that seep into everyday life, the university culture itself is also particularly dismissive of sexual harassment, assault and rape allegations.

    For decades universities across the country have been plagued by what many have termed a “rape epidemic,” in which about one in five college women is raped. (A 2009 study suggests that the real incident rate actually far exceeds this ratio, because so many survivors fail to report.) As someone who has had more than a bit of experience on different college campuses — I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002, completed my first master’s degree at American University in 2006 and then spent a year in Montréal, Québec at McGill University — I can tell you that I saw plenty of rape culture at all three. At UNC, in fact, I once opted to leave a class when faced with an ongoing sexual harassment problem.

    I was, in other words, no stranger to these problems when I entered Penn State. But neither had I ever seen a university close ranks with such precision against students who decided to go public about assault or rape. At PSU, it soon became clear, you simply cannot take any abuse public without suffering severe consequences. Maybe that’s what makes Penn State culture so unusual.

    When I first arrived on campus in fall 2007, I was required, along with all new instructors, to take what I thought was a routine training seminar on sexual harassment. Looking back, I clearly should have seen what transpired as a red flag. At this particular seminar, we were taught that it’s perfectly fine for instructors to have sex with their own students. It was considered “unwise” to engage in these sexual relationships during the course of the semester, but it wasn’t exactly prohibited. We’d simply need to alert the proper administrative authorities, and make certain the sex didn’t affect our grading.

  5. Now if they said that some guy named Willard had been humping on a juvenile in the shower then the case would be all over the news and world in five seconds. But no, we are in State Penn territory. Quite on the Set!

    Things have not changed a bit. Two days ago when the sanctions by the NCAA hit the fan there was a web article that a State Penn student volleyball player reported that she received a “text” from her “Coach” directing her to not talk about the subject matter. Yes. Keep quiet. Dont turn over any more stones that might affect Jerry or JoePa. Its called something in criminal prosecutions: Conspiracty of Silence.
    Thanks Coach. They will keep you on and you will get a nice fat pension when you are old, fat and retire.

    But the residents of Pennsylvania. Are you getting your ya ya’s off by having a football program at what purports to be an educational facility which has been deemed a “university”? The folks in China are laughing. Some of the folks in China who hold degrees and move to Philly to go to work for the hospital are laughing all the way to the bank. Penn State does not produce educated, well intentioned, skilled people in Math, Science, and Medicine. I did see Franco Harris talking to his Chinese doctor after his interview the other day.

  6. David Blauw 1, July 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Dredd, A lot of that “holy water” was sprinkled around Penn St in years past, now it seems there is a lot of “retroactive holy water” being sprinkled.
    This retroactive stuff just does not seem to have the equal High octane fool, as the stuff they used for years prior.
    Yes, an incredible turn-around for them.

    I bet they have classes on “risk management” … unheeded it would seem.

  7. Romney is another guy trying to “use” some of that “retroactive holy water.” LOL.

  8. Judge Baldwin was apparently the lone woman in this boy’s club horror story. It’s unfortunate she didn’t respond more as a mother than a board member.

  9. The notable exception of encryption is absence today. Is that with absence of sense or absence of ability? One will have wonder with amusement as to the reasons why.

  10. Dredd, A lot of that “holy water” was sprinkled around Penn St in years past, now it seems there is a lot of “retroactive holy water” being sprinkled.
    This retroactive stuff just does not seem to have the equal High octane fool, as the stuff they used for years prior.

  11. I did not know (or remember) that. and these guys are supposed to be role models, yeah right. (pardon my cynicism)

  12. leejcaroll,

    So does Ohio … it was Gov Rhodes who helped facilitate the Kent State Massacre.

  13. … and continue into his fundraising for his run for Governor … all fully documented. It’s probably the Second Mile charity affiliations that are his biggest worries.

  14. Pa has a bad history with these guys. Gov Ridge knowingly nomiinated and allowed to serve as his sec’t of health a man who perjured himself in court.

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