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NCAA courtroom comments angers PSU alum - abc27 WHTM

NCAA courtroom comments angers PSU alum

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BELLEFONTE, Pa. (WHTM) -

The Paterno family continued its fight to clear JoePa’s name in court Monday.

Attorneys for Paterno's family argued to release private documents former FBI director Louis Freeh used in the July 2012 report that led the NCAA to impose heavy sanctions against Penn State University.

With a thick folder of papers under his arm, Scott Paterno took the steep trek up East High Street to enter the Centre County Courthouse. He denied any comment to the media.

The hearing in front of Potter County Judge John Leete, specially selected for the case, began promptly at 10 a.m. Leete decided to divide the two major arguments into two sections. The morning comprised of oral arguments where the Paterno family challenges whether the NCAA had legal grounds to levy heavy sanctions against Penn State and its football program.

NCAA attorney Everett Johnson Jr. said the governing body of college athletics did not “hold a gun to the head” of Penn State to sign the consent decree that levied a $60 million fine to finance child abuse prevention grants, reduced scholarships, a four-year bowl game ban, and the forfeiture of 112 wins.

Johnson made waves in the courtroom when he said the Paterno family claimed Penn State was facing the so-called “death penalty” if the university did not sign the consent decree, further stating those claims are false.

“At the end of the day, it’s just not a game on a Saturday,” Johnson said.

The courtroom groaned in disapproval of Johnson’s comments.

Paterno family attorney L. Joseph Loveland later said “It’s not just a football game.”

Following the hearing, Johnson was asked for clarification on his statements.

"Well, I’m going to refer you to the NCAA press office,” he said.

Penn State Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano has become a fixture during the court proceedings. He said his jaw dropped when he heard Johnson make such a statement.

"I'm still galled by it,” he said. “I mean, I’m stunned that the NCAA in open court could have a representative make that comment. I think that highlights the hypocrisy of the organization."

When asked about Johnson’s comments, Scott Paterno laughed out loud as he got into his car and followed up with "no comment."

The afternoon session focused more on the Paterno family’s subpoena to obtain more than 3.5 million raw documents that Freeh used to compile his report.

The Paternos argue they need the private documents to aid their case against the NCAA on the legal grounds matter. The initial subpoena was against Pepper Hamilton, the former law firm representing Freeh. However, PSU attorney Donna Doblick stated the university is now in control of the database.

Doblick argued the database is too large to simply hand over. PSU attorneys also argued many documents fall under attorney-client privilege and must remain private.

Leete broke ground when both parties agree in open court to a list of search terms.

"We’ll scream for relevancy, ask for search terms, run the search," Doblick said.

Loveland said he would at least comprise a list of search terms, but both sides would not agree on the use of the data collected. PSU wanted the Paterno family to use the information for litigation purposes only, a requirement to which the family objects.

"We want access to the records,” said Loveland. “We think that's fair. We think the public deserves to see and know what happened here."

Leete said he would take a considerable amount of time to finalize his ruling.

"To say the paperwork in this case is overwhelming is an understatement," said Leete.


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