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Analysis Reveals Freeh Report Wrongfully Condemns Paterno

By       Message Edward Monks     Permalink
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Remember, it was unclear what Paterno knew of the 1998 investigation, including whether it was directed at sexual misconduct.   Additionally, it would have been fair for Paterno to assume, based on the absence of action from State officials, that there was "no inappropriate sexual conduct."   Had there been such conduct, there would have been a prosecution back in 1998.   Furthermore, Paterno's answer exhibits a hazy recollection ""you said something about a rumor.   It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody.   I don't know."   Ask any 85 year old man about his recollection of something that happened 14 years earlier, which something he had only a vague awareness of at the time and which something was so uneventful that the official state response to it was exactly nothing.   Paterno's answer is quite appropriate.

Perjury is defined as making a false statement under oath in an official proceeding, when the statement is material (meaning it could affect the course or outcome of the proceeding) and the speaker does not believe it to be true. There is nothing in the facts that suggests Paterno's testimony constituted perjury.

It appears that other than Sandusky, no individual in this process was actively malevolent toward any child.   The administrators were preoccupied with other things like their jobs and perhaps most preoccupied with the image the public might have of them and their University if the truth about Sandusky were known.   They lacked a healthy appreciation of their ability and their responsibility to protect children from sexual harm.   It is not as though they thought: "If it will save PSU, let Sandusky go on raping kids" It is more like their vision was so narrow that they did not think that far.   Paterno is not in the same place. He gave up any control of image when he reported the matters to his bosses. Maybe the essence of the evil in all this is the preoccupation with image, a public relations approach to your job, rather than the consideration and appreciation of the harm your action or inaction can have on others.  

Vice Chairman John Surma's was the Board of Trustees' spokesperson regarding its decision to summarily fire Paterno 5 days after the charges against Sandusky were made public. As widely reported:

Asked what Paterno did wrong, Surma said: "I can't characterize that.   We thought because of the difficulties that have engulfed our university, it was necessary to make a change."

For me that comment translates to the Board's attempt to appear to the public as forcefully responding to Sandusky's crimes.   It did not matter that the Vice Chairman could not state anything that Paterno did wrong.  The Trustees wanted to be perceived as taking action.   That was their aim. They were less concerned about determining the facts and then behaving justly to everyone touched by Sandusky's repellant behavior.   Justice is never served when those dispensing it are preoccupied with what the public will think of them.

The SIC's client was the Board of Trustees, who purportedly hired them to determine the facts.  The SIC team congratulated itself by stating: "...the findings in this Report represent a fair, objective and comprehensive analysis of the facts."  They do not.  The analysis of Paterno's conduct reads more like advocacy of a weak position inaccurately labeled as objectivity. The SIC comes across as suffering from a somewhat common law enforcement malady, namely the capacity to be blind to the obvious mistakes of other law enforcement officials, while self-righteously viewing the conduct of civilians through a microscope searching for imperfection, and, in this case, weaving that imperfection in to a conspiracy to conceal.   Sandusky's crimes were horrific, and that is precisely the reason that authorities should not be quick to casually label others as bearing partial responsibility for them.   Justice requires a rational conclusion drawn from an objective examination of all relevant facts.  

I believe many people think as I do that a more perfect action for Paterno on Feb 11 would have been to call the authorities or to ask assistant McQueary to do so.   Could Joe Paterno have done better?   Maybe.   If he had called the DPW or police rather than tell his superiors, it might have made a difference for victims after February 2001.   But, considering what happened to the prior report of Sandusky's 1998 misconduct to the police, the DPW and the District Attorney, such a result was not guaranteed.

The Report quoted Paterno multiple times:   "I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was.   So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did.   It didn't work out that way." It seems clear that Joe Paterno acted with more humility and a greater acceptance of his own responsibility than anyone else connected with the matter, including the police, DPW counselors/caseworkers and the District Attorney's Office regarding the 1998 incident, and McQueary, the three administrators and the Trustees to whom those administrators reported regarding the 2001 incident.   Joe Paterno's conduct was not perfect.   He was just better than anyone else involved.

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Edward T. Monks is an attorney who lives in Eugene Oregon where he has practiced law for over 25 years. Raised in New Jersey, he received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Columbia University in New York City and his law degree (more...)

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Analysis Reveals Freeh Report Wrongfully Condemns Paterno