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Former Penn State President Will Serve 2 Months in Jail in Child Abuse Scandal

Graham B. Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, must serve two months in jail followed by two months of house arrest for his role in a child abuse scandal that rocked the university a decade ago, a judge reaffirmed on Wednesday, according to prosecutors.

The judge, John A. Boccabella, upheld the sentence he issued four years ago after Mr. Spanier, 72, was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.

Prosecutors said Mr. Spanier had failed to report child abuse allegations to law enforcement officials when he learned that Jerry Sandusky, an assistant coach of the vaunted Nittany Lions football team, had been seen abusing a boy in a locker room shower on campus.

Mr. Spanier must report to the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte, Pa., to begin serving the sentence on July 9, prosecutors said.

“He made a mistake and he’s going to pay for his mistake, but I don’t consider him to be a danger to society as I would a criminal,” Judge Boccabella said in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, according to The Associated Press.

Mr. Spanier had remained free as he sought relief after the conviction, which had been overturned by a federal judge in 2019 before it was reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in December.

Mr. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 young boys and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. In 2013, Penn State agreed to pay $59.7 million to 26 sexual abuse victims in exchange for an end to their claims against the university.

The abuse shocked the university and badly tarnished the reputation of its celebrated head coach, Joe Paterno, who was among those suspected of turning a blind eye to Mr. Sandusky’s conduct. Mr. Paterno was dismissed and died in 2012.

Mr. Spanier had served as president of Penn State for 16 years before he was forced out in 2011. His case drew attention not only because of his stature as a university president but also because he had spoken publicly about his own history of being abused as a child by his father, who beat him severely.

“The single most important thing I can say is that I’m sorry,” he told the court when he was sentenced in 2017. “I deeply regret that I did not intervene far more carefully.”

On Wednesday, Judge Boccabella upheld the original sentence of four to 12 months of incarceration that he had issued in 2017, prosecutors said. In addition to the two months in jail and two months of house arrest, Mr. Spanier will also have to serve two years of probation and complete 200 hours of community service, prosecutors said.

“Today marks the end of a long road towards justice for the children endangered by Mr. Spanier’s inaction — choosing to cover up the abuse at the hands of Jerry Sandusky rather than reporting it to law enforcement,” Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, said in a statement. “There are consequences for failing to protect children in Pennsylvania.”

Mr. Spanier’s lawyer, Samuel W. Silver, had asked that his client be allowed to serve his sentence at home.

Mr. Silver said that Mr. Spanier underwent open-heart surgery in September 2019 and had an advanced stage of prostate cancer, putting him at risk from the coronavirus, The A.P. reported. Mr. Spanier is fully vaccinated, Mr. Silver said.

“Fortunately, things are not as dire as they were a year ago,” Judge Boccabella said, according to The A.P.

In an email on Wednesday, Mr. Silver said that he had argued in court that “in light of the circumstances, the attorney general’s insistence that Dr. Spanier should now be confined in a correctional facility is remarkable.”


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