Two weeks after the state Superior Court tossed numerous charges against three ex-Penn State administrators facing prosecution over their handling of sex-abuse allegations, the Office of Attorney General filed a request to have the case reargued before an en banc panel of the frontline appeals court, reported The Legal Intelligencer.
Questions had lingered about whether the office would seek reargument given that the Superior Court's three-judge panel was unanimous and the opinion blasted some of the prosecutor's conduct. But according to some attorneys, the loss of the conspiracy and contempt charges was a significant blow to the prosecution, and, while the three still face child-endangerment-related charges, those might be more difficult cases to make.
Matthew Mangino, defense attorney and former Lawrence County district attorney, said that, while the Lynn decision indicates that child endangerment statutes could be applied to supervisors even if the conduct occurred before the 2007 change, the Lynn case might be distinguishable from the cases against the former Penn State administrators.
"Lynn was responsible for looking into sex offenders in the clergy. That really wasn't the role of" Spanier, Curley or Schultz, Mangino said. "But it still looks like the statute could apply."
Even if the statutes can be applied to the ex-administrators, Mangino said prosecutors still have an uphill battle in proving exactly what the defendants knew and when they knew it.
"This Lynn decision doesn't make the prosecution of these three defendants a slam dunk," Mangino said.
Attorneys said it is difficult to know whether the Office of Attorney General's decision to appeal was based solely on the belief that the Superior Court made an error, or whether the appeal was based on the mentality of fighting every loss in an effort to preserve the strongest charges.
Cohen said the institutional judgment of many prosecutors is to "move forward and do what you can to prosecute every case that you bring," but he said the appeal will likely be "fruitless" and the office should stop and "take a look at where they are at this point."
However, according to Mangino, the office's decision to appeal the Superior Court's decision should only hinge on its belief that the three-judge panel erred in its ruling, and should not be based on the potential viability of any of the remaining claims.
"Just because there's a recent decision from the appellate court that bolsters the charges you have remaining, even if you think those charges are viable, that's not going to have much of an impact," Mangino said.
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