State to appeal tossed conviction of Penn State ex-leader

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s attorney general will appeal a federal judge’s decision to vacate the child-endangerment conviction of former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the decision Wednesday, a day after U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick ruled Spanier was improperly charged under a 2007 law for actions that occurred in 2001.

This was Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s full statement:

Graham Spanier, as President of Penn State University, was personally advised that children were being sexually abused on school property,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Evidence proved he chose not to help the children—but instead to cover up the abuse, despite being well aware of his responsibility as a supervisor.

“In a last-minute and highly unusual decision yesterday evening, a federal magistrate set Spanier free just before he was finally about to begin serving his deserved sentence. Federal courts have very limited power to act in state criminal proceedings, and this ruling plainly exceeded that power.

“As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made crystal clear, Spanier’s conduct was illegal. The Office of Attorney General will quickly appeal this ruling to hold him accountable for his conduct covering up child sexual abuse. No one is above the law.”

Mehalchick gave Shapiro’s office three months to retry Spanier, who had been convicted for how he responded in 2001 to a complaint about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy.

Shapiro says federal courts have limited power to act in state criminal cases, and argues Mehalchick exceeded that authority.

Spanier was forced out as president shortly after Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011.

The 70-year-old had been scheduled to begin serving two months in jail Wednesday.

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