Comments made by Penn State's former president following the arrests of two top deputies were defended in a court filing Friday as the university again sought dismissal of a whistleblower lawsuit tied to a child sex abuse scandal involving the football program.
University attorney Nancy Conrad argued that then-president Graham Spanier's remarks after the November 2011 arrests of Tim Curley and Gary Schultz were taken out of context in former assistant coach Mike McQueary's lawsuit.
McQueary has argued that in calling the charges "groundless" Spanier made him appear untruthful because he was one of the witnesses whose grand jury testimony led to the arrests.
Conrad told the judge Spanier's full quote was "I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless and that they conducted themselves professionally and appropriately."
"A plain reading of the statement reveals that Spanier conveyed a mere opinion that the record would show that the charges were groundless — not that the charges were in fact groundless," Conrad wrote. "An opinion cannot legally support a defamation claim."
McQueary was also a witness in former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's criminal case. Curley, the school's former athletic director, and Schultz, the retired vice president, face charges they did not properly report Sandusky after McQueary informed them he saw Sandusky having sexual contact with a boy in a locker room shower.
The new filing by the school was made in advance of a court hearing Monday on the school's preliminary objections to McQueary's lawsuit.
McQueary was a graduate assistant, and former varsity quarterback, when he happened upon Sandusky and the boy in a team shower late on a Friday night. He testified against Sandusky during the former assistant coach's trial in June that resulted in a 45-count guilty verdict.
Sandusky maintains his innocence and is appealing as he serves a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. Curley, Schultz and Spanier, who was charged late last year, all deny the allegations against them.
Through a school spokesman, Conrad declined an interview request Friday, and McQueary attorney Elliot Strokoff did not return a message.