HARRISBURG, Pa. >> A federal judge on Tuesday declined to throw out a state law that requires the $60 million fine Penn State has been paying over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal be spent to address child abuse within the state.
U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane ruled against the NCAA’s effort to have the 2013 Endowment Act declared in violation of the federal constitution, deferring to a parallel case in state court that is scheduled for trial next month. Her decision was based largely on the fact the constitutionality of the law had already been upheld in the Commonwealth Court case, which pits state Treasurer Rob McCord and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman against the NCAA and Penn State.
"A judgment on the constitutional claims from this court, at this juncture, would unnecessarily interfere with state court proceedings and result in needless duplication," the judge wrote.
The pending state court case began as an attempt to enforce the Endowment Act but has morphed into a wider challenge to the legality of a 2012 consent decree between Penn State and the NCAA, an agreement that includes the fine.
The judge, ruling in favor of McCord and Corman on Tuesday, wrote that "judicial economy would not be served were this court to undertake an independent review of the constitutional claims at issue here," and she noted trial in the other case is imminent. She said the NCAA had sufficient opportunity to air the constitutional claims in Commonwealth Court, enough to keep her from stepping in.
The NCAA said the judge didn’t address the validity of the Endowment Act in her ruling.
"The NCAA continues to believe the Endowment Act is unconstitutional and will have the right to appeal the lower court’s decision at the conclusion of the Corman case," it said in a statement.
A lawyer for McCord said the judge’s order effectively kicks the NCAA out of federal court.
"Treasurer McCord is gratified by the court’s decision, and our focus is now to prepare for trial," said the attorney, Christopher Craig.
The fine money, which Penn State has been setting aside in installments, is designated to prevent child sexual abuse and help its victims.
The consent decree also imposed a four-year bowl ban on Penn State, a temporary reduction of scholarships and the elimination of 112 football team wins under the final years of former coach Joe Paterno. The NCAA has since overturned the post-season ban and restored scholarships, but a settlement or a verdict in the case could affect the remaining penalties.
Sandusky, a longtime defensive assistant coach under Paterno, was convicted in 2012 of abusing boys, some on Penn State’s campus, and was sentenced to a lengthy state prison sentence. He maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he didn’t molest them.
A report commissioned by Penn State concluded Paterno and other high-ranking university administrators concealed key facts about Sandusky to avoid bad publicity, a finding disputed by many Penn State alumni and fans.