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Ex-Penn State president to sue Freeh for libel over report on Sandusky abuse scandal

Craig Houtz / Reuters file

The Freeh report accused former Penn State University President Graham Spanier, left, of failing to disclose to investigators what he new about child sexual abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, right.

Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier filed a notice Thursday that he intends to bring a libel and defamation lawsuit against former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose exhaustive investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal sharply criticized Spanier's handling of the case.

The filing in Centre County, Pa., Court of Common Pleas is a simple "writ of summons" alerting Freeh that Spanier plans to sue. It asks for a jury trial and says the suit will seek monetary damages, which it doesn't specify.

Spanier filed the writ one day before the anniversary of Freeh's report. Pennsylvania law gives plaintiffs one year to file suit after an alleged act of  libel or defamation.

Freeh's law office, which is listed as a co-defendant, said he couldn't comment on the filing because of pending felony charges against Spanier. But it said in a statement:

"Over the past year, Penn State has made a dedicated effort to reform the problems that led to Mr. Sandusky's ability to victimize children on the university campus. I trust that the changes and improvements that Penn State has put in place will help to build a constructive and protective environment where children will not again suffer abuse."

Spanier and two other former Penn State executives are charged with perjury in connection with their grand jury testimony in the Sandusky case, as well as obstruction, conspiracy, endangering the welfare of children and failure to properly report suspected abuse. Spanier has been free on $125,000 bond since his arraignment in November.

The grand jury was investigating allegations that Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach on the staff of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, sexually abused boys on campus facilities for many years. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of abuse in October and is serving 30 to 60 years in prison.

Freeh was asked to conduct an independent investigation of the university's handling of the allegations. He concluded that Spanier was among "the four most powerful people" at the school "who failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."

The report also implicated Paterno in the alleged cover-up. Paterno died in January 2012, but his family has pursued a concerted public relations campaign to discredit Freeh's report.