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Judge weighs delay in Penn St. whistleblower suit

Judge weighs delay in Penn St. whistleblower suit

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) A key witness against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will learn in about two weeks whether his defamation and whistleblower lawsuit can move forward or will face what could be a considerable delay.

Judge Thomas Gavin announced that schedule Friday after a brief hearing on Mike McQueary's lawsuit in the same Centre County Courthouse where McQueary testified this summer that he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy inside a university shower more than a decade ago.

Penn State, a defendant in the lawsuit, wants the delay, arguing the matter should not proceed while criminal charges are pending against three former school administrators who are expected to be pivotal witnesses: ex-President Graham Spanier, outgoing Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a retired vice president.

McQueary's lawyer Elliott Strokoff told Gavin that there was ample work that could be done before trying to interview Spanier, Curley and Schultz, who could invoke their right against self-incrimination.

``The reasons the defendant is advancing for the stay are maybes - maybe this and maybe that,'' Strokoff said after noting the state constitution's guarantee of justice ``without delay.''

Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad said 33 paragraphs in McQueary's lawsuit relate to facts and issues that pertain to the pending criminal cases against the three administrators.

She said McQueary has not argued he would be harmed if the matter was delayed. She said there was no risk that evidence might be destroyed, noting that documents and other material has been preserved because related lawsuits are pending.

Curley and Schultz are scheduled for trial in January on charges of perjury and failure to properly report suspected child abuse, but they are seeking a delay, and prosecutors are not opposed. That matter could be combined with additional charges recently filed against them, and with Spanier's criminal case. A preliminary hearing on the new charges is set for Dec. 13.

McQueary testified this summer that he saw Sandusky in a sexually suggestive position with a boy in the shower, and heard a ``skin-on-skin smacking sound.'' For that encounter, Sandusky was convicted of indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, corruption of minors and endangering a child's welfare. He was acquitted of the most serious charge, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

McQueary, a graduate assistant on the football team staff at the time, complained to then-coach Joe Paterno, but legal authorities were not notified.

Sandusky, 68, has begun serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains his innocence and plans to appeal. On Friday, a different judge delayed arguments on post-sentencing motions in that case until January.

McQueary sued the school that once employed him last month, saying the university mistreated him after Sandusky was arrested, resulting in distress, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment. McQueary claims that Spanier's support for Curley and Schultz in the wake of their arrests in November 2011 made him a scapegoat and harmed his reputation as well as his ability to make a living as a football coach.

The lawsuit alleges he was dropped by the school because of his cooperation with the criminal investigation. He is seeking reinstatement, back pay and legal fees, among other things.

McQueary was placed on administrative leave a week after Sandusky, Curley and Schultz were arrested in November 2011, and in July learned he was no longer a university employee. He had been making $140,000 a year.

The attorney general's office has described the actions of Curley, Schultz and Spanier as a conspiracy of silence to cover up complaints about Sandusky acting improperly with young boys. The three men deny all allegations against them.

Spanier was forced out as president but remains a faculty member. Schultz has retired, and Curley is on paid leave until the final year of his contract ends.

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John Carlson will make his preseason debut Tuesday, but Devante Smith-Pelly will not

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John Carlson will make his preseason debut Tuesday, but Devante Smith-Pelly will not

A lower-body injury kept defenseman John Carlson out of the first few days of training camp and has thus far kept him out of preseason action. On Tuesday, however, as the Capitals head to St. Louis to take on the Blues, Carlson will be in the lineup for his preseason debut.

Carlson was held out of Friday’s game as a precaution, but head coach Todd Reirden said he was “really close” at that point to returning. He will play with his normal partner Michal Kempny.

Carlson enters the season on a new eight-year contract that he signed in the offseason. This is a big year for him to prove to the team that his career year in 2017-18 (15 goals, 53 assists, 68 points, all career highs) was a reflection of his true value and not simply the result of a motivated player playing for his next contract.

While Carlson is set to make his debut, forward Devante Smith-Pelly still will be held from the lineup.

Tuesday’s game will be Washington’s fifth preseason game out of seven and Smith-Pelly has yet to play in any of them.

