Federal judge throws out ex-Penn State president’s conviction

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By David Dekok
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By David Dekok

HARRISBURG, Pa. April 30 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday threw out the child endangerment conviction of former Penn State University president Graham Spanier, one day before he was to enter a county jail to begin serving his sentence.

United States Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick in Scranton, Pennsylvania said Spanier’s state conviction, which grew out of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal in Penn State's storied football program, was unconstitutional.

The judge said it was because it was based on a state law adopted six years after the events in question.

The state could retry Spanier or appeal the decision to a higher federal court.

The U.S. Constitution bars convicting someone under an ex post facto law, meaning one adopted after the alleged crime. State prosecutors argued that Spanier’s criminal conduct continued until 2012, bringing it under the 2007 law, but the judge disagreed.

Samuel Silver, one of Spanier’s attorneys, said he would have no comment. Joe Grace, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general, said the decision is under review.

Spanier, 70, was convicted of child endangerment in 2017 for failing to report Jerry Sandusky to the state police, allowing his sexual assaults of young boys to continue for 11 more years.

Sandusky, 75, a former assistant coach of the Penn State football team under legendary coach Joe Paterno, is serving 30-60 years in prison.

Spanier was sentenced to 4-12 months in prison plus two years of probation. He was due to report at 9 a.m. Wednesday to the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte to begin serving his sentence. The jail is about eight miles from his home in State College. (Reporting by David Dekok; editing by Bill Tarrant and Michael Perry)