HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania attorney general Linda Kelly said in a news conference Monday that the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation case is an ongoing investigation but that Penn State football icon Joe Paterno is "not regarded as a target at this point."
Kelly stopped short of offering the same protection for Penn State president Graham Spanier, declining to answer specific questions about his place in the investigation.
Kelly said Paterno responded as legally obligated when informed, in 2002, by a graduate assistant coach (identified in news reports as current Penn State staffer Mike McQueary) that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a child in the showers at the Penn State football facility. She said his timely reporting of the incident to his titular superior, athletic director Tim Curley, fulfilled the coach's legal responsibility.
"The graduate assistant reported to Paterno," Kelly said. "Paterno then reported to school administrators. They were the ones who chose to act as they did."
Kelly did not offer any extralegal opinion on Paterno's handling of the situation.
"We know there is a difference between moral and legal guilt," she said. "We're dealing with legal issues."
Despite the current clearance of Paterno, Kelly did acknowledge that the alleged presence of Sandusky at a 2007 preseason Penn State football practice with a child – identified only as Victim 1 in the attorney general's finding of facts – could still be an avenue of investigation. When asked by Yahoo! Sports whether Paterno and McQueary would have had a heightened legal responsibility to report seeing Sandusky and a child together at their team's practice, Kelly responded,"That's a good question. That might have to be addressed down the line."
[Related: Jerry Sandusky was at Penn State last week]
McQueary, according to the attorney general's presentment, was "distraught" at the sight of Sandusky raping a child in the shower five years earlier. Yet he and Paterno presumably would have witnessed Sandusky with another child at practice. Once again, no report was made to police.
After the 2002 incident, the only action Curley and senior vice president Gary Schultz took was to ban Sandusky from bringing children from his charity, The Second Mile, into the football building. They did not report the incident to police, which led to both men being charged with felonies in the case. They stepped down from their university positions Sunday night and were arraigned in Harrisburg on Monday.
The question now is whether Spanier will be charged. According to the attorney general's presentment of the case, Spanier "reviewed and approved … without further inquiry on his part" the ban placed upon Sandusky. Spanier did not inform police either.
[Related: Joe Paterno statement raises more questions]
Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan scoffed Monday at the ban of Sandusky as a proper course of action, and at Curley's assertion to the grand jury that the ban was "unenforceable."
"Call the police immediately," Noonan said, voice rising. "How difficult is that? It's not a high standard.
"This case has troubled me for two years. Not talking about it for two years was difficult."