by Mark Viera (New York Times)
November 6, 2011
Paterno, according to the prosecutors, did not call the police. Instead, the next day, he had the university's athletic director visit him at his home, a modest ranch house just off campus in State College. According to prosecutors, Paterno told the athletic director of the report regarding the former coach, Jerry Sandusky.
The authorities then say nothing about what, if anything, Paterno did in the subsequent days or weeks. They do not say whether he followed up on the allegation or whether he ever confronted Sandusky, a man who had worked for him for 32 years and who, even after retiring, had wide access to the university's athletic facilities and students.
What prosecutors do contend in detail is that Sandusky went on to abuse at least one and perhaps any number of other young boys after Paterno and other senior officials at Penn State were told of an assault in 2002.
Sandusky, 67, was arrested Saturday and charged with 40 counts of sexually abusing children over 15 years, including his time as an assistant at Penn State. He was specifically accused of having assaulted the young boy in 2002. All the accusers were boys Sandusky had come to know through a charity he founded, the Second Mile, for disadvantaged children from troubled families.
The university's athletic director, Tim Curley, and another senior administration official have been charged with lying to a grand jury about what they had been told about Sandusky's conduct, and they are expected to surrender to the authorities Monday morning. While their lawyers have maintained they will be exonerated, and Sandusky, through his lawyer, has maintained his innocence, both men stepped down from their positions at the university late Sunday.
Earlier Sunday, Paterno issued a statement insisting that the graduate assistant had not told him of the extent of the sexual assault that he said he witnessed, only that he had seen something inappropriate involving Sandusky and the child.
"As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at the time, I referred the matter to university administrators," Paterno said in the statement.
"I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold," Paterno said.
Paterno's son Scott said in an interview Sunday that Paterno never spoke to Sandusky about the allegation, and that he never seriously pursued the question of whether any action had been taken by the university or any other authorities against Sandusky.
"From my imperfect recollection, once he referred it off, I do not believe he had a second conversation about it," Scott Paterno said of his father and how he handled any follow-up on the allegation. He added: "The appropriate people were contacted by Joe. That was the chain of command. It was a retired employee and it falls under the university's auspices, not the football auspices."
It appears prosecutors believe that Paterno, whatever his personal sense of obligation to inquire or act further, met his legal requirement in reporting the graduate student's allegation to his direct superior, Curley.
Under state law, if a staff member at a school makes a report of possible sexual abuse of a child, it is the responsibility of "the person in charge of the school or institution" to make a report to the state's Department of Public Welfare. According to prosecutors, neither Curley nor the president of Penn State, Graham B. Spanier, who had been told by Curley of the complaint against Sandusky, made such a report to child welfare authorities.
Of course, there was nothing preventing Paterno from doing more, and some sexual abuse experts and those who have represented young sex victims over the years have begun questioning why he did not take more immediate, aggressive action.
"He reported what he knew and he had reason to expect that others would do their jobs," said Nicholas P. Cafardi, who is dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law and an expert on the Roman Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. "I don't know if he knew no action was taken after he reported it, but if he did, and if he believed the story he heard was credible, he had a moral obligation to do something more — to report it to civil officials.
"In many past cases with the Catholic Church, priests who reported incidents to bishops and then saw nothing happened took it upon themselves to contact the civil authorities," Cafardi said. "It's not enough to say you have done all that the law requires of you. If you know nothing is being done to stop the abuse, the moral obligation kicks in. One of the reasons child-protection laws exist is to prevent additional abuse."
According to a person with knowledge of the 2002 episode, the graduate student who made the report — first to Paterno and later to Curley and others — is Mike McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback who now serves as a senior assistant to Paterno. Attempts to reach him were not successful.
The chronology of events laid out by the state attorney general's office includes multiple episodes that seem to suggest a failure by a variety of Penn State officials or employees to act emphatically — whether out of fear, incompetence or, perhaps, self-interest.
Sandusky, for decades, had been a prominent face of Penn State football, credited as the architect of defenses that helped win national championships. And the Paterno football program was one of the university's greatest engines of income and national prestige.
But as early as 1994, according to prosecutors, Sandusky began to prey on young boys he had come to meet through the charity he helped create years earlier, the Second Mile, which was designed to help disadvantaged boys from dysfunctional or broken homes.
