December 16, 2011
What did Joe Paterno know, and when did he know it?
Today, we have some answers to the crucial question from the coach's mouth after Paterno's testimony from earlier this year — in which the now-former Penn State icon told a grand jury that he had been informed about an incident of "a sexual nature" between ex-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and a young boy in 2002 — was read for the first time in open court Friday.
In the testimony, Paterno said he "knew inappropriate action was taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster" after a meeting with then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who allegedly saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a locker room shower the previous night, but did not inform police and waited at least a day to inform his boss, athletic director Tim Curley, because he "didn't want to interfere with their weekends."
Sandusky, who played and coached under Paterno for more than 30 years prior to his retirement in 1999, remained a regular on Penn State's campus until his arrest on a multitude of sexual abuse charges last month.
Paterno's testimony was read as part of a preliminary hearing for Curley and another Penn State administrator, Gary Schultz, who are both charged with perjury and failure to report for their alleged inaction regarding Sandusky after meeting with McQueary in 2002. (Paterno wasn't present at the hearing, which came less than a week after the soon-to-be 85-year-old was reportedly hospitalized with a fractured pelvis after falling in his home. He's also been undergoing treatment for lung cancer.) A judge ruled at the end of the proceedings that the state has enough evidence to send the case against Curley and Shultz to trial.
McQueary — a State College native and former starting quarterback who remained on Paterno's staff until Paterno was fired as a result of the scandal last month — took the stand Friday morning, testifying that he personally saw Sandusky with his arms wrapped around a boy's waist in a shower, and believed (although he was not 100 percent certain) that the boy was being sodomized. He immediately called his father, and they decided he should go to Paterno the next day. In that meeting and the subsequent meeting with Curley and Schultz, McQueary said he was clear that he was describing an "extremely sexual" act (emphasis added):
He said he did not give Paterno explicit details of what he believed he'd seen, saying he wouldn't have used terms like sodomy or anal intercourse out of respect for the longtime coach.
He said Paterno told him he'd "done the right thing" by reporting what he saw. The head coach appeared shocked and saddened and slumped back in his chair, McQueary said. Paterno told McQueary he would talk to others about what he'd reported.
Nine or 10 days later, McQueary said he met with Curley and Shultz and told them he'd seen Sandusky and a boy, both naked, in the shower after hearing skin on skin slapping sounds.
"I told them that I saw Jerry in the showers with a young boy and that what I had seen was extremely sexual and over the lines and it was wrong," McQueary said. "I would have described that it was extremely sexual and I thought that some kind of intercourse was going on."
That testimony is substantially the same as the one McQueary reportedly gave to the grand jury earlier this year. Friday, McQueary said he thought Curley and Schultz took his report seriously, and that he considered Schultz law enforcement because his position as vice president included oversight of campus police. "I thought I was talking to the head of the police, to be frank with you," McQueary said. "In my mind it was like speaking to a (district attorney). It was someone who police reported to and would know what to do with it."
What they did with it, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general, is essentially nothing: In its summary of the initial charges against Sandusky on Nov. 5, the AG's office wrote that "there is no indication that anyone from the university ever attempted to learn the identity of the child who was sexually assaulted on their campus or made any follow-up effort to obtain more information," and "there was no effective change in Sandusky's status with the school and no limits on his access to the campus."
In his testimony Friday afternoon, Curley disputed that conclusion, arguing that McQueary "did not indicate there was something of a sexual nature" between Sandusky and the boy during their meeting, and that he understood the incident as "horsing around." At the time, he responded by telling Sandusky he was banned from coming into the building with children from his charity, The Second Mile, but otherwise did not restrict access. University president Graham Spanier signed off on the ban, according to the attorney general, "without any further inquiry."
Curley didn't report the incident to the police, he testified Friday, because "I didn't think it was a crime at the time." In Curley's defense, attorney Caroline Roberto argued that McQueary failed to convey the seriousness of what he'd seen to Paterno, that the allegations subsequently came across as "not that serious" to Curley, and that it seemed to amount to a case of "he said, she said."
Schultz did not testify Friday, but in a grand jury testimony read at the hearing, he said he was under the impression (from his meeting with McQueary) that Sandusky and the boy were wrestling and Sandusky grabbed the boy's genitals in a "horsing around" type of way. This was consistent with Sandusky's general demeanor, Schultz said, because "he would grab you on the arm, hit you on the back, grab you and put you in a headlock."
Sandusky had been implicated as a possible sex offender as early as 1998, when university police were involved in an investigation following "allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior involving Sandusky and young boys in the football showers." At least two detectives in that case reportedly heard Sandusky admit to showering with a boy on two different occasions, once to the boy's mother and once in an interview with the state's child welfare agency, but the case was closed after the county district attorney (now deceased) declined to prosecute. Schultz told the grand jury he was aware of the investigation that Penn State police had produced a 95-page report.
Sandusky retired from Paterno's staff a year later at the age of 55, but maintained an office in the Lasch Football Building and had "unlimited access to all football facilities," including the locker room. He also kept a parking pass, a university Internet account and a listing in the faculty directory.
In 2008, according to USA Today, Sandusky ended his involvement with the charitable program, The Second Mile, amid accusations by another adolescent male. As recently as 2009, he was still running an overnight football camp for children as young as 9 on Penn State's campus. He was still working out on campus as recently as October — after university officials had been called to testify in the investigation that ultimately led to Sandusky's arrest. Sandusky told the New York Times earlier this month that he still has his keys.
At that point, Sandusky faced more than 25 felony counts of deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and indecent assault against at least eight victims over more than a decade. He was subsequently re-arrested last week on 12 additional counts involving two additional victims.
Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier have all "resigned" or been fired from their jobs in the wake of the charges. McQueary has been put on administrative leave and reportedly told players on a conference call last month, "I wanted to let you guys know I'm not your coach anymore. I'm done." Legally, prosecutors have determined that McQueary, Paterno and Spanier fulfilled their obligations under state law and are not expected to face charges. The Penn State Board of Trustees has appointed a special committee to investigate the university's response, as has the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA.
More Penn State scandal coverage:
• Wetzel: Mike McQueary's disturbing testimony in PSU trial
• New priorities slow Penn State's football coach search to a crawl
• Forde-Yard Dash: Damage done extends beyond Penn State