Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State University who lost his job amid the school’s infamous sex-abuse scandal, has been criminally charged with covering up reports that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had abused young boys on campus.
Linda Kelly, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, said Thursday that a grand jury had found evidence that Spanier was part of a ‘‘conspiracy of silence’’ to cover up abuse at the State College, Pa., campus, making him the highest-ranking university official to be charged with a crime in connection with Sandusky’s actions.
‘‘This was not a mistake by these men, this was not an oversight,’’ Kelly said at a news conference. “This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials to actively conceal the truth.’’
The eight charges include perjury, endangering the welfare of children, obstruction of an investigation, failure to report child abuse, and criminal conspiracy. Sandusky was convicted of child sex abuse in June and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Spanier was forced to resign the presidency days after Sandusky was arrested. In the past year, Spanier has gone from one of the most well-known and well-paid college presidents in the country to being accused of felonies in a conspiracy to put the university’s image and football program ahead of the safety of children.
Spanier’s attorneys said in a statement that there is ‘‘no factual basis to support these charges.’’
Spanier is accused of knowing about two reported cases of possible abuse by Sandusky. In May 1998, a mother reported to police that Sandusky had inappropriately touched her 11-year-old son in a Penn State locker room shower.
In February 2001, an assistant coach said that he saw what he believed was Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a locker room shower.
Spanier has said he does not remember being informed of the 1998 incident, and that the 2001 incident was described as only being ‘‘horse play.’’
Penn State placed Spanier on leave Thursday. The ex-president had been allowed to keep a tenured professorship and take a sabbatical.
The other two officials — Timothy Curley, who is on leave from being athletic director, and Gary Schultz, a former vice president who retired last year — were charged nearly a year ago with perjury and failure to report child abuse. Both men now face additional charges, including criminal conspiracy, Kelly said. Both have maintained their innocence.
Kelly said that these three officials did not do enough to stop Sandusky, allowing him to continue to abuse young boys. Spanier’s attorneys turn that sentiment around and ask why state officials spent nearly three years investigating Sandusky when he should have been more quickly ‘‘warned, stopped, or indicted.’’
When a grand jury began to investigate Sandusky, Kelly said, Penn State officials were not forthcoming with information, stalling the investigation. When Spanier was no longer president, she said, information suddenly flowed more freely from Penn State.
The grand jury presentation included documents from a file on Sandusky that Schultz allegedly kept in his office and e-mails exchanged among some or all of the three officials following each incident.
During the news conference, Kelly said that investigators also discovered that a law firm had charged the university in February 2001 for 2.9 hours of work advising Schultz about possible child abuse.
Sandusky, who has maintained his innocence, has been transferred to a maximum-security prison in southwestern Pennsylvania that is home to most of the state’s death-row inmates.