HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The state must restore the $4,900-a-month pension of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky that was taken away three years ago when he was sentenced to decades in prison on child molestation convictions, a court ordered Friday.
A Commonwealth Court panel ruled unanimously that the State
Employees' Retirement Board wrongly concluded Sandusky was a Penn State
employee when he committed the crimes that were the basis for the
"The board conflated the requirements that Mr. Sandusky engage in `work relating to' PSU
and that he engage in that work `for' PSU," wrote Judge Dan Pellegrini.
"Mr. Sandusky's performance of services that benefited PSU does not
render him a PSU employee."
Sandusky, 71, collected a $148,000 lump sum payment upon retirement in 1999 and began receiving monthly payments of $4,900.
The board stopped those payments in October 2012 on the day he
was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10
children. A jury found him guilty of 45 counts for offenses that ranged
from grooming and fondling to violent sexual attacks. Some of the
encounters happened inside university facilities.
The basis for the pension board's decision was a provision in the
state Pension Forfeiture Act that applies to "crimes related to public
office or public employment," and he was convicted of indecent assault
and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
The judges said the board's characterization of Sandusky as a
Penn State employee at the time those offenses occurred was erroneous
because he did not maintain an employer-employee relationship with the
university after 1999.
The judges ordered the board to pay back interest and reinstated
the pension retroactively, granting him about three years of makeup
Sandusky attorney Richard A. Beran said the board had taken from the Sanduskys what was rightfully theirs.
"Perhaps a majority lacked the courage to apply the law as
stated," Beran said. He called the December 2014 decision "certainly one
that probably pleased the public in light of the current state of the
Pennsylvania pension system, but under the law it was very clear he was
entitled to it and his wife is entitled to the pension if Jerry
Beran said he expected the retirement system to pursue an appeal
to the state Supreme Court, but State Employees' Retirement System
spokesman Jay Pagni said he could not speculate on what action might be
"We just received the order today," Pagni said. "We are reviewing
it and we will present that analysis to the board." He was unsure how
much Sandusky would receive in back payments and interest.
Sandusky, housed at Greene State Prison, is pursuing an appeal of
his conviction. Although Penn State employees are not state workers,
university employees are allowed to participate in the state government