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Penn State rebuffs CNN request for records on 1998 Sandusky investigation

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 12:38 AM EST, Mon December 19, 2011
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is ecorted to his car while leaving the Centre County Courthouse, on December 13, in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is ecorted to his car while leaving the Centre County Courthouse, on December 13, in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Penn State lawyer says CNN cannot have the police report tied to a 1998 probe
  • That investigation related to Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual misconduct with a boy
  • It didn't lead to criminal charges, which is a reason info wasn't provided, the lawyer says
  • Pennsylvania's "right-to-know" law doesn't apply to Penn State, even if it gets state funds

(CNN) -- Penn State has rejected a CNN public records request for a copy of a 1998 campus police report tied to sexual misconduct allegations made against then-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a lawyer for the school told CNN.

Amy Elizabeth McCall, an assistant general counsel, asserted in a letter to CNN that Penn State is "a state-related institution" and not a "state school" like some in other states, and therefore does not have the same public records requirements as other public institutions.

"Because the 1998 investigation did not result in any criminal charges, it is not criminal history information and the university's police are thus required by law to keep that information within the police department," McCall wrote.

According to a grand jury's report released in early November, the mother of one of Sandusky's accusers -- identified as Victim 6 -- came forward and said the coach had showered with her son and hugged him.

Two campus police detectives eavesdropped on conversations in May 1998 when the mother confronted the coach, who retired a year later from the Nittany Lion program. Police later monitored a second conversation that month, in which the mother told Sandusky to stay away from her son.

"I understand. I was wrong," Sandusky said, according to the grand jury report. "I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead."

No charges were ever filed in that instance, and local and state law enforcement authorities did not look deeper into those and other allegations against Sandusky until years later.

'I believe I saw a boy being molested'

He now faces at least 50 charges related to alleged sex abuse perpetrated against young boys over a 14-year period. He has plead not guilty to all charges, saying in interviews that while he may have "horsed around" with children he never sexually assaulted them.

CNN had asked for a copy of the Penn State campus police report of that 1998 investigation, citing Pennsylvania's "Right-to-Know Law" that offers access for citizens and media to "public information."

University officials to face trial

Unlike many commonwealth agencies, Penn State and three other schools that receive state funds don't fall under Pennsylvania's right-to-know law, according to Terry Mutchler, the executive director of the state's Office of Open Records.

In 2007, state lawmakers considered a change that would have included the school under the open records law. But Penn State President Graham Spanier -- who lost his job days after the grand jury report came out this fall, after initially supporting two school officials accused of covering up a 2002 eyewitness allegation against Sandusky -- testified against the move before the House State Government Committee.

Spanier told the legislature he was concerned about the cost and compliance of Penn State being subject to the law. He also said that there were competitive reasons for keeping records private.

"Nobody would argue the point that the public has a right to know how public funds are spent," he said at the time. "But these proposals will fundamentally change the way we operate, the way our trustees govern, and the way the university administers their policies."

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