Sandusky accusers the focus, but McQueary key

Prosecutors may have all 10 of Jerry Sandusky’s accusers testify at a preliminary hearing that starts Tuesday in Bellefonte, Pa.

Mike McQueary may not testify, but his inconsistent story will play a big role as the case progresses.
(Getty Images)

The scene promises to be tense, the confrontations emotional and the testimony disturbing as a judge determines if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.

At this point, Sandusky being bond over for trial is a formality. The former Penn State assistant football coach is facing more than 50 counts of child sex abuse courtesy of a grand jury that already heard from eight of those accusers plus numerous supporting witnesses.

Mike McQueary is also a potential witness, although prosecutors probably won’t need him and, as such, may not call on him.

The Penn State assistant coach still remains the x-factor in not just the Sandusky case, but in that of two other Penn State officials as well as a key figure in defining the eventual legacy of former coach Joe Paterno.

It’s McQueary who told the grand jury that in 2002 he walked in on Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the Penn State locker room. He said he left in a panic and called his father who told him to come to his State College home. The next day McQueary went to Paterno’s home and told him some version of what he saw.

Paterno relayed the story to Penn State athletic director Tim Curley the next day. Ten days later, Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz questioned McQueary. Not much happened after that. Both Curley and Schultz are now accused of perjury and failure to report the abuse of a minor.

Paterno is not accused of any crimes, but he was fired and left with his reputation in tatters.

While there is little public debate over the guilt or innocence of Sandusky, questions remain about the actions of Paterno, Curley, Schultz and, maybe most of all, McQueary, who has been criticized for not stopping an assault in progress that night.

McQueary has also apparently told numerous versions of the story, which has added to the mystery and makes his eventual under-oath, open-to-cross-examination testimony so anticipated.

[Related: Sandusky to face accusers at preliminary hearing]

In the grand jury presentment, McQueary’s exact testimony was summarized, but it told of the then-graduate assistant stumbling on an ugly scene of Sandusky sodomizing a young boy. It doesn’t mention him stopping the assault or making sure the boy was safe.

That led to incredible backlash against McQueary. The school eventually put him on paid administrative leave.

In a handwritten statement to police, obtained by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, McQueary reportedly wrote that, “I am certain that sexual acts/the young boy being sodomized was occurring.”

Jerry Sandusky is expected to face his accusers for the first time in a courtroom.
(AP)

Later, after questions about his actions arose, McQueary wrote to friends that he stopped the assault, something that is not mentioned in either the grand jury report or the handwritten statement.

Finally on Monday, the Patriot-News reported that when McQueary went to his father’s house after witnessing the Sandusky assault, a family friend, Dr. Jonathan Dranov, was also present. McQueary told both his father and Dranov the story that night.

Dranov testified to the grand jury early this year. According to the Patriot News, which cited someone familiar with his testimony, Dranov told the grand jury that, “McQueary heard ‘sex sounds’ and the shower running, and a young boy stuck his head around the corner of the shower stall, peering at McQueary as an adult arm reached around his waist and pulled him back out of view.

“Seconds later, Sandusky left the shower in a towel.”

That’s different than what the grand jury presentment suggested.

Paterno, Curley and Schultz have all claimed that McQueary wasn’t as detailed in his accounts to them as he was to the grand jury. However, the grand jury found his testimony as having great credibility and he is the chief witness in the perjury cases against Curley and Schultz.

It’s worth noting that Paterno, Curley and Schwartz all have stated that McQueary told them about an inappropriate incident in the showers, which should’ve been enough to prompt a serious inquiry into Sandusky’s behavior. There isn’t an innocent excuse for an old man and a young boy to be showering together.

Still, the precise details of what McQueary saw and what he told remain unknown. At future trials, defense attorneys will attack not only every word he says under oath, but any discrepancy in his story.

What, exactly, he relayed to Paterno will go a long way toward reversing or cementing the iconic coach’s legacy. And McQueary himself, subject to so much criticism, has expressed a desire to explain his actions publicly in open court.

Tuesday will certainly to be a day for the accusers. The courage and power of their appearances can’t be understated, the first of many days of reckoning to come.

McQueary remains a possibility, though his silence and disputed stories make the great unknown of this case. His day is coming, too. If not Tuesday, then someday soon.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011