PSU turns to Pburgh's legal lioness for defense in sex scandal

Amid the frenetic atmosphere at the Dauphin County district justice's office yesterday where two top Penn State officials were being arraigned on perjury charges in the still unfolding sex scandal, attorney Caroline Roberto stood out. 

Inside the crowded courtroom dominated by men - the judge, special agents, prosecutors, troopers the defendants - sat a petite defense counsel next to her towering client, Tim Curley.

Outside, stood a battery of cameras, fifty of them easy, virtually all operated by men.

What struck me as a spectator in the courtroom was that Curley, as athletic director  - until the charges were announced and he took a leave of absence - held forth at the top of the athletic food chain at a major football powerhouse. Could there be an environment more infused with machismo than that?

Yet he had chosen a woman, a Pittsburgh-based criminal defense attorney, to represent him in his time of crisis.

Or perhaps Roberto was assigned to him by the university, which is paying her no-doubt not insignificant fees.

Either way. There was a woman quarterbacking the PSU defense this time.

Roberto has earned her stripes as a criminal defense attorney. According to her bio on, she's represented clients in state and federal court in Pennsylvania and beyond for 20 years.  She's got one guy's death sentence overturned. She won a new trial for a another individual who spent 18 years in prison.

She pitched hard for Judge William Wenner to free her client on his own recognizance, citing the fact he was a native of Centre County and therefore had deep roots there and would not flee.

No dice, said Wenner, setting bail for Curley and defendant Gary Schultz, the PSU's former vice president in charge of security,  at $75,000.

Undeterred Roberto, stylish and swift-moving headed for the door after the brief hearing. She waded out into the sea of camera, which for a moment seemed to swallow her. Suddenly, Roberto emerges. She's standing up against a wall in the foyer with dozens of cameras and lights in her face. Someone yelled for the crowd to back up and give her room. No one budged. Neither did she, calmly announcing she'd speak loudly.

Then Roberto let loose, leveling sharp blows at the Attorney General's office. They were manufacturing a case against her client, a "man of integrity" who was innocent, she said. 

"Perjury is the prosecutor's charge of last resort," she said, squinting into the camera's glare. Robert called the decision to pursue the charges in such a weak case "unconscionable."

She scoffed at the failure to report child abuse charge calling the summary offense "like a speeding ticket."

Roberto ended her statement with nothing less than a smash-mouth challenge to her female opponent: Attorney General Linda Kelly.

"We are ready to go toe-to-toe," she said. "We are ready to win."




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