HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday denied Penn State's request to put on hold former assistant football coach Mike McQueary's whistleblower and defamation lawsuit until related criminal cases are resolved.
Judge Thomas Gavin said the pending criminal matters "impose no burden on Penn State" because the university is neither a prosecutor nor defendant in the cases against former administrators Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.
McQueary, who testified in June that he complained to then-head coach Joe Paterno after seeing defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky naked in a shower with a boy, is pursuing a civil suit against the school.
Gavin said Spanier, Curley and Schultz "have no Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify, nor need they fear that information gathered in this case can be used against them in the criminal proceedings. The focus in the criminal proceedings is what (the) defendants knew about Sandusky's improper conduct on the day they appeared before the grand jury or met with investigators, not the reason why McQueary was let go."
Regarding the defamation claim, Gavin said the only issue is whether a statement issued by Spanier in support of Curley and Schultz defamed McQueary.
"Whether the criminal defendants were truthful in their testimony regarding what they knew about the incident McQueary observed and reported is factually and legally distinct from McQueary's whistleblower and defamation claims."
Penn State spokesman Dave La Torre declined to comment, and McQueary lawyer Elliott Strokoff did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after his conviction for sexually abusing 10 boys.
McQueary testified at trial that he went to the team locker room late one Friday night and came across Sandusky in the shower with the boy in a sexually suggestive position. He said he heard a "skin-on-skin smacking sound," and that the incident left him "extremely alarmed, extremely flustered, extremely shocked."
He told the jurors he believed Sandusky was anally raping the child. For that victim, one of 10 in the criminal case, Sandusky was convicted of several crimes but acquitted of the most serious charge, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
McQueary's lawsuit claimed Spanier's support for Curley and Schultz harmed his reputation, making him a scapegoat. He also alleges he lost his $140,000-a-year coaching job because of his cooperation with prosecutors. He is seeking reinstatement and back pay, among other things.
Spanier, forced out as president in the wake of Sandusky's arrest, remains a tenured faculty member but has been placed on paid leave. Curley, the school's athletic director, is on paid leave to serve out the last year of his contract. Schultz is now retired as vice president for business and finance.
The three face charges of endangering the welfare of children, obstruction, conspiracy, failure to report suspected child abuse and perjury, for an alleged cover-up of complaints about Sandusky.