Trial hearing delayed for Penn State administrators; Sandusky wants his pension back
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A hearing scheduled for next week and a trial set for next month were delayed Wednesday for former Penn State administrators accused of a criminal cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
A district judge indicated he needed more time to resolve pending motions before presiding over a preliminary hearing for Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. The Jan. 7 trial of Curley and Schultz for some of the charges they face was also delayed indefinitely.
Curley, the school’s athletic director who is on paid leave while the last year of his contract runs out, and Schultz, a retired vice president, were first charged a year ago. Prosecutors added counts against them last month, and charged Spanier, who was forced out as university president last year.
The three deny the allegations, which include perjury, obstruction, conspiracy and failure to properly report suspected abuse.
In a related development, Sandusky has appealed a decision to revoke his $59,000-a-year pension, arguing the law did not support the action by the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System.
Sandusky attorney Charles Benjamin’s five-page letter to the system’s board, dated Nov. 21, was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press through the state Right-to-Know Law.
Benjamin wrote that Sandusky’s pension rights became vested in 1969 and were not changed by later amendments to state law. He argued that Sandusky, a Penn State assistant football coach who retired in 1999, was not a university employee when tougher forfeiture rules were passed in 2004.
“We trust that SERS, upon further reflection, will agree that no legal basis exists for forfeiture of Mr. Sandusky’s vested retirement benefits,” Benjamin wrote. He did not return messages seeking comment.
The retirement system yanked Sandusky’s pension after he was sentenced in October to 30 to 60 years in state prison for sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains he was wrongfully convicted and is pursuing appeals.
The retirement system said Sandusky’s convictions for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault triggered forfeiture provisions of the state’s Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act. The law, first passed in 1978, was amended in 2004 so that it applies to any public school employee convicted of a sex crime against a student.
Benjamin said the pension board’s argument that Sandusky was a “de facto” employee of Penn State in later years was “illogical and untrue.”
He said many of the payments made by the university to Sandusky after 2004 were smaller speaking fees and that tax records indicate Sandusky described himself after retirement either as self-employed or as a consultant to the charity for children he founded, The Second Mile.
“At no time after Mr. Sandusky’s June 30, 1999, retirement did SERS cause the retirement benefits he was receiving to cease,” Benjamin noted. “Had Mr. Sandusky returned to active service at Penn State for regular remuneration as a school employee, SERS would have caused his retirement benefits to cease.”
Sandusky collected a $148,000 lump sum upon his retirement in 1999, and by September 2012 had received about $900,000 in pension payments.
Benjamin told the retirement board that if it does not reconsider the decision, he wants an administrative hearing.
The pension forfeiture also applies to Sandusky’s wife, who would otherwise be eligible for survivor’s benefits if he dies before she does.
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