Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 2:17 PM
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A hearing on a lawsuit filed by the family of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno began Tuesday as his relatives seek to reverse the NCAA's penalties against the school over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The courtroom swelled with lawyers ahead of the hearing that began at 10 a.m., and some Paterno family members were there, including Paterno's son Scott.
The lawsuit by Paterno's family challenges penalties the NCAA imposed against the school - including voiding 111 wins while Paterno was head coach. The NCAA alleges the wins were tainted by school administrators' alleged mishandling of the Sandusky scandal.
The NCAA also fined the school $60 million, which is being paid in installments, banned the football team from bowl games for four years and cut the number of football scholarships it could offer.
The Paterno family contends the NCAA violated its own rules in imposing the sanctions, which resulted in, among other things, Paterno no longer being officially recognized as the Division I coach with the most wins, at 409.
Judge John Leete scheduled Tuesday's court session so he can hear lawyers argue if he should throw out the claim.
Paterno's family maintains that he didn't know Sandusky was a pedophile and didn't cover up child sex abuse allegations against the assistant coach.
The hearing comes a day after Penn State said it was paying 26 young men $59.7 million over claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of Sandusky, the school's former longtime defensive coach.
He was convicted of abusing 10 boys, some of them at Penn State facilities. Eight young men testified against him, describing a range of abuse they said went from grooming and manipulation to fondling and rape when they were boys.
Sandusky, 69, did not testify at his trial but has long asserted his innocence. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but insisted he never molested them. Sandusky is pursuing appeals while he serves a 30- to 60-year sentence on 45 criminal counts.
The abuse scandal rocked Penn State, bringing down Paterno and resulting in unprecedented sanctions against the university's football program.
Three former Penn State administrators await trial in Harrisburg on charges they engaged in a criminal cover-up of the Sandusky scandal. Former president Graham Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz and retired athletic director Tim Curley deny the allegations, and a trial date has not been scheduled.
The school said 23 deals are fully signed and three are agreements in principle. There are six other claims, and it believes some of them are meritless.
The settlements have been unfolding since mid-August, when attorneys for the accusers began to disclose them. Penn State has not been confirming them, waiting instead to announce the deals at once.
Penn State has spent more than $50 million on other costs related to the Sandusky scandal, including lawyers' fees, public relations expenses and adoption of new policies and procedures related to children and sexual abuse complaints.
The 32 claimants involved in negotiations with Penn State include most of the victims from the criminal trial and some who say they were abused by Sandusky many years ago. Negotiations were conducted in secret, so the full range of the allegations wasn't disclosed publicly.
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