HARRISBURG, Pa. – Penn State’s former president is being blocked from travelling to Saudi Arabia while he awaits trial over allegations he covered up child sex abuse complaints against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Graham Spanier’s lawyers filed an emergency motion in county court in Harrisburg on Thursday seeking permission for him to travel for work in October and November despite objections from prosecutors in his criminal case that the country lacks an extradition treaty with the U.S.
Spanier and two other former Penn State administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, await trial on charges of perjury, obstruction, conspiracy, failure to properly report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children. The matter is on hold while a state appeals court considers their claims that could result in charges being dismissed.
They are accused of a criminal coverup of complaints about Sandusky, who was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving 30 to 60 years in prison.
Spanier’s attorneys said the decision by a probation officer to nix the trip was unreasonable, noting Spanier was allowed to travel to the Persian Gulf country last November and has made trips this year to England and Spain. Under a 2013 court order, Spanier must ask the probation officer for temporary return of his passport if he wants to travel overseas.
“The ability to travel internationally for meetings, conferences, and speaking engagements is a prerequisite in Dr. Spanier’s profession and essential to his ability to earn a livelihood,” wrote lawyers Tim Lewis and Liz Ainslie.
Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the decision to let Spanier travel to Saudi Arabia last year was made by a judge and was not supported by the prosecutors in his case.
“The attorney general’s office is treating Dr. Spanier no differently than anyone else who wishes to travel and (is) facing felony charges,” Ardo said. “That’s our position in regards to anyone who is accused of a felony who wishes to travel to a non-extradition country.”
Spanier’s emergency motion said he plans to meet with and conduct seminars for the Saudi Higher Education Ministry, participate in a meeting at Qassim University and consult with the rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. He needs his passport to obtain a visa for travel Oct. 16.
Spanier was pushed out as president in November 2011, when Sandusky was first charged along with Curley and Schultz. Spanier was charged a year later and put on administrative leave. Penn State said Friday he remains a tenured faculty member but is not teaching or performing any university duties.
His agreement with the university gave him a year’s sabbatical after his time as president ended, followed by five years with a $600,000 annual salary. That five-year period is scheduled to end in November 2017.