HARRISBURG, Pa. – Penn State’s former top lawyer said in a deposition made public Thursday he advised the university’s vice president in 2001 to notify a state agency of a complaint from an assistant football coach about Jerry Sandusky showering with a boy in a team locker room.
Former university general counsel Wendell Courtney also said in the deposition three weeks ago that no one from Penn State has ever asked him for details regarding his Feb. 11, 2001, phone discussion with then-vice president Gary Schultz or the research he did that day on reporting suspected child abuse.
Excerpts from the deposition were attached to a filing by lawyers for former assistant coach Mike McQueary in opposing the university’s effort to delay McQueary’s whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against Penn State.
McQueary has said he saw Sandusky abusing a boy, called Victim 2 in court records, in the team facility late on a Friday night and went to head coach Joe Paterno the next day. Paterno notified Schultz and then-athletic director Tim Curley before Schultz and Courtney conferred that Sunday.
Schultz, Curley, and then-president Graham Spanier await trial on charges related to their handling of complaints about Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach, is serving a prison sentence on child sex abuse convictions.
Courtney testified in the May 31 deposition that although he did not recall specifics of the phone call, “I do remember that the advice I gave was to report to DPW.” The state Department of Human Services, which was called the Department of Public Welfare at the time, maintains a ChildLine hotline to field reports of child abuse.
Courtney told The New York Times in 2011 that he was never told of Sandusky engaging in sexual misconduct with young children, and if he had “any idea that there was even remotely improper conduct with children on any day since the beginning of time, nothing in the world would have kept me from being absolutely certain that it was reported to the police immediately. That is my duty.”
Neither Courtney nor Schultz lawyer Tom Farrell responded to messages seeking comment Thursday.
Courtney said in the deposition that even though the meeting was noted in the university-commissioned 2012 report on the Sandusky scandal by a team led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, no one from Penn State has ever asked him about what he told Schultz.
“Perhaps the reason why (Penn State) avoided making the inquiry was because it knew the answer to the question,” McQueary’s lawyers wrote.
The Freeh report said Courtney emailed Schultz in January 2011, a decade later, to say his successor as the school’s top lawyer had called to ask him what he knew “about JS issue I spoke with you and Tim about circa eight years ago. I told her what I remembered. She did not offer why she was asking, nor did I ask her.” Courtney declined to be interviewed by the Freeh team.
“Penn State engaged the Freeh firm to investigate the matter and, as set forth in Freeh’s report, Courtney declined to be interviewed by Freeh upon advice of counsel,” Penn State spokesman Lawrence Lokman said in an email Thursday. “So any implication that Penn State did not want the benefit of Courtney’s input is simply not correct.”
In the days after conferring with Courtney, Schultz and Curley met to review a 1998 complaint from a woman about Sandusky showering with her child, according to the Freeh report. Curley subsequently told Sandusky not to bring children into school athletic facilities.
Sandusky continued for nearly a decade to run a charity for at-risk children before being charged in 2011 and convicted the next year of 45 counts of abuse involving 10 boys, including Victim 2. McQueary was a key witness against him.
Sandusky, 72, now serving a 30 to 60 year prison sentence, maintains his innocence and is appealing.