Juror: Penn State ex-president's email was key evidence

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A juror who voted to convict Penn State's former president of child endangerment said that the defendant's own words in a 2001 email amounted to some of the strongest evidence against him.

Victoria Navazio said Monday that an email from Graham Spanier to former co-defendants Gary Schultz and Tim Curley showed that he knew children were at risk.

Spanier approved a plan on how to deal with a report that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy in a team facility. In the email, he told the other two administrators that the "only downside" was if Sandusky did not respond properly "and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it."

"How else can you take that, other than they knew they should have been reporting it" to the then-Department of Public Welfare, said Navazio, three days after voting with 11 other jurors to convict the 68-year-old Spanier of a single misdemeanor count. He was acquitted of conspiracy and a second child endangerment count.

"Obviously he knew children were at risk for something," she said. "He knew there was a problem."

Spanier, who did not testify or put on any witnesses, has said he had no inkling that the 2001 complaint by then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary to Curley, Schultz and former head football coach Joe Paterno was about a sexual attack on a child, as McQueary has repeatedly testified was the case. Spanier has said it was characterized as horseplay.

"This whole crap about 'horseplay' - they apparently were comfortable using the word horseplay for some reason," Navazio said. "But at the same time you can't say it was horseplay, but everybody says how serious it was."

Navazio, a Harrisburg resident who works in the software field, has a bachelor's degree from Penn State-Harrisburg, but had not continued to follow the Sandusky child molestation scandal in recent years.

She said jurors were divided early on during the roughly 13 hours of deliberations, including some who favored full acquittal and others who wanted to convict on all three counts.

"It was actually heavily debated," she said. "Each charge was, I think I want to say, dissected down to the elements. And each element was discussed actually intently and quite seriously."

Schultz, the school's former vice president, and Curley, the former athletic director, both pleaded guilty on March 13 to misdemeanor child endangerment and testified for the prosecution. All three await sentencing. Spanier's lawyer has vowed to appeal.

Navazio said neither Curley nor Schultz struck her as credible on the stand.

Curley, she said, "seemed like the center of the breakdown of everything. He was the one that most procrastinated doing anything. He was the one that seemed to water down the report the most."

Jurors acquitted Spanier of the conspiracy charge out of a feeling that there was conspiring among the three administrators, but there wasn't evidence that the goal was to put children at risk, she said. Prosecutors say four of the eight young men who testified at Sandusky's trial that he had abused them, were abused after the incident McQueary witnessed.

"It didn't feel like they were conspiring to endanger children," Navazio said. "They were conspiring to protect Penn State."

The Sandusky scandal led the university to fire Paterno and force out Spanier, triggered NCAA sanctions against the school and football program that were later reduced and shorted, and eventually caused the school to pay out more than $90 million to settle civil claims of abuse at Sandusky's hands. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving 30 to 60 years in prison.

A few other jurors who were contacted by The Associated Press either deferred comment or declined to comment on the case.