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Former Penn State President Graham Spanier charged in child sex abuse scandal

Sources tell NBC News that state prosecutors have prepared charges against Graham Spanier, Penn State's former longtimeĀ  president, as well as more charges for two ex-school officials who have already been indicted. They are accused of lying to a grand jury and trying to cover up the sex-abuse scandal involving convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET: Pennsylvania state prosecutors, citing what they called "a conspiracy of silence," on Thursday charged Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State University, with perjury, obstruction of justice and endangering the welfare of children abused by the school's former defensive coordinator, convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. 

The prosecutors also brought new felony charges against two former top Penn State officials -- Tim Curley, the ex-athletic director, and Gary Schultz, an ex-Penn State vice president who oversaw the campus police. Both men had been previously charged in the case and they, along with Spanier, have publicly insisted on their innocence.

"This case is about three powerful men who held high positions -- three men who used their positions to conceal and cover up for years the activities of a known child predator," state Attorney General Linda Kelly said at a news conference in Harrisburg. "This was not a mistake, an oversight or a misjudgment.

"This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials at Penn State, working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard to the suffering of children,"  Kelly said.

“Graham Spanier has commited no crime and looks forward to the opportunity to clear his good name and well earned national reputation for integrity,” Spanier’s lawyers said in a statement. “This presentment is a politically motivated frame-up of an innocent man. And if these charges ever come to trial, we will prove it.”

“To be clear, Tim Curley is innocent of all charges.
We are carefully reviewing the presentment and will reserve a more comprehensive comment for a later time,” Curley’s lawyer said in a statement.

They also blamed the charges against their client on Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, saying that Kelly – whom he appointed – had brought the case against Spanier to divert attention from the fact that when Corbett was attorney general, he had failed to bring criminal charges against Sandusky in 2009  – an issue that Democrats have criticized him for. Kelly on Thursday adamantly denied that politics played any role in the case.

The new charges come nearly one year after Sandusky was arrested and charged with repeatedly abusing young boys dating back to 1998, setting off one of the biggest scandals in the history of college sports. Sandusky, the longtime deputy to the school's late legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse last June and was sentenced last month to 30 to 60 years in state prison.

Full coverage of the Sandusky trial

Spanier, 64, a professional sociologist and family therapist, served for 16 years as president of Penn State, one of the largest public universities in the country, where he was a popular figure on campus and an active booster of the school's football program. He was fired last year, after Sandusky’s arrest, and is now facing eight criminal charges, including five felonies, each of which carry a potential prison term of seven years.

The charges laid out in a new 39-page grand jury presentment are based in part on evidence uncovered in a report last summer by former FBI director Louis Freeh. But the grand jury report also provide new details-- in part culled from previously undisclosed grand jury testimony and documents -- of how Spanier, Schultz and Curley allegedly deceived investigators and hid key information from other university officials, including the chief of the campus police and, in Spanier's case, from the Penn State Board of Trustees.

The grand jury report also provides new details about the trail of an incriminating "Sandusky file" that was kept in a file drawer in Schultz's office -- documenting a 1998 police investigation of Sandusky "with very detailed information" about Sandusky's contact with a young boy in the Penn State shower and a later 2001 allegation about Sandusky abusing another young boy in the Penn State shower.

This and other material was not turned over to prosecutors despite  grand jury subpoenas for all documents relating to the defensive coordinator between 2010 and April 2012. In all, 22 boxes of Sandusky documents, photographs and other materials were not initially turned over in response to the subpoeanas and, as a result, the investigation into Sandusky was "signficantly thwarted and frustrated," the grand jury report states.

According to the new grand jury report, the Sandusky file was removed from Schultz's office by his administrative assistant last year and delivered to his home on Nov. 5, 2011, the same day the then-Penn State vice president was first charged in the case. A previous assistant testified she was given an "unusual request" by Schultz to never "look in" the Sandusky file and that the request was delivered in a "tone of voice" she had never heard him use before.

The new grand jury report states that the emails and other documents show that Spanier, Curley and Schultz at first agreed to report to child welfare authorities a 2001 allegation by former graduate assistant Mike McQueary that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in the Penn State shower. One indication of how serious they took it was found in documents showing that Schultz sought legal advice from Penn State's outside lawyer, Wendell Courtney, who billed the school for a "Conference with G Schultz re reporting of suspected child abuse."

But Curley later changed his mind "after talking it over with Joe" -- a reference to the late coach Joe Paterno. (At the news conference, Kelly declined to speculate on whether Paterno would have been charged in the case had he been alive.) They then developed a new plan to encourage Sandusky to seek professional help. "This approach is acceptable to me," Spanier wrote in a Feb. 27, 2001, email to Curley and Schultz.

Spanier added: "The only downside for us if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road. The approach you outline and a reasonable way to proceed."

According to the new grand jury report, Spanier initially told investigators in March 2011 that he knew nothing about the 1998 police probe of Sandusky (despite emails showing he was briefed on the investigation) and was given only sketchy information about the 2001 allegation, believing that involved only a contention of Sandusky "horse playing around" with a child. And he later made similar comments before a grand jury, including testifying  that there was "no discussion" about reporting the 2001 incident to child welfare or police -- part of the basis for the perjury charge against him.

The report says that Spanier never told the Penn State trustees about either the 1998 or 2001 allegations. When he did brief the board in May 2011 -- after a newspaper story first disclosed the investigation into Sandusky -- Spanier directed the university's chief lawyer, Cynthia Baldwin, to leave the room and then "specifically informed the Board that the investigation had nothing to do with Penn State and that the investigation was regarding a child in Clinton County [Pennsylvania] without affiliation with Penn State," the grand jury report states. 

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