By Steve Kallas
» More Columns
Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno sat down last week with well-known Washington Post reporter Sally Jenkins to, essentially, give his side of the story in the Jerry Sandusky matter.
We will focus on three alleged incidents and Paterno's reaction (if any) to them: 1) The 1998 "incident" when there was a 30-page Penn State police report; 2) The 2002 accusation from assistant coach Mike McQueary that Sandusky was abusing a boy in a Penn State shower; and 3) the 2007 appearance of Jerry Sandusky with a little boy at a closed Penn State practice.
1. The 1998 Sandusky incident.
In 1998, then Centre County, PA Ray Gricar set up a sting operation against Sandusky when a mother complained to authorities that Sandusky had been inappropriate with her young son. The son (now Victim 6 in the grand jury presentment against Sandusky), a Second Mile boy (the charity co-founded by Sandusky), told the authorities that Sandusky had soaped up the boy in a Penn State shower, hugged him from behind and told the boy, "I'm going to squeeze your guts out."
Sandusky came to the mother's house while officers waited in the next room. According to the report, Sandusky asked the mom for forgiveness and said, "I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness from you. I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead."
Despite a 30-page report in the Penn State police files, no charges were ever brought in this case.
Joe Paterno's response: Paterno insists he knew nothing about the 1998 investigation, according to the Jenkins interview. Paterno stated, "You know it wasn't like it was something everybody in the building knew about. Nobody knew about it."
The problem, of course, is that many believe that Joe Paterno ran the show and was aware of everything. He was legendary for running a clean, tight program and it's hard to believe that when one of his assistant coaches (in fact, one considered by the outside world to be next-in-line to be the head coach at Penn State – remember, Sandusky was the defensive coordinator for a couple of Penn State National Championships renowned for their defense) got into real trouble with, at a minimum, disturbing allegations, that he wouldn't know about it.
But he says he didn't know anything about it. The timing of Sandusky's resignation (the next year) is also, depending on what theory you believe, a bad coincidence (Paterno says he told Sandusky he would never be head coach because he was spending too much time with his charity – No word as to whether Sandusky said he would lessen his charity work if he would be the next head coach of Penn State) or a result of the 1998 disturbing situation.
2. The 2002 Mike McQueary-viewed abuse.
On March 1, 2002, Penn State assistant Mike McQueary allegedly saw Jerry Sandusky sexually molesting what appeared to be a 10-year-old boy in a Penn State shower. McQueary called his father, who told him to come home and tell Joe Paterno the next day. He did, but not in graphic detail ("out of respect for Coach Paterno," according to McQueary's testimony) and Joe Paterno, the next day, told his superiors (which is what Joe Paterno was required to do under the law). Paterno told Jenkins that "… I never heard of, of rape and a man." He went on to Jenkins, "So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it."
Well, with respect to rape and a man, the Catholic Church had been making national news for years by 2002. The New York Times, for example, started reporting on priest-abuse cases as early as the mid-1980s. Indeed, in an interesting article in USA Today by reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman on November 8, 2011, the author goes into some parallels between the Penn State case and the priest sex scandals. But of note here are a few facts cited in the article. For example, according to a John Jay College of Criminal Justice study, 10,667 individuals made allegations against clergy or church employees or volunteers from 1950-2002.
The people of the community around State College, the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, had at least two dozen priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, according to BishopAccountability.org.
Does this mean that Joe Paterno knew about "rape and a man." Not necessarily, but it was clearly news locally and nationally by the early 1990s. And, no matter what Joe Paterno says, what galls people is that he relied on others and apparently never followed up, never asked the name of the boy, never asked how the kid was doing and never made further inquiry into the matter. That's where the moral outrage lies, especially today when the Paterno family seems genuinely concerned about the victims.
3. The 2007 closed practice.
On Monday, November 7, 2011, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly held a press conference about the Sandusky presentment. She was very smooth, well-spoken, able to answer questions and quick to point out that Joe Paterno was not a target of the investigation (with an "at this time" attached). However, one reporter asked a question about whether she would look at Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary differently if Jerry Sandusky brought a little boy to a Penn State practice in 2007 (as a result of the 2002 McQueary allegations, Sandusky was barred from bringing little boys on to the Penn State campus (and if you think that's scary –don't do that here—you're 100% right)). Kelly paused, looked a little out of sorts, and then said "That's an interesting question" and that it would be looked at "down the line."
Unfortunately, this didn't seem to be discussed during the Jenkins interview. Nor, as far as I can find, has there been any follow-up (in other words, has it been looked at "down the line" by the Pennsylvania Attorney General?). Interestingly, the suggestion is that Sandusky attended a closed Penn State practice (i.e., not many visitors at the practice; pretty much only the team and the coaches). A review of the grand jury presentment appears to show that, in 2007, Jerry Sandusky took Victim 1 "to professional and college sporting events, such as Philadelphia Eagles games, or preseason practices at Penn State." (Grand Jury Presentment at page 2).
So, if anything, this seems to state that Jerry Sandusky, five years after he was banned from bringing little boys on to the Penn State campus (as a result of the disturbing things that Mike McQueary saw in 2002), brought a little boy on to the Penn state campus (indeed, to a closed practice, according to reports) MULTIPLE TIMES, according to the Grand Jury Presentment.
That's not good.
SO, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
Well, a lot of this comes down to credibility and Joe Paterno. While many would like to give him the benefit of the doubt (others won't), to do that one has to believe that he had no knowledge of the 1998 Penn State Police report (30 pages) on Sandusky (had it been one of his players, wouldn't have Paterno known about it right away?), didn't know about "rape of a man" in 2002, didn't really quite understand what Mike McQueary was telling him in 2002 and didn't know that Jerry Sandusky brought at least one child multiple times to Penn State practices in 2007, five years after Sandusky wasn't allowed to bring little boys on to the Penn State campus.
Draw your own conclusions.
What was your reaction to the Paterno interview? Be heard in the comments below...
for more features.