By Steve Kallas
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Unless you’ve been out of touch with the world for the last few days, you know about the disgusting allegations against long-time Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. While he denies the allegations (40 counts of multiple crimes, including sexually abusing eight young boys in a span of 15 years), and, of course, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, a big question for many is: what was the responsibility of legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno in this matter?
Jerry Sandusky was a long-time assistant of Joe Paterno’s at Penn State. He was, for many years, considered the heir apparent to Paterno if Paterno ever stepped down as head coach. But, in 1999, Sandusky, after being told by Joe Paterno that he would never become the head coach at Penn State, retired from his coaching position at Penn State, ostensibly to spend more time working for a charity that he had founded called the Second Mile, which helped young, disadvantaged boys.
Tim Curley was the athletic director at Penn State who has now asked to take an administrative leave after being accused of, among other things, perjury in his testimony before the grand jury and failure to report the allegations against Sandusky to the proper authorities.
Gary Schultz, the senior vice-president for finance and business at Penn State, as well as the person in charge of the Penn State police, has retired and is charged with the same thing as Tim Curley.
All three defendants, through their respective attorneys, have maintained their innocence.
THE IMPORTANT PART OF THE TIME LINE
While, obviously, all of the allegations are important and should be taken seriously, the main ones are as follows: In 1998, there was a Penn State police investigation of allegations against Sandusky of inappropriate behavior with a young boy in a shower at the Penn State football facility while he was an assistant coach at Penn State. At that time, Sandusky apparently admitted some inappropriate behavior and nothing further happened to him.
In 1999, Sandusky was told by Joe Paterno that he would never be the head coach at Penn State. Later that year, Sandusky retired, ostensibly to spend more time at the Second Mile. Even though retired, Sandusky still had full access to the Penn State football program, including an office in the Lasch Football Building (which opened in 1999). One victim (“Victim 4”) has alleged that most of the sexual conduct he had with Sandusky was in a sauna in the, at the time, new Lasch Building, because the sauna was in a more secluded area of the building.
In 2002, a graduate assistant (identified in published reports as present-day wide receivers coach and recruitment coordinator Mike McQueary, who also played at Penn State) saw Sandusky allegedly pin a young boy (estimated to be 10) up against the wall in a shower in the Lasch Building and sexually assault him from behind. The graduate assistant told his father and, the next day, they told Coach Paterno. The next day, Coach Paterno, according to his grand jury testimony, told the athletic director (defendant Curley) that “the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
After this incident, the administrators decided to ban Sandusky from bringing young boys on to the Penn State campus.
Yet, in breaking news today, Sandusky, apparently on at least one occasion in 2007, did bring a young boy to Penn State (more on this later).
Nothing happened with all of this until a mother of a young boy, in 2009, accused Sandusky of molesting her son. This led to the investigation which brings us to today.
WHERE IS JOE PATERNO IN ALL OF THIS?
Well, at a press conference at 1:00 this afternoon (Monday, November 7, 2011), Linda Kelly, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, reiterated that there are no charges against Joe Paterno and that he is not regarded as a target.
But the question remains: should he have done more? When asked about whether Paterno had a moral obligation to do more, Kelly side-stepped the question, only saying that she was concerned with the legal aspects of the case, not the moral ones.
The real question of course is: What did Joe Paterno know and when did he know it? Did he know about the incident of sexual misconduct in 1998 which was investigated by the Penn State police? In a well-crafted statement, Paterno said, “If true, the nature and amount of charges are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters.”
The nature and amount? Well, it’s going to be hard to believe that Joe Paterno never knew about the 1998 inappropriate activity by Sandusky. After all, does anybody think that, if a Penn State football player did this and the on-campus police investigated it, Joe Paterno would not have been informed?
Hard to believe.
While we haven’t yet heard from Mike McQueary (and what is he going to say – he’ still on Paterno’s staff), it’s clear that, in 2002, he was very upset, went to Paterno’s house on a Saturday (after witnessing anal sex by Sandusky and a 10-year-old in a Penn State football shower room on a Friday night) and told the coach, at a minimum, that (according to Paterno’s testimony) he saw Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
That should have been enough for Joe Paterno, one of the most powerful men in the state, to do more.
