Pennsylvania State University lost a bid to delay a lawsuit brought by former assistant football coach Mike McQueary until criminal charges tied to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case are resolved.
The pending criminal cases against three former school officials impose no burden on Penn State and McQueary’s case should go forward, state court Judge Thomas Gavin said in a ruling made public today in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
“Simply put, while there may be overlapping witnesses, there are no overlapping issues in the criminal and civil cases,” Gavin said in the ruling.
McQueary claims the university fired him because of his cooperation with state prosecutors in the Sandusky investigation. Sandusky, 68, who spent 31 seasons as a defensive assistant football coach under Joe Paterno, was sentenced in October to at least 30 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year-period.
McQueary was a key witness for the prosecution in a June trial against Sandusky. His testimony is at the heart of a related case against former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former athletics director Tim Curley.
McQueary testified that he saw the former coach abusing a boy, who appeared to be about 10 years old, in a football locker room shower in February 2001 and reported the incident to Paterno, Curley and Schultz.
Paterno died in January. Curley and Schultz are charged with five counts, including endangering the welfare of a child, lying to a grand jury and failing to report the 2001 incident to authorities.
Spanier, who was fired by Penn State last year after Sandusky’s arrest, was charged with similar counts last month. All three have maintained their innocence. McQueary is expected to be a witness in the case against them.
Penn State had argued that its defense of McQueary’s lawsuit over $4 million in lost earnings would be hampered by the prosecutions of Spanier, Schultz and Curley. The interests of the school, the defendants and the abuse victims would be best served by a stay, the university argued in court papers.
Gavin disagreed, ruling that McQueary should have the same right as Penn State to restore his reputation as promptly as possible.
“If this case is stayed, McQueary may well find himself without funds to live on and/or to prosecute his claim, which to me, rises to the level of economic harm,” Gavin said in the opinion. The former coach’s severance package, which called for payments for 18 months, will end by January 2014 and pre-trial evidence gathering may take as long as a year, Gavin said.
David La Torre, a spokesman for Penn State, declined to comment on the ruling.
The case is McQueary v. The Pennsylvania State University, 2012-1804, Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Pennsylvania (Bellefonte).
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