Reirden would not go into specifics as to why Smith-Pelly is not in the lineup. When asked Friday, Smith-Pelly called it a “coach’s decision” and said he was not dealing with any injury.

Reirden had no real update to offer on Monday regarding the winger’s status.

“It’s something that we’re going to continue to monitor every day and get him close to playing,” Reirden said.

While no one is expected to play every preseason game, Smith-Pelly is rapidly running out of time to get any playing time in before the start of the regular season. If he is not ready to play yet in the preseason, it is fair to wonder just how far away he may be from suiting up when the games actually start to matter.

Missing Tuesday’s game means there are only two chances left to get Smith-Pelly into the lineup with games on Friday and Sunday.

When asked how many games Smith-Pelly would need to prepare for the season, Reirden said, “Ideally, I'd like to have him ready for as many as possible. As soon as he's ready to play, he'll play.”

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Wizards players believe winning as a team will take care of individuals with contract uncertainty

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Wizards players believe winning as a team will take care of individuals with contract uncertainty

The Washington Wizards are set to play the 2018-19 season with seven players on expiring contracts, or in other words half of 14 spots currently held on their roster. That does not include Dwight Howard, who has a player option for next season worth just $5.6 million, so low for his standards that he might as well be entering a contract year.

That dynamic could make things interesting for the Wizards, as some guys will likely thrive with the chance to earn themselves a lot of money, while others may struggle under the pressure of an unknown financial future. The players themselves seem to be in agreement on one thing, that as long as the team wins, they won't have to worry about their own contract situation.

"I'm more focused on winning. If we win, we all gonna eat. If we don't win, it will be a tough year," forward Markieff Morris said.

"Team-first, honestly. We have to win," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "It's not about me at all. It's about this team, it's about the name on the front of my jersey. I'm not putting any weight on whatever contractual situations are going on right now."

That was the message from Morris and Oubre, both of whom have not been in this situation before. Morris had a second contract signed with the Phoenix Suns before his first one was up,  while Oubre is currently entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Veteran newcomers Austin Rivers and Jeff Green are also entering contract years, but have been through it before. Rivers acknowledged that there are some difficulties that come with the process.

"It's tough, you know what I mean? People don't realize on the outside that this is our life, this is how we feed our families," Rivers explained. 

"What I try to do is focus on the things that I can control. The only thing that I can control is how I perform and how I play. If you focus on how much you get paid or how much this guy gets paid, it messes you up in the head, honestly. It's all about timing. Some guys get lucky, some guys are liked by different teams. I think if you just go out there and hoop, then everything takes care of itself."

Green has played through a contract year in each of the past four seasons. Each time, he has done enough to earn another contract in a good situation for him.

"Honestly, [the key is] to really not think about your contract. It's something that at this moment, you can't control," Green said. "So, really you just have to focus on basketball. That's the main priority and all the rest will take care of itself when it's said and done."

Point guard John Wall has his future safe and sound with his second max contract extension still a year away from kicking in. He has never really had to worry about his next contract as a perennial All-Star.

That, however, doesn't mean Wall can't speak to the effects too many expiring contracts can have on a team. Back in the 2015-16 season, the Wizards missed the playoffs and many feel too many guys in contract years was partially to blame.

Wall brought it up quickly when asked about this year's contracts.

"This is probably the second most we’ve had. I’ve been on a team where we had about nine guys and I know what it feels like when everybody is trying to get off, get their shots and do whatever," he said. 

Wall, though, believes this year can be different because of the types of guys who are playing in contract years.

"I think with those guys they kind of understand what we are as a team. What we stand for. Keef has been here for years. Kelly has been here for years. Those guys understand what we’re trying to do. There’s no point in trying to go out there and prove a point," he said.

Wall may not be able to relate to the uncertainty of a contract year, but he can speak to the individual benefits that come from a team winning. He believes the Wizards becoming a constant in the playoffs is a big reason for the accolades he has collected over the years.

"You don’t get paid if we don’t win. You don’t become an All-Star, you don’t get accolades if you’re not winning. So it doesn’t matter what you do by yourself," he said. "I think those guys understand that.”

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