A Commonwealth Court panel ruled unanimously today that Jerry Sandusky is still entitled to his state pension despite being convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys.
Sandusky, the Penn State football team’s defensive coordinator from 1977 to 1999, was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse in 2012 and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
As a result, he lost his $4,900-a-month state pension when the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) ruled he was no longer eligible for it. Sandusky lost an appeal, but his lawyer vowed to keep fighting.
In conflict is the Pennsylvania law regarding pensions. Prior to 2004, when an amended law was passed, Pennsylvanians could only lose their state pensions if they were convicted of financial crimes. The 2004 law was not made retroactive, so Sandusky’s crimes do not apply.
The board could have stripped Sandusky of his pension if he had committed the crimes when he was a Penn State employee. But none of his convictions were from when he worked at the school.
“Because we find that nothing in the record in any way establishes that Mr. Sandusky was a PSU employee when the underlying criminal acts were committed,” the Court wrote, “we reverse the Board’s decision.” All of Sandusky’s convictions were for acts committed after 2003, well after he retired.
Here’s the backstory: Sandusky retired, he said, because he realized he would never become Penn State’s head coach. Employees who retired in 1999 got an additional five years of service tacked on as incentive, and Sandusky reached an agreement with athletic director Tim Curley on an exit plan that year. In addition to the monthly annuity payment, he received a lump sum of $168,000, free season tickets to Penn State football and men’s and women’s basketball games, an office, access to fitness facilities and an agreement for Penn State to work with Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile.
SERS argued this made him a de facto employee, which would allow it to strip him of his pension. The court disagreed, citing the school’s response: “The University does not view the provision of tickets to create a de facto employment relationship with the tickets’ recipients. Football tickets are frequently provided to persons having some association with the University and alumni.”
Sandusky will receive pension payments back to when he lost it in November 2012.
“He shouldn’t be receiving any benefits, especially benefits related to Penn State,” Jennifer Storm, an advocate who has been working with Sandusky’s victims, told CNN earlier in the appeal process. “I think it’s absolutely outrageous that he’s entitled to any benefits associated with the place where he offended upon so many young men.”
Read the court’s opinion below.
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