STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Emails show Penn State's former president Graham Spanier agreed not to take allegations of sex abuse against ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to authorities but worried university officials would be "vulnerable" for failing to report it, a news organization has reported.
CNN says the emails, first obtained by and reported on by NBC, followed a graduate assistant's 2001 report of seeing Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a team locker room shower.
The emails show athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz intended to report the allegation, then reconsidered. Spanier responded that he was "supportive" of their plan, but he worried they might "become vulnerable for not having reported it."
Sandusky was convicted this month of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys. The scandal led to the ouster of Spanier and revered coach Joe Paterno and charges against Curley and Schultz, who are accused of perjury for their grand jury testimony and failing to properly report suspected child abuse. Spanier hasn't been charged.
The CNN report cites an email from Schultz to Curley on Feb. 26, 2001, 16 days after graduate assistant Mike McQueary told veteran coach Joe Paterno about the shower assault. Schultz suggests bringing the allegation to the attention of Sandusky, Sandusky's charity and the Department of Welfare, which investigates suspected child abuse, according to the report.
But the next night, Curley sent an email to Spanier, saying that after thinking about it more and talking to Paterno, he was "uncomfortable" with that plan and wanted to work with Sandusky before contacting authorities, the report said.
If Sandusky is cooperative, Curley's email said, "we would work with him. .... If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups," according to the report.
Spanier wrote back and agreed with that approach, calling it "humane and a reasonable way to proceed," according to the report. But he also worried about the consequences.
"The only downside for us is if message isn't `heard' and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it, but that can be assessed down the road," the email said, according to CNN.
Spanier's attorney didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Saturday.
Schultz and Curley's lawyers on Saturday echoed recent comments by Gov. Tom Corbett about the need for a solid case before charging Sandusky. Corbett began the investigation in 2009 when he was attorney general.
"For Curley, Schultz, Spanier and Paterno, the responsible and `humane' thing to do was, like Governor Corbett, to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague, but troubling allegations," the lawyers said. "Faced with tough situations, good people try to do their best to make the right decisions."
Paterno, ousted by the school's board of trustees for what was called his "failure of leadership" surrounding allegations against Sandusky, died of lung cancer in January. After Sandusky's arrest, Paterno said through a spokesman that he reported the allegation to the head of his department and "that was the last time the matter was brought to my attention until this investigation and I assumed that the men I referred it to handled the matter appropriately."
Schultz, 62, and Curley, 58, deny the allegations and have asked a judge to dismiss the charges. A status conference for their case is scheduled for July 11.
Spanier sued Penn State in May to try to get copies of his email traffic from 1998 to 2004, citing the pending investigation being conducted on the university by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Two weeks ago, lawyers for Penn State asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit and said the attorney general's office, which is prosecuting Curley and Schultz, had asked them not to provide Spanier with the emails.