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Living a lie


paterno sandusky

Joe Paterno issued a statement yesterday regarding the apparent fact that for 43 years Paterno’s PSU program harbored a serial child rapist (Jerry Sandusky joined Paterno’s staff in 1966 and was running football camps at PSU for ten-year-old boys as late as 2009). Here it is in full:

If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can’t help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.

Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential. The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers.

As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.

I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold. In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.

This is a craven bit of attorney-crafted circumlocution that shouldn’t fool anybody, but Paterno is in the peculiar position of being a deeply selfish, half-crazy old man who the national media continue treat with kid gloves.

There can be little doubt that Paterno has known since at least 1998 that Sandusky had a “problem” with “inappropriate behavior” toward children, i.e., he was a child molester. That’s when the campus police did a six-week investigation after a mother reported to them that her 11-year-old son had showered with Sandusky. From the grand jury report:

The mother of Victim 6 confronted Sandusky about showering with her son, the effect it had had on her son, whether Sandusky had sexual feelings when he hugged her naked son in the shower, and where Victim 6’s buttocks were when Sandusky hugged him in the shower. Sandusky said he had showered with other boys and Victim 6’s mother tried to make him promise never to shower with a boy again but he would not. She asked him if his “private parts” had touched Victim 6 when he bear-hugged him. Sandusky replied, “I don’t know . . . maybe.” At the conclusion of the second conversation, after Sandusky was told he could not see Victim 6 any more, Sandusky said, “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”

This conversation, in which Sandusky in effect admits that there are other victims, and even refuses to say he’ll stop victimizing children, was surreptitiously observed by a PSU police detective, who was then ordered by the head of campus police to drop the matter. (The local district attorney, who for unknown reasons decided not to press charges, disappeared in 2005 and was declared legally dead in July).

To put it mildly, it’s extremely unlikely that in a little town like State College, PA, word of this investigation didn’t get back to Paterno. This supposition is bolstered by Sandusky’s otherwise strange “retirement” the following year. Sandusky was considered perhaps the top defensive coordinator in college football at the time, he was only 55, and he had long been considered Paterno’s heir apparent. The story Sandusky gave out was that he was retiring because Paterno told him he wouldn’t be succeeding him as head coach at PSU. At 72 Paterno was, in the spring of 1999, already the oldest coach in major college football, and his otherwise inexplicable decision to get rid of his right-hand man in this fashion suddenly makes perfect sense if one assumes Paterno decided it might be harmful to his already iconic legacy if it became known that his top assistant over all these years was a child molester, who had founded a charitable foundation to give himself easier access to his victims. (I’m told that, at Sandusky’s retirement banquet, the normally gregarious Paterno spoke for less than a minute at this tribute to a man who had worked at his side for 33 years).

On the other side, we have Scott Paterno, Joe’s son, claiming in the New York Times that Paterno didn’t know about the 1998 investigation. (The Times might have noted that in 1996 Scott Paterno opined that, “the President of the United States is a felon. In my opinion, President Clinton, at the very least, conspired to commit murder at least 56 times.”). Paterno himself has said nothing on the matter, and the statement he released yesterday is obviously phrased to allow him to eventually acknowledge that he did know about the 1998 investigation (“the nature and amount of charges are very shocking to me”).

In any event Paterno did acknowledge in his grand jury testimony that he’s known since at least 2002 that Sandusky was a child molester, although incredibly enough now he’s even trying to walk back that admission. He testified that Mike McQueary told him he had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy” in the PSU football locker room showers (McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky anally raping the child). Now in his statement Paterno is trying to get people to believe that he was told that his 58-year-old lifelong friend and co-worker was doing something “inappropriate” to a ten-year-old boy in a shower, but that he had no idea it was anything all that bad: certainly not bad enough to cause Paterno — by far the most powerful person in the PSU AD and arguably the most powerful person on campus — to wonder why the only thing that happened to Sandusky was that he was told not to bring the kids he was raping into the locker room any more (Sandusky retained all his access privileges to the campus until yesterday, and indeed was running football camps for young boys on Joe Paterno’s hallowed football field until two years ago).

This disgusting and horrifying spectacle is among many other things a cautionary tale about what can happen to someone when you indulge his selfishness and egomania to the extent that PSU in particular and the national sports media in general have indulged Paterno’s over the past few years. For quite some time now, Paterno hasn’t even pretended to perform many of the tasks any other head coach at a major college football program is expected to do. He hasn’t gone on a recruiting visit in nearly five years, and his season he’s spent most games high up in the press box rather than on the sidelines, while not even being in electronic contact with his staff, who are making all the in-game decisions that a head coach normally makes. He is in terms of actually doing his job a pathetic figurehead, performing it in name only, so that he can continue to pile up whatever “records” the media credit him with.

But Paterno isn’t a figurehead in terms of holding onto his job, as opposed to actually performing it. The Sandusky grand jury investigation has been going on for more than two years. It provided the perfect opportunity for the powers that be at PSU to nudge Paterno out the door, but he wouldn’t go, even with the firestorm that’s now finally broken hanging over his head. He’s a crazy old man who isn’t going to quit until either someone fires him or he dies with his boots on. He’s been living a lie for years now, and in the end it’s led to him trying to weasel-word his way out of his complete failure to do what he could to make sure that Jerry Sandusky didn’t continue to rape little boys. Joe Paterno was once an admirable figure to the extent football coaches can be admired, but when faced with a genuine moral crisis nine years ago he failed utterly. He’s become a fraud and a disgrace, and should be treated as such.

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  • hylen

    Great job, Mr. Campos. Thank you.

  • While serving as the Marine Forces Pacific Chaplain based on Oahu from 1999 to 2002, I was told by a Navy Chaplain that a Catholic Chaplain whom I recruited years earlier was cohabitating with a male sailor in Honolulu. The alleged cohabitating Catholic chaplain was not serving with Marines, and was not one of the some 150 chaplains that I supervised. However, because he was a priest of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A., I reported the matter in a letter dated May 6, 2002 to the Military Archbishop in Washington, D.C.

    I did not take any further action in this regard. The priest/chaplain in question did not work for me just as Jerry Sandusky did not work for Joe Paterno who was told that Sandusky appeared to be sexually involved with a boy in a locker room shower in 2002. Might the alleged cohabitating priest merely been offering a sailor a place to stay before he was able to secure more permanent quarters? Might the incident in the shower been inappropriate “horseplay” that was not a more serious long-term problem? I believed it was within the purview of the Military Archbishop to determine the seriousness of the allegations. I tend to think that Joe Paterno trusted that Tim Curley would likewise have investigated the allegations and taken appropriate action.

    In 2007, five years after I reported the matter involving the alleged cohabitation, the priest in question was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, indecent assault, fraternization, forcible and consensual sodomy, and conduct unbecoming an officer. Just as Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are accused of failing to take appropriate action involving alleged sexual abuse on the part of Jerry Sandusky, so too I believe the former Military Archbishop failed to investigate and take action in the case of the priest who was later convicted of engaging in sex with young Naval Academy midshipmen and Marines while he knowingly was HIV positive.

    In 1985, Father Tom Doyle, while working at the Vatican Embassy, wrote a report that was sent to the Vatican about a very serious sexual abuse problem involving priests and mainly teenaged boys. We all know now that the Vatican did not take appropriate action and thousands of young people continued to be abused. When the matter was exposed by the Boston Globe in 2002, the same year I wrote the Military Archbishop and the same year Joe Paterno reported alleged abuse to Tim Curley, should Tom Doyle have been accused of not taking appropriate action? Should he be defrocked because he trusted that the Vatican would handle the matter in a just manner?

    Because I was not in any position to tell the Military Archbishop in 2002 how to do his job and investigate the matter I brought to his attention; and because Tom Doyle was in no position to tell the Pope or Vatican Officials like Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger how to handle the growing abuse problem he documented in his report; it is my opinion that it is unfair to argue that Joe Paterno should have done far more in 2002 than report the Sandusky matter to Tim Curley whom he had no reason to believe would not take appropriate action.

    • Vance Maverick

      It’s easy to understand why people don’t take stronger action in these circumstances. But that doesn’t mean it’s “unfair to argue” that they should. In fact, “humans are understandably weak” and “humans should do better” are 100% compatible as claims.

    • MSB

      Either you’re missing obvious distinguishing characteristics between these different situations, or you suck at analogies. A chaplain assaulting an adult member of the military is clearly not the same thing as a powerful, celebrated 50-something man assaulting young boys in his care in repeated incidents. And in the Vatican example Tom Doyle + McQueary and Paterno = Pope/Ratzinger. Shunting the issue off to the AD was part of the strategy to cover up, obviously.

    • Jesus Christ. Let me get this straight (so to speak).

      In your mind
      Sex between two consenting adults = An adult raping a child.

      Explains a hell of a lot about what’s wrong with organized religion.

      • Sorry, I stand corrected – In your mind, two adults cohabitating* = An adult raping a child.

        *Perhaps this is MilSpeak for having sex. Either way, God needs a better PR team.

        • mpowell

          Yeah, even aside from the fact that this is a terrible analogy because JoePa actually wields more real power than anyone else at Penn State while random clergy men are a much different story, the comparison between adult male cohabitation and raping children transforms this post from simply wrong and misguided into disgusting.

    • jjcomrt

      “should Tom Doyle have been accused of not taking appropriate action?”

      In short, hell yes. If he had positive knowledge of child abuse, he should have gone to the police, not written a report to his boss. And when he saw that absolutely nothing came of his actions – remember this was over a decade before the scandal broke in the press – he had an ethical and even a legal obligation to notify civil authorities. I’m sickened by the fact that members of the clergy, who preach moral absolutism to the rest of us, feel that they bear no responsibility for failing to report child abuse to the proper authorities. It’s inexcusable and no one who defends such behavior – I’m looking at you Gene – has any business claiming to be a moral or ethical person. You are defending man who is at best a moral coward and at worst an accessory after the fact the child abuse. I’m sure Jesus would be proud of you both.

      • Brad Knobel

        RE “obligation to notify civil authorities” — I’m wondering if it’s completely safe to assume that “no action took place” = “no notification was given.” Especially after reading this paragraph:

        This conversation, in which Sandusky in effect admits that there are other victims, and even refuses to say he’ll stop victimizing children, was surreptitiously observed by a PSU police detective, who was then ordered by the head of campus police to drop the matter. (The local district attorney, who for unknown reasons decided not to press charges, disappeared in 2005 and was declared legally dead in July).

        I get a portrait of a situation in which whistle-blowing would have been futile. Perhaps people in a truly hopeless situation would have looked for a change of employment or otherwise have gotten out after realizing that the system was in full hunker-down mode, down to the local police authorities. Not enough of this has been addressed for us to know how pervasive the atmosphere of cover-up truly was; conversely, we have seen several cases of whistle-blowers driven to suicide or otherwise destroyed while the “watchdog press” looks the other way.

        • Hogan

          Note that that’s a campus police detective, not a State College or Centre County cop. It seems clear that the campus police never notified any of the non-private police departments.

    • Malaclypse

      Should he be defrocked because he trusted that the Vatican would handle the matter in a just manner?

      No. At this point, the frock is pretty much a uniform announcing “keep your kids away from me, because I’m a member of an institution that covers up horrific child abuse.” He should wear the frock every day for the rest of his life.

    • JP59

      All 50 states have laws making it mandatory for people who come into contact with children as part of their work to report child abuse, including teachers and school administrators. Twenty-six states also include members of the clergy as mandatory reporters. Sixteen states require everyone, regardless of profession or any connection to the victim, to report child abuse.

      Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s law is currently written in such a way that Paterno and the other PSU administrators who received McQueary’s information may be able to wriggle out of criminal liability. But maybe not. That should at least give them some months of well-deserved fear.

    • Jack

      What a terrible comparison of 2 entirely different circumstances. The chaplain and sailor – at the very worst – were breaking military code of conduct, and to whatever extent federal “law” prohibits such behavior (if at all) between 2 adults.

      Sandusky stands accused of raping minor children. There are not only eye-witnesses, but others whom the witnesses informed, to several felony criminal acts.

      Every single one of them had a duty to report it to law enforcement FIRST.

    • Anonymous

      What about the ten year old boy? I didn’t see any mention of your concern about what those witnesses or having knowledge of the alleged incident should have done. Does this reflect your disregard for the young man? I pray not. My frustration is that NO ONE SEEMS TO BE CONCERNED NOW OR THEN.

    • b.g.

      Ugh. Thanks for reminding me why I’m an atheist. Your moral compass is utterly broken.

    • b.g.

      And, holy crap, you offer counseling?! You’re not fit.

