HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's attorney general said she granted Gov. Tom Corbett the authority to file a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA because the litigation could present a conflict of interest as her office prosecutes three Penn State administrators.
Attorney General Linda Kelly told The Associated Press on Thursday that "an actual conflict of interest could, and likely would, arise if this office were involved in both cases."
"The size and scope of that criminal case, which includes extensive grand jury testimony and other confidential information related to the university, made it untenable for the Office of Attorney General to pursue a civil lawsuit involving the NCAA's sanctions of Penn State," Kelly said. "Given the serious nature of both these cases, keeping these matters separate is the best course of action for the people of Pennsylvania."
Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley face endangering the welfare of children, obstruction, conspiracy, failure to report suspected child abuse and perjury charges for allegedly covering up complaints and suspicions about Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator who was convicted last summer of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, including attacks inside campus facilities.
Corbett sued the NCAA in federal court on Wednesday, saying a set of penalties imposed against Penn State over its handling of the matter should be thrown out on antitrust grounds. The school agreed to a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on post-season play, a reduction in scholarships and the elimination of more than 100 wins under former coach Joe Paterno.
The NCAA has called Corbett's lawsuit meritless and an affront to the victims of Sandusky, who is now serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence for abuse of 10 boys over 15 years.
Spanier, forced out as president last year after Sandusky's arrest, remains a faculty member but is on paid leave. Curley is serving out the last year of his contract as athletic director, also on leave. Schultz, the school's vice president for business and finance, has retired.
All three have said they are innocent.
Under state law, the attorney general pursues and defends lawsuits involving most state agencies, but can delegate that power for reasons of efficiency or if it is otherwise deemed to be in the best interests of the state.
Kelly said her office received a request from Corbett's lawyer James D. Schultz on Friday, Dec. 14, for permission to sue the NCAA. Her office granted it three days later, she said. That authority, signed by the chief of her litigation section, can be terminated or amended by the attorney general's office, and it does not cover any appeals.