HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier was freed on bail on Wednesday after his arraignment on charges he covered up the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal in what prosecutors called a “conspiracy of silence.”
Spanier’s lawyer, Elizabeth Ainslie, told reporters that her client pleaded not guilty to the charges but later said in an email note, “My fault, I misspoke. The not-guilty plea will be entered at a later date.”
Spanier, along with former top school officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, was charged last week with child endangerment, perjury, criminal conspiracy, failure to report suspected child abuse and obstruction for failing to report the former assistant football coach’s assaults on boys.
Sandusky, 68, is serving what is essentially a life sentence - 30 to 60 years in a maximum-security prison for death row inmates - for molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, some in the campus football showers.
In a brief arraignment in Harrisburg District Justice William Wenner’s office, the ex-president was told to forfeit his U.S. passport and not to travel outside of Pennsylvania. Bail was set at $125,000, the same amount set for Curley, the athletic director on leave, and Schultz, a retired vice president.
Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno were fired in the wake of Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011. Earlier this year, an independent report by former FBI chief Louis Freeh concluded that Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno, who died in January of lung cancer, were alerted to Sandusky’s abuse but did nothing to stop it or report it to authorities.
On Wednesday, as he drove away from the judge’s office with his wife Sandra, Spanier had nothing to say to reporters.
Ainslie said Spanier was “absolutely not guilty” of the charges filed against him. She said Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s comment that Spanier participated in a “conspiracy of silence” is “absolutely ridiculous.”
“Dr. Spanier was never given a chance to speak to this grand jury to give his side of the story, and we look forward to the chance to present his side of the story in the future,” Ainslie said.
Wenner set a tentative date of November 16 for a preliminary hearing but said it could be changed to January.
Spanier, Curley and Schultz will most likely be tried together at the county courthouse in Harrisburg.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh