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Analysis of Evidence in the Sandusky Grand Jury Presentment

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The following is most of a 26-page (double-spaced) article at

The Grand Jury Presentment makes serious allegations and deserves careful analysis.  I begin with a timeline showing when various activities by Jerry Sandusky are alleged and when Mike McQueary was at Penn State.

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[snip timeline]

What certain people knew and when they knew it.
According to the Grand Jury Presentment, McQueary was shocked when, on March 1, 2002, he saw Sandusky in a shower engaging in what he thought was anal intercourse with a youth.  This shock is a particular thing to note.  People are not shocked when they observe a confirmation of what they already believe to be true.  So McQueary, regardless of whether he had heard rumors about Sandusky or not, did not believe that Sandusky was a child molester prior to March 2002.  And probably nobody else in the Penn State football program or in the school administration did either.  Why would they?  There was no available evidence of Sundusky being a child molester.

The Grand Jury Presentment describes a 1998 investigation involving alleged victims 6 conducted by the boy's mother, University Police, University Police Detective Ronald Shreffler, director of campus  police [University Police?] Thomas Harmon, State College Police Department Detective Ralph Ralston, and Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare investigator Jerry Lauro.  The investigation by University Police produced a lengthy police report.  The Presentment says Sandusky did all the following: put his right hand on the boy's left thigh several times while driving, wrestled with the boy, showered with the boy, and while in the shower grabbed the boy around the waist, soaped the boy's back, bear-hugged the boy, and picked him up to rinse him off under the showerhead.  The investigation included another child of the same age, B.K., "who was subjected to nearly identical treatment in the shower."  Sandusky admitted that some of his showering activities were inappropriate.  County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided there would be no criminal charges, which is entirely reasonable since however inappropriate these actions may be, they are not crimes in and of themselves.

Perhaps some people in the Penn State football program knew of this 1998 investigation, including Sandusky's admission of inappropriate activity.  Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz knew something about it.  But this 1998 incident would, at least in 2002, tend in favor of Sandusky's innocence since anyone who knew only of the investigation and its outcome could reasonably suppose that Sandusky was again, in 2002, doing legal-but-inappropriate things.

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The Presentment alleges child abuse of Victims 7, 5, and 4 during the period 1994--1999.  If the police investigation of 1998 extended to these alleged victims, then it seems probable that the District Attorney also concluded that Sandusky's actions in these cases were not criminal.  But if they were not part of that investigation, then they certainly were not known to McQueary as crimes, and probably not known as crimes to anyone in the football program or the Penn State administration, either.  Probably they were not known at all.

There is no indication in the Grand Jury Presentment that Paterno knew anything about allegations regarding alleged victim 1 (2005--2009) until the Grand Jury issued its report in 2011.  It is therefore plausible that the only allegation of inappropriate or criminal activity by Sandusky that Joe Paterno ever learned of prior to the issuance of the Grand Jury Presentment in 2011 is the one brought to him by McQueary in March of 2002.

What McQueary reported to various people.

Summary of what McQueary reported to various people.
Salient facts extracted from the above.
McQueary to his father in 2002
 Not included in the Presentment
McQueary to Paterno in 2002
 Not included in the Presentment
Paterno to Curley in 2002 according to Paterno ca. Dec 2010
fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy (emphasis added)
Paterno to Schultz in 2002 according to Schultz ca. Dec 2010

 "disturbing" and "inappropriate" conduct
McQueary to Curley and Schultz in 2002 according to McQueary in Dec 2010

 what he believed to be Sandusky having anal sex with a boy (emphasis added)
McQueary to Curley and Schultz in 2002 according to Curley ca. Dec 2010
 "inappropriate conduct" or activity that made him [McQueary] "uncomfortable"; denied that the graduate assistant had reported "sexual conduct" "of any kind" by Sandusky; denied that the graduate assistant had reported "anal sex between Jerry Sandusky and this child"  (Bracketed text added.)
McQueary to Curley and Schultz in 2002 according to Schultz ca. Dec 2010
 very unsure about what he remembered the graduate assistant telling him and Curley; he had the impression that Sandusky might have inappropriately grabbed the young boy's genitals while wrestling; that the report the graduate assistant made was of inappropriate sexual conduct; that the allegations were "not that serious" and that he and Curley "had no indication that a crime had occurred"; denied having [sodomy] reported to him either by Paterno or the graduate assistant. (Bracketed text added.) 
McQueary to Grand Jury in December 2010 (8 years 9 months after the event)
 It was about 9:30 p.m. As the graduate assistant entered the locker room doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on. He then heard rhythmic, slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught. (Emphasis added.)