But, under Pennsylvania law, he had no legal obligation to do so.
A POSSIBLE NEW PROBLEM ARISES TODAY FOR PATERNO AND McQUEARY
The only time the Attorney General seemed a little uncomfortable was when an intelligent reporter raised the question of whether Paterno and McQueary might have more of an obligation when Sandusky showed up at a Penn State football practice in 2007 (five years after the alleged “ban”) with a young boy. He asked the Attorney General whether Paterno and McQueary would have “more culpability.”
Attorney General Kelly sated that this issue would have to be “addressed down the line.”
WHAT ABOUT POTENTIAL CIVIL LAWSUITS?
Well, six of the eight victims have been identified by the Pennsylvania investigators. Interestingly, the (about) 10-year-old boy in the shower with Sandusky in 2002 has not been found and the Attorney General gave out two phone numbers asking for that boy to come forward at this time.
You would have to think that, on these fact patterns (and the 23-page grand jury report, with discussion about eight victims, is a very difficult read), there might be lawsuits coming down the pike with possible defendants (depending on a lawyer’s investigation) ranging from a large entity like Penn State and/or Second Mile to Sandusky to other Penn State administrators and/or even coaches. A good plaintiff’s lawyer would try to cast a large net, again depending on what his investigation turns up.
BACK TO JOE PATERNO
Joe Paterno will try and stay above the fray. He is a legend at Happy Valley and incredibly well-respected throughout the country as a guy who does everything “the right way.” He became the all-time winningest coach in the history of Divison I football and, this year, despite the view of some that “the game has passed him by,” his team is 8-1 and ranked number 12 in the country.
But if Joe Paterno knew about the 1998 incident (and, again, had it been a player, he definitely would have known) and knew even the details he admitted he knew about the 2002 incident, coupled with the new knowledge that Sandusky showed up with a young boy at a Penn State practice in 2007 (presumably Joe Paterno was there), well, that will be too much for Joe Paterno to keep his job.
I was always a guy who thought that Joe Paterno should be allowed to go out on his own terms. But, as you know, there has been a movement by some in Happy Valley to get Paterno out as long ago as 2002. Meanwhile, leaders of child abuse prevention agencies are calling for Paterno to be fired, if not arrested.
Again, according to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Joe Paterno has done nothing legally wrong. But the whole story leaves a bad taste in just about everybody’s mouth. More facts will come out in the coming days, weeks and months.
But, at a minimum, it says here that the anti-Paterno football people will have enough ammunition to send Joe Paterno into early (for him) retirement.
Joe Paterno’s contract, according to published reports, expires after this football season.
UPDATE: CIRCLING THE WAGONS AT UNHAPPY VALLEY
Penn State (not Joe Paterno) announced today (Tuesday, November 8 ) that they have decided to cancel Paterno’s weekly press conference. This, after hundreds of reporters from across the country (including WFAN’s Kim Jones, a Penn State graduate), had already made the trek to Unhappy Valley.
WAS JOE PATERNO OK WITH THS?
Well, according to Joe Paterno’s son, Scott, Joe Paterno was willing to have the press conference and even answer a few questions about the disgusting Jerry Sandusky child abuse allegations. Do you believe that JOE PATERNO would allow this press conference to be cancelled if he really wanted to have it?
Neither do I. By the way, couldn’t he walk across the street and have it outside the Penn State campus if he really wanted to have one? Of course he could do that.
The reality is that Joe Paterno is Penn State. There simply is no reasonable explanation on how this was allowed to go on for at least 14 years with numerous Penn State officials having knowledge of a number of disgusting incidents. The revelation yesterday that Sandusky was actually seen with a little boy at a closed Penn State practice in 2007, five years after he was “banned” from bringing little boys on the grounds of Penn State, even surprised the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.
The fact that Sandusky has been allowed to run a football camp (for little boys) on the grounds of Penn State (long after he retired and even after his “ban”), also revealed yesterday on Deadspin.com, is a mind-boggling (criminal?) disgrace.
It’s probably only a matter of time before other victims come forward. And there is always a chance of civil lawsuits from one or more of the victims.
These people can’t run and they can’t hide. At a minimum, they have to face the court of public opinion.
And that won’t be pretty.
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