(CN) – A Pennsylvania judge refused to dismiss a former assistant coach’s whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal.
Former assistant football coach Mike McQueary sued the university last year. He claims statements made by then-Penn State president Graham Spanier after criminal charges were filed against two administrators and Sandusky in 2011 made it look as if he were lying.
Sandusky, a 30-year Penn State coach and defensive coordinator, was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse on June 22, 2012 following a two-year grand jury investigation.
In his complaint, filed in the Court of Common Pleas for Centre County, Pa., McQueary says he saw Sandusky engage “in highly inappropriate and illegal sexual conduct with a boy who appeared to be about 10 to 12 tears old” in locker room showers on Feb. 9, 2001.
McQueary claims that he reported the incident to the now-late head coach, Joe Paterno, the following morning, and that the coach told him that he “had done the right thing.”
Paterno relayed the events to athletic director Tim Curley, and McQueary met with Curley and Gary Schultz, a vice president, about a week later, according to the complaint.
But despite promises to investigate the incident, the officials allegedly failed to alert police or youth services.
McQueary says he was promoted to a full-time assistant coach in 2004 and received a severance commitment from the university in 2008.
It took years for the allegations about Sandusky’s abuse to reach a grand jury, but McQueary says he testified in 2010 that he saw Sandusky rape the boy.
When the jury’s findings were made public in November 2011, Spanier issued a statement suggesting that McQueary had committed perjury and lied about reporting Sandusky back in 2001, according to McQueary’s lawsuit.
McQueary says he was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 10, 2011, a day after the school fired Paterno. McQueary learned about his own firing during a televised news conference on July 5, according to the complaint.
Penn State filed a motion to dismiss McQueary’s lawsuit in January.
In an opinion issued Tuesday, Judge Thomas Gavin said the former assistant coach makes sufficient claims of “outrageous conduct” on the part of Penn State to keep the case alive. He gave the university 20 days to respond.
“McQueary asserted that Spanier, in reckless disregard for the truth and in an outrageous effort to provide full and public support of the university to two criminal defendants [Curley and Schultz] and in an effort to assist in their exoneration, published a press release to Penn State Live,” Gavin wrote. “McQueary further averred that Spanier did so to preserve the reputation of Penn State and to make McQueary the scapegoat in this Gerald Sandusky scandal.”
The judge added that McQueary believes the university “treated him like a leper to be quarantined outside of State College” in the aftermath of the arrests of Sandusky, Schultz and Curley, barring him from all athletic facilities associated with its football programs beginning on Nov. 11, 2011.
“McQueary averred that in barring him from all facilities associated with the football program, he was ostracized and isolated from friends and colleagues he associated with for about 20 years,” Gavin wrote. “Based on these averments, this court cannot with certainty conclude that a claim for punitive damages must fail and; therefore, the preliminary objection is overruled.”
Curley and Schultz, and Spanier deny the criminal allegations against them.
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