By Steve Kallas
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Well, you certainly didn’t believe that former federal judge Louis Freeh’s investigation was going to be helpful to Joe Paterno, Penn State and various other higher-ups at Penn State. But this report is devastating to virtually all parties. It’s permanently stained Joe Paterno’s legacy, it’s devastated the reputation of Penn State and it could lead to new and/or additional criminal charges against the (living) former Penn State higher-ups. And the civil lawsuits that will be coming (or have already been filed) – well, the price to settle those just went way up.
WHAT WAS THE MOST DEVASTATING PART OF THE REPORT?
The overall conclusion of Judge Freeh’s (former judges, like former Presidents of the United States, are often called Judge or President, respectively) report is devastating in and of itself: “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State.”
While the Paterno family, through JoePa’s son Jay, an attorney (and a former Penn State assistant), has tried to mount a rebuttal, they have a virtually impossible hill to climb. For example, post-report, the family issued this statement: “The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept.”
Unfortunately, the report and the evidence it uncovered points to the conclusion that this is exactly what happened: from Joe Paterno to the former President Graham Spanier to the former Athletic Director Tim Curley to the former head of campus police, Gary Schultz.
With respect to the 1998 “incident,” where Jerry Sandusky admitted (with detectives in the next room) to a mother of a young boy that he had done inappropriate things with the woman’s son, it was hard to believe that Joe Paterno didn’t know about this (see Kallas Remarks, 1/17/12). Based on an e-mail from Curley to Schultz, Joe Paterno clearly knew about the incident he claimed to have known nothing about. And, with respect to both the 1998 and 2002 incidents of sexual molestation, e-mails show that, not only did Joe Paterno know about the situations, but he also seems to have tried to (successfully) influence other higher-ups to bury the information and not report Sandusky to authorities.
One of Joe Paterno’s biggest supporters, Phil Knight, the Nike founder, who gave an almost embarrassing, defiant, very pro-Paterno statement at JoePa’s memorial service, quickly abandoned ship once the report came out. Nike announced that it would change the name of the Joe Paterno Child Development Center, a child-care center at Nike headquarters in Oregon.
Knight said, “It appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed that.”
While there will be a lot of attempted legal defenses in the civil cases coming down the pike, Penn State (and any other defendants) would be smart to do whatever it can to settle these cases quickly. However, if even one of these victims (although one would think they would all like to settle quickly and avoid a trial) decides to make a public spectacle of the whole thing, all of the parties and the institution of Penn State will be (correctly) raked over the coals – again.
More criminal charges, more civil lawsuits, more defendants and more bad publicity are all on the horizon.