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Penn State's former president is going on the legal offensive

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Penn State's former president has gone on the legal offensive, filing one lawsuit that alleges the university violated an agreement they made when he stepped down four years ago and a second defamation claim over a university-commissioned report that was blisteringly critical of his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

The two lawsuits by Graham Spanier were filed in the county courthouse near State College on Wednesday, about three weeks after a state appeals court dismissed several of the more serious criminal charges over his response to complaints about Sandusky and Spanier's related grand jury testimony.

Spanier accused Penn State of violating a non-disparagement agreement made when he resigned under pressure in November 2011, shortly after Sandusky was first charged. Spanier's lawsuit alleges that he has been unfairly vilified by the report and by statements critical of him by university trustees.

"The false, malicious and disparaging statements regarding Spanier impugn his well-earned reputation as an educator, university administrator, civic leader, advocate for child and family welfare, and national security expert — and they undermine public confidence in his competence, ethics and abilities in these areas," his lawyers wrote.

Spanier also asserts the university has not lived up to promises to provide him with administrative and computer support, or to pay all of his legal costs. He seeks damages and costs for seven counts of breach of contract.

Spanier also filed a 112-page complaint against former FBI director Louis Freeh, his law firm and Freeh Group International Solutions over the July 2012 report they produced for Penn State. The report concluded that Spanier, two of his top lieutenants in the Penn State administration and former head football coach Joe Paterno concealed key facts about Sandusky to avoid bad publicity.

"During his tenure as president of Penn State, Dr. Spanier never received any information that Sandusky had abused a child," the lawsuit states. It said Freeh and his team were "determined to transform Dr. Spanier from a pre-eminent academic administrator to a conspirator who enabled a serial pedophile," ignoring evidence to the contrary.

A Penn State spokesman said the lawsuits are being reviewed and declined comment.

The lawsuit against Freeh said Spanier has spoken with Sandusky at a formal meeting only once, but also encountered him at football games and similar settings. Spanier has never had a personal conversation with Sandusky, his lawyers said.

It also said the Freeh team contacted federal officials to say Spanier was not fit for employment.

He filed four counts of defamation and one of interference with business relations, and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, costs and fees.

A telephone message left for Freeh at Freeh Group headquarters in Delaware was not immediately returned Thursday.

Spanier was placed on academic leave in 2012 and, although he has not taught since, he remains a tenured Penn State faculty member. His employment agreement gave him a year's sabbatical after leaving the presidency, followed by $600,000 a year until 2017.

Sandusky, the school's longtime defensive football coach, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving at least 30 years in state prison. He maintains his innocence and is appealing.

State prosecutors are seeking a review of the appeals court decision that threw out several of the charges against Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz and retired athletic director Tim Curley. All three remain charged with failure to report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children, and Curley also still faces a perjury count.

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