The ruling from U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick was issued on the eve of the date that Spanier was scheduled to report to Centre County Correctional Facility near Bellefonte to begin serving a two-month prison term.
That is not going to happen now.
Mehalchick found prosecutors in the case, as well as trial court judge John Boccabella, incorrectly applied an expanded version of the state’s child endangerment statute from 2007 to the circumstances of Spanier’s case, which dated to a sexual abuse allegation that reached the then-president’s desk in 2001.
“in sum,” the judge wrote, “the conviction in this matter was based on a criminal statute that did not go into effect until six years after the conduct in question, and is therefore in violation of Spanier’s federal constitutional rights.”
With the conviction and sentence vacated, Spanier will not have to report to prison.
By any definition this is a tremendous win for the longtime Penn State president who was forced by trustees to give up his office under pressure in November 2011 after the arrest of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of serial child sexual abuse.
Mehalchick’s ruling reversed earlier decisions at the county court and Pennsylvania Superior Court levels, and earlier this year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had opted not to hear Spanier’s appeal.
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