By David DeKok
(Reuters) - Former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky should be allowed to keep his state pension of roughly $60,000 a year despite his 45 child sex abuse convictions, an independent hearing examiner recommended on Monday.
Finding that state rules for forfeiting pensions due to sex crimes took effect in 2004 - and that Sandusky was not a Penn State employee at that time having retired in 1999 - the examiner said the former assistant football should have his pension reinstated.
He said Sandusky, 70, should receive his pension retroactively to October 2012, when it was revoked after he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for molesting 10 boys over 15 years.
"The Pennsylvania forfeiture law is simply not applicable to SERS' members (pensioners) who commit crimes after they have begun receiving their pensions," wrote Michael Bangs, who was appointed to hear Sandusky’s pension appeal by the governor’s Office of General Counsel.
In a separate development on Monday, Pennsylvania's attorney general released a highly anticipated review of the Sandusky prosecution but found no evidence of political interference by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett during his time as attorney general.
Pamela Hile, a spokeswoman for the State Employees Retirement System, said Bangs' recommendation will go to the SERS board for a final determination in "mid-to-late fall."
If the board accepts Bangs’ recommendation, Sandusky’s Penn State pension would be reinstated to Oct. 9, 2012, when he and his wife, Dottie, lost the $4,900-a-month state benefit.
Sandusky, who retired in June 30, 1999, as Penn State's defensive coordinator, was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team's showers on campus.
Bangs said that even though Penn State provided Sandusky with an office and telephone after his retirement, he was not a "school employee." He said there was no formal contract or agreement between him and the university.
The scandal rocked the world of collegiate sports and led to the dismissal of Sandusky's former boss Joe Paterno, one of the most successful coaches in college football. He died in January 2012 of lung cancer at age 85.
Three former Penn State officials await trial on charges they lied to a grand jury about an allegation that Sandusky showered with a boy.
(Reporting by David DeKok in Columbus, Ohio; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Beech)
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