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Penn State's ex-president, 2 other former administrators will stand trial

This is "a tragic day for Penn State University, to say the least," judge says

They are accused of covering up sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky

They pleaded not guilty to perjury, obstruction, failure to report child abuse charges

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania CNN  — 

A judge ruled Tuesday that Penn State’s former president and two senior administrators will face trial on obstruction of justice and other charges related to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The decision followed a two-day preliminary hearing in Harrisburg that wrapped up on Tuesday.

This is “a tragic day for Penn State University, to say the least,” Judge William Wenner said.

State prosecutors allege that former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Senior Vice President Gary Schultz all knew about two allegations made against Sandusky in 1998 and in 2001, but lied about their knowledge when a grand jury convened several years later.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts of child sex abuse, ranging from corruption of minors to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

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E-mails that surfaced during Penn State’s internal investigation into Sandusky’s actions led, in part, to criminal charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and failure to report child abuse against the three school officials.

The communications touch on a 2001 incident involving the former assistant football coach’s encounter with a boy in a shower on the Penn State campus. Afterward, the e-mails show, the men decided to ask Sandusky to stop bringing children from his charity into the locker rooms at the school.

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At least three of Sandusky’s known victims were abused after 2001, according to testimony at last year’s trial of former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator.

Attorneys for the three accused former Penn State administrators claim there is no evidence of a cover-up. Yet prosecutors have characterized their action as a conscious decision not to call police.

“There was a conspiracy of silence,” prosecutor Bruce Beemer said during this week’s hearing. “They are not relieved of criminal responsibility because their conspiracy worked for 10 years.”

Those testifying during the recent hearing included Mike McQueary. He was a Penn State graduate assistant coach in 2001 when he witnessed the allegedly illicit shower encounter between Sandusky and a boy that’s central to the prosecution’s case.

McQueary said, for the first time, that late iconic head football coach Joe Paterno had mentioned Sandusky was a “sick” guy in passing several times in the decade between that incident and when Sandusky was charged in 2011. Paterno died the following month.

Paterno told him, McQueary testified, that Penn State administrators had “screwed it up” when talking about the 2001 investigation.

Curley’s attorney, Caroline Roberto, said this testimony was inconsistent with all if the other testimony and statements McQueary has given in the past three years. Dan McGinn, a spokesman for the Paterno family, said he doesn’t think McQueary’s testimony was truthful.

“Someone can tell you there was a private conversation about anything,” McGinn said. “We’re clear about what we think Joe Paterno did.”

A trial date for Spanier, Curley and Schultz has not been set, though Schultz’s lawyer Tom Farrell said that he expected it will begin in March. All three men are set to be tried together.

CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.