Judge Hears Arguments in Paterno vs. NCAA Case

By Mallory Lane

Published 05/19 2014 07:29PM

Updated 05/19 2014 07:57PM

BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - A major civil case stemming form the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal took center stage in Centre County Monday.

An out of town judge heard arguments for the second time in the Paterno vs. NCAA case. This was the first time the judge heard from Penn State.

The Paterno side of this case wants access to millions of documents to help make their case and Monday said they felt positive about the judges involvement. They think the judge is considering their side of the case and moving forward carefully to make a proper legal judgment.

The NCAA is hoping to stop the case from going any further, questioning whether the Paterno family can even be party to the case, since Joe Paterno died before the Freeh report was released.

"Today was a good start," Paterno family spokesperson Dan McGinn said.

Representatives of the Paterno Estate are all smiles walking out of the Centre County Courthouse Monday.

"Extremely positive experience today," McGinn said. "Tremendous confidence in the court. This is an important hearing. This is an important case. We're pleased with the way the court is approaching it and the Paterno family has said from the beginning, we're going to see it through until the end."

Potter County Senior Judge John Leete heard arguments on not two, but three sides, of this lawsuit Monday as Penn State spoke as a party for the first time.

Morning arguments largely surrounded the consent decree, handed down to Penn State by the NCAA in 2012.

Attorneys for the NCAA argue the consent decree was not signed under extreme duress. Penn State said as harsh as it was, the consent decree did resolve serious threatened litigation. The Paterno Estate argues the decree was a violation of NCAA jurisdiction.

Monday afternoon, arguments continued over whether or not Penn State and the NCAA have to hand over documents so the Paterno Estate can make its case.

The Paterno family said Penn State pulled the curtain over things. Penn State and the NCAA said a lot of the millions of documents requested are privileged.

"I was with Joe Paterno on his last days," McGinn said. "The only thing he said is, get to the truth. Just find the truth and make sure that's the case. That's the reason the family is seeing this through, that's why we're here today."

Attorneys for Penn State and the NCAA had not comment Monday afternoon. The Paterno Estate is staying positive.

"It's going to go on for a period of time, but for people who care about the truth in this really critical case, this is an important hearing, it's an important milestone, we have confidence in the court and we'll wait and see how the judge rules," McGinn said.

There was a comment made in court Monday that shook things up in the courtroom.

Penn State just finished arguing the consent decree's validity, claiming it was forced upon Penn State by the NCAA.

To that, NCAA attorney Everett Johnson, Jr. responded saying it was not about "putting a gun to Penn State's head," instead, it was "just about not having a football game on Saturday."

The comment got a lot of reaction inside and outside of the courtroom.

"That was the most stunning remark I think I've heard all morning," Penn State Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano, said. "That an organization that professes to defend the student athlete would be so hypocritical to suggest that it's just about a football game on a Saturday, when we all know in Centre County, it's about so much more than that. I just find it galling and offensive. It's one of the reasons why I desperately want to win this action. The NCAA is broke and they need to be fixed."

Judge Leete did not make a ruling Monday. He will consider arguments and make a decision at a later date, although he did not indicate when that may be.

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