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Penn State trustees approve settlement offers to abuse victims

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Penn State trustees on Friday authorized the university to make settlement offers to the sexual abuse victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

University officials attending an open trustees meeting did not say how much the settlements would be worth. They said the decision had been made at a separate meeting covered by attorney-client privilege.

"Today's action is yet another important step toward the resolution of claims from Sandusky's victims," university President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. "The university intends to deal with these individuals in a fair and expeditious manner, with due regard to their privacy."

Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, some in the team's showers. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

The university said the settlement agreements had not yet been signed, and that it did not have a set timetable for doing so.

The scandal prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association to slap the school with a $60 million fine and to void all its football victories over more than 14 seasons.

A federal judge last month dismissed a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania that sought to have those sanctions thrown out, arguing that they would have a severe economic effect on the local economy.

Later this month, three former senior school officials are due to face preliminary hearings related to charges that they conspired to cover up the scandal. The three are Graham Spanier, the university president who was fired due to the scandal; Athletic Director Tim Curley, who was placed on administrative leave, and retired Senior Vice President Gary Schultz.

Spanier's lawyers on Thursday served legal notice that they intend to file defamation charges against Louis Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who has become a central figure in the Penn State saga. Freeh was the author of a study, commissioned by the university, that spelled out details of the scandal that many in the state rejected, including the family of famous former coach Joe Paterno. The Freeh report also became the basis for the NCAA sanctions against Penn State.

Freeh declined to comment on the threatened lawsuit.

"Over the past year, Penn State has made a dedicated effort to reform the problems that led to Mr. Sandusky's ability to victimize children on the university campus," Freeh said in a statement.

"I trust that the changes and improvements that Penn State has put in place will help to build a constructive and protective environment where children will not again suffer abuse."

(Editing by Scott Malone, Toni Reinhold)

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