Analysis of McQueary's several accounts.
I note that the Presentment says that McQueary believed he was hearing sexual activity before he saw the cause of the sounds.  This is not inconsequential: it is not extremely unusual for a person to see what he thinks is happening rather than what is actually happening.   In other words, it is not all that rare for a person to construe what is actually happening so as to fit preconceived ideas.  If I think I hear sexual activity and I subsequently see activity that sort of looks like sexual activity, I may conclude that it is sexual activity even if it is not.  And if I am shocked by the identity of the persons participating in the activity, and distraught by what I think I am seeing, I might be too unnerved to look carefully enough to discern that my conclusion is wrong. 

According to the Grand Jury Presentment, McQueary's accounts given to Paterno the next day, and then to Curley and Schultz ten days later, are vague.  I particularly note the word "or" in Paterno's testimony, and the words "what he believed to be" in McQueary's account of what he said to Curley and Schultz.  These words, underlined above, suggest that McQueary was, in the first several days after the event, somewhat in doubt about what he was reporting to Paterno, and then to Curley and Schultz, and this doubt was communicated to his hearers.  This doubt seems to have disappeared by the time he testified before the Grand Jury some eight years and nine months later in Dec 2010. 

Note that McQueary told the Grand Jury that the boy saw McQueary, but did not say the boy cried out, whether in pain or for help.  Perhaps this means that he was not in distress.  And perhaps this means he was not being subjected to anal intercourse.  Is this plausible, given McQueary's testimony?  I think so.  Suppose that the boy was acting up, as kids are wont to do, maybe turning on lots of showers, as Sandusky has said.  If so, then perhaps the shower room was full of steam.  The kid continues to horse around, but eventually Sandusky begins to restrain him.  Meanwhile, McQueary enters the locker room and hears rhythmic slapping sounds that sound to him like sexual activity.  (More on the sounds below.)  Soon Sandusky has a hold on the kid to restrain him, pressing him into a wall in the process.  No doubt the kid struggled a bit while being held.  At this point McQueary looks into the steam-filled shower room and sees Sandusky holding the kid against the wall.  What he sees is somewhat obscured by the steam, but he can see that Sandusky has the kid pinned against the wall, and their bodies are moving.  McQueary is shocked by what he thinks he sees, and that Sandusky is one of the participants.  At this point Sandusky and the boy see McQueary.  The boy, realizing his behavior is now being watched by another adult, stops misbehaving, and Sandusky, sensing this, lets him go.  But McQueary's view of this change in behavior of Sandusky and the boy is: it seems my presence has halted sexual assault--but he is not quite sure of what he has seen, it all seems so incredible.  When he leaves, he is distraught.

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I hesitate to suggest exactly what caused the "rhythmic slapping sounds" that sounded to McQueary like sexual activity.  But I do not doubt that some kid playing around in the showers, or a kid and an adult wrestling around, could make such sounds.  And I suppose that such sounds could also be the result of an adult acting to restrain a boy who persisted in acting mischievously.  Other innocent means could also generate such sounds.

This scenario about what happened in the shower room is speculative at several points, including key points, but it is plausible at all points.  And it shows how McQueary might reasonably believe he had witnessed child abuse when in fact he had witnessed innocent behavior.   At the very least, it is virtually certain that the boy did not cry out in pain or for help when he saw McQueary, because if he had done so, McQueary would not have been in doubt about what he saw, and therefore would not have communicated a doubtful message to Paterno the next day, and to Curley and Schults ten days later, and none of these three who heard McQueary would have been in doubt that something serious had happened.  But they were all in doubt about that.  Furthermore, since crying out, had it occurred, would have been of such great import, it is almost certain that McQueary would have mentioned it in his testimony to the Grand Jury, and the Grand Jury would have included it in the Presentment.  But it is not there.  So while we cannot be totally certain, we can be highly confident that the boy did not cry out in pain or for help when he saw McQueary.  Now psychologists will tell us that maybe the boy was too frightened to cry out, or too embarrassed to cry out.  And maybe so.  But maybe not.  Maybe, as suggested above, the boy did not cry out because he was not in pain and not being abused. 

I think that McQueary probably has acted and spoken honorably regarding this matter at all times.  But based on the Grand Jury's own Presentment, there is no reason to be confident that what McQueary thinks happened in the shower is what actually happened.

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Robert Long is a retired computer programmer.

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Analysis of Evidence in the Sandusky Grand Jury Presentment