The account of prosecutors makes clear Sandusky brought any number of boys, typically 10 to 15 years old, fully into the world of Penn State football — visiting the team's field, going on trips to postseason games, eating meals in the team's dining hall.
That did not seem to strike Paterno, or other members of the football staff, as odd, given that Sandusky was understood to be a good man doing nice things for needy boys. But it appears, according to the criminal complaint against Sandusky, that he abused the boys in various corners of that Penn State football world — in its showers, perhaps in hotel rooms on the road.
According to prosecutors, the first serious chance Penn State had to halt the abuse came in 1998, when Sandusky was still an assistant for Paterno. A mother of an 11-year-old boy Sandusky had befriended at his charity reported to the Penn State campus police that her son had been touched and held by Sandusky in a shower inside the campus's football facility.
Prosecutors said a "lengthy" investigation — one that grew to include allegations about a second young child being similarly touched by Sandusky in a shower — was carried out by the campus police. But they offer few details about the nature of that investigation: who was interviewed, whether Paterno or other university officials were apprised of it.
They do, though, say that at least two campus detectives took the case seriously and heard Sandusky admit to the misconduct in a conversation with the mother of one of the boys. Additionally, prosecutors said Sandusky was interviewed by one of the detectives and an investigator with the state's child welfare agency. In that interview, they said, Sandusky admitted to showering with the boys and conceded that it "was wrong."
According to prosecutors, a decision not to prosecute Sandusky was made by the county district attorney, who has since died. The lead campus police detective was subsequently told to close the case by Thomas Harmon, then the director of the campus police force. It appears Sandusky was merely encouraged to never again shower with a child.
The prosecutors, though, do assert that at least one prominent Penn State official, a lawyer for the university, was told of the 1998 allegations and investigation. That official, Wendell Courtney, said in an interview Sunday that he had learned of allegations about Sandusky in 1998, but had left it to the police and prosecutors to investigate.
"Whatever they did, they did," he said of the campus police and local district attorney.
Courtney said he never sought to find out why no action had been taken. He said he believed that Penn State's athletic director, Curley, knew of the allegation and the investigation, but was unsure whether other people in senior positions at the university knew of the episode.
Scott Paterno said on Sunday that his father had not been aware of the 1998 investigation. If he had been, Scott Paterno suggested, his father would have acted differently when he learned of the episode in 2002.
"Speaking on behalf of the family, if Joe had knowledge in '98, it's impossible for us to conceive that he wouldn't have remembered that in 2002," Scott Paterno said. "Anytime he has been questioned whether he had prior knowledge to 2002, he's answered the same way every time."
After the 1998 investigation, Sandusky's status with his charity appears to have remained unchanged. In 1999, he retired as a Penn State assistant. It was generally understood at the time that Sandusky was not going to replace Paterno as head coach, and Paterno told Sandusky as much in a meeting. Perhaps as a result, Sandusky had opted to leave. He said he wanted to work full time for the Second Mile.
On Sunday, Scott Paterno rebutted the widely held belief that Sandusky had been forced to retire as a consequence of the 1998 investigation.
Sandusky, as part of his retirement terms, retained extensive privileges on campus: an office in the athletic facility, keys to the locker rooms and more.
And, prosecutors say, he used that access to abuse a young boy the next year. That incident would be another occasion in which university employees say they came upon an awful scene of abuse, but ultimately did not act.
In the fall of 2000, according to prosecutors, a janitor found Sandusky in the showers of the football building performing oral sex on a young boy pinned against a wall. The janitor, distraught, told a fellow employee that he had seen people killed in the Korean War, but that he had just seen something he would never forget. The employee thought the janitor was at risk of a heart attack.
In the end, no report was made, not by the janitor or the fellow employee he had told, both of whom, according to prosecutors, worried about their job security. And not by the janitor's supervisor, who also had been informed.
"The failure of top university officials to act on reports of Sandusky's alleged sexual misconduct, even after it was reported to them in graphic detail by an eyewitness, allowed a predator to walk free for years — continuing to target new victims," Linda Kelly, the state attorney general, said in a statement over the weekend. "Equally disturbing is the lack of action and apparent lack of concern among those same officials, and others who received information about this case, who either avoided asking difficult questions or chose to look the other way."