Court documents released: Paterno knew of Sandusky abuse in 1976
According to court documents just released today, Penn State had six different opportunities to report former Assistant Football Coach and convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky, and Joe Paterno knew about an allegation of abuse in 1976. The documents containing the testimony of Raymond Williams, a risk management expert who testified as part of the Penn State University vs. Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co. case, where the school’s insurer claims Penn State failed to inform it of incidents that could result in liability exposure were ordered released a month ago by a Philadelphia judge.
Of the six cases, three involved assistant coaches who witnessed improper sexual contact between Sandusky and minors.
These include encounters witnessed by then-assistant coach Joe Sarra in 1987 and in 1988 that was witnessed by then-assistant coach Kevin O’Dea. In 2001, graduate assistant Michael McQueary
witnessed an incident in the showers at Penn State’s football facilities. That encounter became part of the criminal proceedings against Sandusky.
Other opportunities for Penn State to report Sandusky abuse came in a 1976 incident where an alleged victim made a report to then-head football coach Joe Paterno.
The victim, identified in the unsealed documents as John Doe 150, testified in 2014 that Sandusky had just touched him in a shower in 1976, when he was 14 years old and attending a football camp.
He said he told several coaches and other adults about it, then went to Paterno the next day.
The following is taken from the transcript of his testimony:
“Is it accurate that coach Paterno quickly said to you, I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about?” a lawyer for Penn State’s insurance carrier asked the man. “Specifically, yes,” the man replied.
“I was shocked, disappointed, offended, I was insulted,” John Doe 150 testified. “I said, is that all you’re going to do? You’re not going to do anything else?”
Another report by an alleged victim that was referred to then-Penn State Athletic Director Jim Tarman in 1988, and a 1998 report that the mother of a boy filed with Penn State’s university police department, was investigated, and later dropped with no charges filed by the Centre County district attorney’s office. Like the McQueary report, this incident was known to several of Penn State’s highest-ranking administrators.
Williams testimony came in 2014. But Judge Gary Glazer just released the documents to the public this morning.
You can view the entire transcript here.
Paterno image still looms large:
Just last week, a group of over 200 Penn State football players sent a letter to University President Eric Barron and members of the Board of Trustees, asking the school to return the statue of legendary football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium and to issue an apology to Paterno’s widow, Sue Paterno.
The statue was removed in July of 2012 after longtime Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky was convicted of numerous counts related to sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period.
Paterno was dismissed as coach in November of 2011, amid the shock of the Sandusky allegations. He died in January of 2012, just two months later, of complications due to lung cancer.
Paterno was told by graduate assistant Mike McQueary of an incident in 2001 between Sandusky and a young boy in a shower at Penn State’s football facility. Paterno reported the incident to his superior, Athletic Director Tim Curley.
Paterno and his family maintain that he did not know of other reports of abuse involving Sandusky. These latest allegations put the abuse on Paterno’s radar 40 years before Sandusky’s arrest.
The Paterno family issued a statement through their attorney, Wick Sollers:
“From the beginning, the Paterno family has been outspoken in their desire for the complete truth in the Sandusky tragedy. They have also repeatedly called for due process for all affected parties. With this latest release of information, the total mishandling of the Sandusky investigation is highlighted once again.
The overwhelming evidence confirms that Joe Paterno never engaged in a cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Multiple independent parties have confirmed this conclusion. In fact, consistent with University rules, Joe reported an allegation about Sandusky to administration officials. As President Barron stated in his message to the University earlier today, an environment where faculty and staff feel protected in reporting wrongdoing is a key objective of the University.
The materials released today relating to Joe Paterno allege a conversation that occurred decades ago where all parties except the accuser are now dead. In addition, there are numerous specific elements of the accusations that defy all logic and have never been subjected to even the most basic objective examination. Most significantly, there is extensive evidence that stands in stark contrast to this claim.
That Penn State chose to settle claims without fully assessing the underlying facts is something that the University obviously felt they had to do to help resolve this matter. We understand their desire for closure, but it does not remotely validate the assertions about an uncorroborated conversation with Joe Paterno.
When the Sandusky scandal first became public in 2011, there was a lot of rhetoric in the media about using this case as a model to help prevent other child sex abuse scandals. Sadly, one of the lessons from the Sandusky tragedy is how not to investigate a crime of this type.”
Penn State University President also issued a statement:
“Today, information is being released by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas related to a lawsuit between Penn State and its insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. For its part, the University does not plan to provide additional comment on these matters, as this information has largely already been covered by media.
Penn State’s overriding concern has been, and remains, for the victims of Jerry Sandusky. While individuals hold different opinions, and may draw different inferences from the testimony about former Penn State employees, speculation by Penn State is not useful. We must be sensitive to all individuals involved, and especially to those who may be victims of child sexual abuse. It also makes it much more difficult for Penn State to create an environment where victims of sexual abuse feel comfortable coming forward and where students, faculty and staff feel protected in reporting wrongdoing.
Although settlements have been reached, it also is important to reiterate that the alleged knowledge of former Penn State employees is not proven, and should not be treated as such. Some individuals deny the claims, and others are unable to defend themselves.
Speculation also serves to drive a wedge within the Penn State community. I would ask that we remember our University’s primary mission is to focus on research, education and service. Let’s be respectful of other viewpoints and focus on our mission. The University is committed to ensuring our campuses are safe for children, and to ongoing prevention and education programs and research that contribute to a better society.
I want to thank our Penn State community for caring so deeply about not only our university during these difficult times, but also for the victims of child abuse.”