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. bettykath,

    Although one would have to check the by-laws, I believe Corbett has full rights. In other words, he may make motions, may enter discussions, and may vote. Ex officio is only the means by which he joined the Board. “But I was just following orders” is going to work as well for him as it did for that creepy priest.

    His real problems go back to his days as atty. general and there are decision he made then that can not be unmade now or erased.

  2. Mespo, ex officio or not, he attended at least one meeting by phone and participated when the Sandusky case was discussed

  3. (a $3 million state tax-payer funded grant) should be (a $3 million state tax-payer funded grant to The Second Mile charity)

  4. Corbett’s problems go back further than his election to the governorship:

    “Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday (11/16/11) he knew that The Second Mile’s founder, Jerry Sandusky, was gone from the organization when the grant was approved earlier this year. Corbett, who said the funds were being withheld in light of the growing scandal, defended the decision to approve the grant while knowing about the allegations against Sandusky. (a $3 million state tax-payer funded grant)

    Corbett, a Republican, was the attorney general whose office in 2008 began the investigation into allegations of sexual contact between young boys and Sandusky, who founded the charity in 1977.” (

    There are serious questions being asked as to Corbett’s handling of the initial investigation when he was atty. general.

    Pipeline stuff

  5. bettykath:

    “Did you know Corbett was on the PSU Board of Trustees?”


    Governor Corbett is an ex officio member of Penn State’s Board of Trustees as are the President of the University, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Environmental Resources. Governors rarely attend those meetings.

  6. And to that Blouise I say Yay!!!! and hope they have no grounds for appeal. If this person were truly a ‘man of G-d’ he would have shame and a sense of responsibility. Sadly the church seems to have removed those when they turn these guys into priests.

  7. leejcaroll,

    Oh I’m sure his lawyers will try to accomplish that through the appeal process … they wanted an ankle bracelet, house arrest or just probation. He’s still out there as his bail hearing is set for August 6th.

    “This is a very different type of case,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “We held a person responsible who did not abuse children himself but indirectly allowed for many children to be put at risk. He didn’t do enough.” … (Judge) Sarmina said that Lynn had shielded, protected and aided “monsters in clerical garb” while he “refused to hear and refused to see” their young victims. (

    As I said, “tipping point”. Once a jury has convicted in spite of the God-invoked defense that is the Catholic Church, a mere football hero, University president, or politician already in the pipeline is much easier. The prosecution now knows how to build and prosecute a successful case against pedophile enablers.

  8. Blouise, Thanks for that clarification, I was not aware of that and feared he would be able to get out in a few m onths.

  9. A bully club is essentially a love-hate relationship it would seem.

    These bully worship aficionados were all lovey dovey until their local congregation fell apart.

    Now they castigate one another as the hate side of the meme complex emerges.

  10. leejcaroll,

    Yes, it was gratifying. The sentence was just 6 months short of the max allowed so the creep will have to sit in prison for at least 3 years before being eligible for parole.

  11. As matters continue to move along on their present course, in a few months we will be reading a letter from Corbett similar to the one Spanier just released.

    It takes years to get these pedophile enablers as the recent sentencing of that priest in Philadelphia proves:

    “You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” said Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of Common Pleas Court as she imposed the sentence …

    Lynn, 61, was found guilty June 22 of child endangerment after a three-month trial that revealed efforts over decades by the Philadelphia archdiocese to play down accusations of child sexual abuse and avoid scandal.” ( )

    This particular investigation has “miles to go” before its completion. Corbett is already in the pipeline, he just refuses to see it … like so much else he refused to see.

    Once the Catholic Church lost its ability to protect pedophiles, the gig was up for other large institutions. Malisha referred to this place in time in reference to another matter on another thread but it applies here … we call it the “tipping point”.

  12. What Mespo said. These are two dirty administrators biting each other’s noses and blaming the other guy. If they were so concerned with protecting children, they wouldn’t have hid the information for years.
    Gov. Corbett needs to answer some questions and he needs to answer them immediately..

  13. Frankly Corbett is getting a pass on a lot of what he is doing.
    As for Baldwin, et al, the best defense is a good offense. And it is easier to clear a conscience if you can blame someone else for your failure

  14. The State AG at the time was Tom Corbett and there are many questions raised by the way his office didn’t do their job in the PSU rape investigation. Oddly enough the Freeh report appears to have ignored those questions and the national media has given the now governor a pass. Some local papers are asking the questions and getting stonewalled.

    There are plenty of people who should be in jail or have their public careers brought to a close over this deal. The list is just forming

  15. As I just stated on another thread the collective “we” put yoo much faith that those with authority really think about the decisions they make. When you get to be the President of a large institution like Penn State, a large corporation, or even country, you spend your time going from meeting to meeting. Only the most competent administrators insist on “downtime” for reflection upon the decisions they must make. This is why we see so much blame placed on subordinates after the fact.

  16. Disciplinary Request!

    This is a den of thieves and a snakepit. It’s almost fun watching it play out but for the fact that you have to spend so much money on anti-nausea medications or you keep losing your lunch. Can you just see a new reality show: “PENN STATE.”

  17. Cat, mouse….. Mouse, elephant….. mouse, elephant, tiger…… The food chain continues….. The mouse and lion are natural enemies of the elephant……..

    I wonder if a disciplinary request has been filed…..

Comments are closed.