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PSU lawyers: 'Good faith' settlement talks begin

Associated Press Modified: October 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm •  Published: October 26, 2012
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Talks over potential settlements between Penn State and roughly two dozen men who accuse ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse have started in "good faith," said the attorneys assisting the school with negotiations.

One of the attorneys, Michael Feinberg also told university trustees Friday that the school hasn't set aside a certain amount of money for potential settlements.

A related resolution approved by the Board of Trustees after Feinberg's presentation did give the authority for a trustees legal subcommittee to approve possible settlements, along with the ability to also set "dollar limits." There was no estimate yet because talks were at such an early stage, trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz said afterward.

The meeting of the board was called specifically to discuss settlement issues. Another attorney, Michael Rozen, estimated that 20 to 25 accusers have come forward, including the eight who testified at Sandusky's trial in June.

Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to at least 30 years in jail this month following his conviction on 45 criminal counts of child sex abuse. Authorities said the allegations occurred on and off campus.

No settlements have been reached yet. Lawyers for both sides are in still the process of gathering information, Rozen said.

"The discussions have gone exceedingly well, although they are at a very preliminary stage," he told reporters. "Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but I think everybody has agreed to engage with us and has, in fact, engaged with us in good faith. It's our expectation that will continue."

At least five lawsuits have been filed from victims or accusers in the scandal. Besides the trial witnesses and those who have sued, the school said the claims also include those who have come forward through counsel, either privately or publicly.

There was no deadline yet for other accusers to come forward, Peetz said. The attorneys and Peetz also signaled the process may not be wrapped up by year's end, as was initially hoped by the university, in part given the number of attorneys for accusers with which the university must negotiate.

Feinberg has overseen the Sept. 11 victim fund and other major victim compensation efforts. He and Rozen have met face-to-face with the lawyers for all accusers thus far, while the board's legal subcommittee has been meeting every Monday since February to discuss settlement issues.

Feinberg said that while he was still optimistic claims could be resolved by Jan. 1, "it was made very clear to us earlier today, whether it takes two months, three months, five months, six months. — it will take whatever time it takes to get it done."

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