Judge weighs delay in Penn State whistleblower suit

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BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) -- A key witness against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will learn in about two weeks whether his defamation and whistleblower lawsuit can move forward or will face what could be a considerable delay.

Judge Thomas Gavin announced that schedule Friday after a brief hearing on Mike McQueary's lawsuit in the same Centre County Courthouse where McQueary testified this summer that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy inside a university shower more than a decade ago.

Penn State, a defendant in the lawsuit, wants the delay, arguing the matter should not proceed while criminal charges are pending against three former school administrators who are expected to be pivotal witnesses: ex-President Graham Spanier, outgoing Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a retired vice president.

McQueary's lawyer Elliott Strokoff told Gavin that there was ample work that could be done before trying to interview Spanier, Curley and Schultz, who could invoke their right against self-incrimination.

"The reasons the defendant is advancing for the stay are maybes - maybe this and maybe that," Strokoff said after noting the state constitution's guarantee of justice "without delay."

Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad said 33 paragraphs in McQueary's lawsuit relate to facts and issues that pertain to the pending criminal cases against the three administrators.

She said McQueary has not argued he would be harmed if the matter was delayed. She said there was no risk that evidence might be destroyed, noting that documents and other material has been preserved because related lawsuits are pending.

Curley and Schultz are scheduled for trial in January on charges of perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse, but they are seeking a delay, and prosecutors are not opposed. That matter could be combined with additional charges recently filed against them, and with Spanier's criminal case. A preliminary hearing on the new charges is set for Dec. 13.

McQueary testified this summer that he saw Sandusky in a sexually suggestive position with a boy in the shower, and heard a "skin-on-skin smacking sound." For that encounter, Sandusky was convicted of indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and endangering a child's welfare. He was acquitted of the most serious charge, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

McQueary, a graduate assistant on the football team staff at the time, complained to then-coach Joe Paterno, but legal authorities were not notified.

Sandusky, 68, has begun serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains his innocence and plans to appeal. On Friday, a different judge delayed arguments on post-sentencing motions in that case until January.

McQueary sued the school that once employed him last month, saying the university mistreated him after Sandusky was arrested, resulting in distress, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment. McQueary claims that Spanier's support for Curley and Schultz in the wake of their arrests in November 2011 made him a scapegoat and harmed his reputation as well as his ability to make a living as a football coach.

The lawsuit alleges he was dropped by the school because of his cooperation with the criminal investigation. He is seeking reinstatement, back pay and legal fees, among other things.

McQueary was placed on administrative leave a week after Sandusky, Curley and Schultz were arrested in November 2011, and in July learned he was no longer a university employee. He had been making $140,000 a year.

The attorney general's office has described the actions of Curley, Schultz and Spanier as a conspiracy of silence to cover up complaints about Sandusky acting improperly with young boys. The three men deny all allegations against them.

Spanier was forced out as president but remains a faculty member. Schultz has retired, and Curley is on paid leave until the final year of his contract ends.