College football fans know that when a player gets in trouble, it won’t be too long before that player retains legal counsel—and usually very good counsel. At Florida, it’s Huntley Johnson. At Florida State, it’s Tim Jansen. At Tennessee, players got a list of six defense lawyers with ties to the athletic department. Penn State, federal investigators revealed today, had their own list as well.
As part of the announcement of its nearly $2.4 million fine against Penn State for violating the Clery Act, the U.S. Department of Education released hundreds of pages documenting the many ways Penn State manipulated its crime stats. Because the investigation was prompted by Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse, the findings go into detail about the special treatment given to football players. As one example, it talks about the list of defense lawyers given to Penn State players in 2007:
We also learned that around 2007, football administrators compiled a list of prominent local attorneys that was provided to team members with campus conduct or legal issues. Some football players were advised to retain legal counsel before interacting with the Office of Student Conduct over relatively routine disciplinary matters. In certain cases, members of the football team were able to retain the best legal representation available in very short order. The Department has no information about the payment of retainers and fees for legal services and makes no representation in this regard other than to point out that access to such services was just another thing that led some Penn State football players to believe that there were special rules for people with special talents.
Here is the full list. I’ve left in addresses and phone numbers that were for work offices, but taken out cell phone numbers:
Knowing how to get a great lawyer and fast does make a difference, even in student judicial matters. In her report last year on how college athletes at some big-time programs get special help avoiding criminal charges, Paula Lavigne with ESPN’s Outside the Lines noted what happened at Michigan State—where the school set up a system in which every student got free defense counsel through the university’s legal services. An East Lansing police spokesman told her that athletes, using that system, use the same lawyers as other students on misdemeanor cases.
When Outside the Lines analyzed the results of case dispositions involving Michigan State students compared with a set of East Lansing cases involving college-age males, there appeared to be no discrepancy like those seen at Florida State and Florida. About 62 percent of MSU athlete cases resulted in no record, dismissal or plea to a lesser charge of civil infraction; among the comparison set, it was 66 percent.