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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/29/11

The Grand Jury Report: Part two of "What did Joe Paterno know and when did he know it?"

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The Pennsylvania State University is linked to the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal because: (1) it employed him as an assistant coach of Penn State's football team during the period when some of his alleged sexual molestations occurred, (2) it employed him when a specific allegation of sexual misconduct was investigated (but not prosecuted) in 1998, (3) a janitor at the university witnessed, but never reported a specific alleged molestation by the now retired Sandusky in 2000, (4) another alleged molestation by Sandusky, which took place on 1 March 2002 in a university shower, was witnessed by a graduate assistant on the football team, (5) Coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz and President Graham Spanier received some kind of notice about that 2002 incident and (6) Jerry Sandusky was allowed continued access to Penn State facilities, even after the 2002 alleged incident.

However, when it comes to the potential legal and moral culpability of Penn State officials, such as Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier, only two events come into play: (1) the allegation that prompted the investigation by university police in 1998 and (2) the allegation made by the graduate assistant (subsequently revealed to be Mike McQueary) to Joe Paterno on 2 March 2002.

Part one of this article addressed the events of 1998, where one plausibly might suspect that officials at Penn State, including Paterno, had such knowledge. As I've concluded in Part One (see, there exists no evidence -- at this time -- that would allow anyone to responsibly, and thus ethically, assert that Joe Paterno or anyone else at Penn State had a clue about Sandusky's alleged dark side until 1998. I repeat, notwithstanding the sexual molestations that Sandusky allegedly committed up through 1997, there is no evidence that officials at Penn State, including Paterno, knew about them.

In 1998, however -- as I've written in Part One -- "an 11-year old boy (identified as Victim 6 in the November 2011 grand jury report) came home with wet hair and told his puzzled mother that he had showered with Sandusky at Penn State's athletic complex. The mother immediately reported the incident to the university police. The university police conducted an investigation and compiled a report running almost 100 pages, which convinced some subsequent investigators -- according to The New York Times, -- that "campus police officers truly wanted to make a case against Sandusky.'"

"Nevertheless, the district attorney (who subsequently disappeared) found insufficient reason to take the case to trial. As the Times reports: "According to people with knowledge of the current Sandusky case, the district attorney's decision in 1998 was a close call, even with the evidence the campus police had.'"

My examination of the few facts available led me to conclude that Joe Paterno either did not know about the 1998 police investigation -- or that he did, indeed, know about the investigation, but also knew that the DA found insufficient evidence to indict.

(Please note: Since the publication of Part One, The Altoona Mirror has written an opinion piece, "Offering Sandusky to PSU Altoona Troubling," which notes that, between late 1998 and early 1999, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky met with President Spanier and Allen Meadows, then the CEO of Penn State's Altoona campus, to discuss the possibility of starting a football program there, with Sandusky as its head coach. Given the suspicions now swirling around Sandusky and the fact that university police investigated him in 1998, the author of the Mirror article finds the Altoona connection troubling.

Actually, had the author done his homework, he would have found a1982 Sports Illustrated column about Jerry Sandusky in which Joe Paterno expressed concerns about Sandusky not being able to become a head coach because of his commitment to The Second Mile. Paterno asserted that, "many people have talked to me about hiring him"but Jerry's been reluctant to talk to them because of all the commitments he has in the area." Thus, by working as a head coach at PSU Altoona Sandusky would have been able to pursue both objectives.

More surprising is the fact that, in 2000, Sandusky applied for the job of head football coach at the University of Virginia and ultimately was offered the job, only to lose it after contract negotiations became stalemated.

Nevertheless, after giving the Mirror's opinion piece considerable thought, I've concluded that there are as many innocent reasons to have Sandusky move to PSU Altoona or the University of Virginia as there are suspicious reasons. Thus, there is no reason to change the conclusions I reached in Part One.)

Consequently, based upon the evidence available to us thus far, we can stipulate that the events of 1998 -- the allegation, the police investigation and the DA's decision not to indict Sandusky -- constitute the only instance in Sandusky's entire career as a coach at Penn State, when he came under a cloud of suspicion. In other words, if Coach Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz (who had administrative responsibilities for the University police), Penn State's general counsel, Wendell Courtney, and President Graham Spanier learned anything about Sandusky's alleged dark side while he was still coaching at Penn State, they would have learned about it, thanks to the events of 1998.

Although we can't say with certainty what Joe Paterno knew about the 1998 police investigation of Jerry Sandusky and the DA's subsequent decision not to indict him, we can reasonably assume that such knowledge or lack of knowledge would have influenced how he handled the information given to him by then graduate assistant Mike McQueary on 2 March 2002.

Nevertheless, according to the November 2011 grand jury report devoted to "Victim 2," on the evening of March 1, 2002, McQueary witnessed Sandusky anally raping a young boy in a Penn State shower. According to the grand jury report: "The graduate assistant was shocked, but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught."

"The graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him what he had seen. His father told the graduate assistant to leave the building and come to his home. The graduate assistant and his father decided that the graduate assistant had to promptly report what he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno, head coach at Penn State. The next morning, a Saturday, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno's home, where he reported what he had seen."

Thus, any person possessing the reading comprehension skills of a fifth-grader would be hard pressed to read that specific part of the grand jury report and not conclude that McQueary told Paterno that he witnessed Sandusky anally raping a young boy. But that is not what Paterno told the grand jury. Instead, he testified that McQueary told him that he "had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building shower fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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