Two plead guilty in Penn State Sandusky cover-up

By Sara Ganim and Evan Simko-Bednarski CNN

(CNN) -- Two former Penn State officials who were charged with child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky scandal have pleaded guilty.

One week before they were set to go to trial on three felony charges, former athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of children.

In exchange, the felony charges were dropped. Curley and Schultz could face up to five years in jail when sentenced, though guidelines show that they will likely be given a sentence ranging from probation to nine months in jail.

Sandusky, the disgraced former defensive coordinator at Penn State, was convicted and sent to prison nearly five years ago for molesting 10 boys, many of them on Penn State's campus.

Two of those cases heavily involved Curley, Schultz, and then-university-president Graham Spanier. According to emails recovered in an internal investigation and first reported in 2012, those cases, one in 1998 and one in 2001, were discussed among the three administrators in February 2001.

In the 1998 case, a victim's mother called police and filed a report, saying her son had been inappropriately touched by Sandusky in the football locker room shower. The district attorney declined to prosecute. The emails show Schultz wrote in his notes, "Is this the opening of pandora's box?" and "Other children?"

Then, in 2001, former assistant football coach Mike McQueary testified that he told Curley and Schultz that he'd witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy in the team shower facilities late one night. The emails were written weeks later.

Prosecutors say Curley and Schultz never called the police, even though they knew the accusations were similar to the allegations in the 1998 report.

In the emails, Shultz, Curley and Spanier allegedly discussed plans to tell Sandusky to seek professional help. They also allegedly planned to inform him that his "guests" -- children Sandusky brought on campus -- would no longer be allowed to use Penn State facilities.

Spanier was fired in 2011 over the Sandusky case. He is set to go to trial on March 20, and has maintained his innocence.

The case also ended the career of Joe Paterno, the long-time coach of Penn State's football team, who was fired along with Spanier in 2011. Paterno was also told of the assault witnessed by McQueary, and went on to alert Curley of the allegations.

Paterno died in 2012. His family has denied his role in any cover-up, though an independent investigation funded by Penn State alleged that the coach had knowledge of the suspicions surrounding Sandusky as early as 1998.

A state court previously dismissed more serious charges of perjury and obstruction after defense attorneys for the Shultz, Curley and Spanier successfully argued that Penn State's in-house counsel improperly represented herself before the grand jury.

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