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Penn State hearing: Did officials cover up Jerry Sandusky sex crimes?

A preliminary hearing for three former Penn State officials begins Monday. It will determine whether to move forward with a trial on charges that the men conspired to cover up abuse by Jerry Sandusky.

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The hearing Monday at the Dauphin County Court is expected to last between one and three days and will determine whether there is enough evidence to bring the men to trial. Under Pennsylvania law, prosecutors are required to show that a crime has been committed and that there is “good reason” to believe that the defendants committed it, according to the Pennsylvania Patriot-News. If the case moves to trial court, prosecutors must then prove the higher burden that the defendants committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Chelsea Sheasley is the Monitor's Asia Editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine.

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The former officials say they were never aware that an allegation at the time involved anything of a sexual nature, but believed the graduate assistant only reported “horseplay” in the university locker room shower, reports the Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal notes that many legal analysts expect the case to proceed to trial, but say prosecutors face several challenges, among them whether key testimony to their case will be admissible in court.

"This was never an easy case from the beginning," Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., and a former assistant US attorney in Pittsburgh, told the Journal.

A key question for prosecutors is whether the testimony of former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin would be admissible at a trial. Ms. Baldwin told investigators that Spanier, Schultz, and Curley told her they didn’t have any documents related to allegations of abuse, but defense attorneys say her testimony should be thrown out because Baldwin represented the men before she testified against them before the grand jury.

Another central piece of evidence is a brief e-mail exchange between the three men on Feb. 27, 2001. Without naming the exact situation he was referring to, Spanier said he was supportive of the athletic director’s proposed approach. "The only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier wrote, according to the Associated Press.

Caroline Roberto, who is representing Curley, said that Monday's hearing “is merely a part of the legal process and is not an indicator of a defendant's guilt or innocence,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"Tim Curley is innocent and we look forward to vigorously challenging the charges at every stage," she said.

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