Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno appears to have played a greater role than previously known in Penn State's handling of a 2001 report Jerry Sandusky had sexually assaulted a boy in a university shower, according to a person familiar with aspects of an independent investigation of the Sandusky scandal.
Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno appears to have played a greater role than previously known in Penn State’s handling of a 2001 report Jerry Sandusky had sexually assaulted a boy in a university shower, according to a person familiar with aspects of an independent investigation of the Sandusky scandal.
Email correspondence among senior Penn State officials suggests Paterno influenced the university’s decision not to formally report the accusation against former assistant coach Sandusky to child-welfare authorities, the person said. The university’s failure to alert the police or child-welfare authorities in 2001 has been an issue at the center of the scandal — having led to criminal charges against two senior administrators and the firing of Paterno last fall.
The university’s much-maligned handling of the 2001 assault began when Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant in Paterno’s program, told Paterno he had seen Sandusky assaulting a boy of about 10 in the football-building showers. McQueary has testified several times he made clear to Paterno, and later to university officials, that what he had seen Sandusky doing to the child was terrible and explicitly sexual in nature.
To date, the public understanding of Paterno’s subsequent actions has been that he relayed McQueary’s account to the athletic director and then had no further involvement in the matter.
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But emails uncovered by investigators working for Louis J. Freeh, the former FBI director leading an independent investigation ordered by the university’s board of trustees, suggest the question of what to do about McQueary’s report was extensively debated by university officials. Those officials, the emails show, included university president Graham B. Spanier; athletic director Tim Curley; administrator Gary Schultz and Paterno.
The existence of the email correspondence was first reported by CNN. The person familiar with aspects of the Freeh investigation was not identified because the investigation is continuing.
The Penn State emails, according to the person with knowledge of the Freeh investigation, indicate Spanier, Curley and Schultz seemed at one point to favor reporting the assault to the state child-welfare authorities.
But in one email, Curley wrote that after talking to Paterno, he no longer wanted to go forward with that plan.
In the end, the university told no one other than officials with The Second Mile, the charity for disadvantaged youngsters founded by Sandusky.
The emails suggest school officials decided Sandusky could be dealt with by barring him from taking children onto the campus and urging him to seek professional help.
Paterno died of lung cancer in January.
Family spokesman Dan McGinn said there was no evidence Paterno interfered with any investigation and that the emails could be interpreted in various ways. McGinn said he was disturbed by what he called the “selective leaking” of the emails.
Wick Sollers, a lawyer for the Paterno family, said in a statement: “To be clear, the emails in question did not originate with Joe Paterno or go to him, as he never personally utilized email.”
Sandusky, 68, was convicted June 22 by a jury in Bellefonte, Pa., of 45 counts of sexually abusing boys, including rape and sodomy. He was convicted of several counts involving the child attacked in the football-building showers in 2001.