    • Larry

      Your situation (where you disgustingly ratted out an adult in a consensual relationship) is NOT AT ALL like McQueary’s or Paterno’s situation. Paterno RULED PENN STATE, whereas you were not a bishop or pope or whatever. You were merely A PRUDISH SCOLD doing what you convinced yourself was the right thing (cough, willingly brainwashed, cough). Paterno could and should have had Sandusky locked away (prison or prison psychiatric hospital) but didn’t BECAUSE OF HIS EGO. Your situation, again, had nothing whatsoever in common with Sandusky’s. YOU VICTIMIZED AN INNOCENT MAN. PATERNO AND SANDUSKY (AND SPANIER, ET AL) VICTIMIZED INNOCENT CHILDREN. BTW, did you ever report any priest for molesting children? I’m SURE you didn’t hear about any of that, right?

      • Larry

        This was supposed to be a reply to Gene Thomas Gomulka, the commenter above who ratted out a priest for a consensual cohabitation, who tried to say that what he did was equal to Paterno covering up child rape since at the least 1998. This Catholic priest is a real piece of shit with serious issues that needs to shut the hell up.

  • cthulhu

    I read through the Grand Jury statement and find it very interesting that McQueary, upon witnessing the event, was very upset and arranged to meet with Paterno as soon as possible while Paterno himself waited a day to meet with his “superior.” Really? He couldn’t have gotten him on the phone (or even in person) almost immediately? Too bad that Paterno’s and Sandusky’s phone records from that Saturday are probably no longer retrievable…

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  • cthulhu


    It would appear that your situation was far more ambiguous and that your response was within ethical parameters.

    Nonetheless, if you read the Grand Jury statement, McQueary went to Paterno with an accusation of child rape. The Grand Jury found this credible. The Grand Jury did not find credible other statements that the event was somehow something less to the extent that two people are now accused of perjury. Moreover, Paterno was well within his rights to directly go to the police or to encourage the McQueary to do so. The fact that he wasn’t apparently compelled to do so statutorily seems like a strange loophole in PA state law (I would think coaches are often considered educators and hence have reporting requirements under many state laws). Still, he could have chosen to do so regardless.

    As Mr. Campos notes, it seems highly unlikely that Paterno would not have been aware of the 1998 investigation and further, if you read the stuff from the Grand Jury, it seems like Sandusky was constantly hosting boys in his home and during many team events. It doesn’t take much to accept that even if you are only made aware of one incident, that given Sandusky’s affiliations, there’s the potential for a much more serious situation. To simply ignore all that is not ethical.

  • Z

    This probably indicates that paterno knew about the 1998 incident though he talked in code about it:

    This happened in 1999 …

    “According to Scott Paterno, his father made the decision (that sandusky would not become head coach at psu after paterno retired) because he felt Sandusky was spending too much time at The Second Mile, a foundation Sandusky established to help at-risk kids, where authorities say he encountered the boys. Sandusky then made the decision to take early retirement, Scott Paterno said.”



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  • r€nato

    On the one hand, it’s pretty easy for us on the outside of the loftiest levels of academic bureaucracy and leadership to talk about who should have done what.

    Having said that… this was not a matter of, say, a student cheating on a test or plagiarizing an essay. It was child rape, about as serious as it gets short of murder. Yet it was handled as simply an internal university issue.

    I know for damned sure that if one of my colleagues had been caught on company property buggering a child, I would not have considered my responsibility to be to simply report it to my superiors and then wash my hands of it. I would have made my first call to the police. And even if I had initially reported it to superiors instead, I fucking well would have followed up on it when I didn’t read about the rapist’s arrest in the newspaper within 48 hours.

    That’s what any decent – or, at a minimum, responsible – person would have done. Paterno needs to go. I would say it’s 50/50 that he even gets to finish the season, depending what comes out in the next few weeks.

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  • Phil Benincasa

    I have been telling this story all over the internet since yesterday morning. If you look at the timeline of events this whole thing stinks of a cover up. Sandusky retires shortly after not getting the HC job and prior to that was investigated by univeristy police for sexual misconduct. Even if no charges were filed, how could the PSU admins and Paterno not be totally committed to having Sandusky arrested in 2002 knowing a similar incident had been investigated just 4 years earlier. Their reaction makes no sense if they had any inkling of an idea this guy was a sexual predator. There should have been no heistation and no time to reflect. The second report of sexual misconduct in the showers at PSU should have created an immediate call to the police. That is the crime and that is the damning piece of information that makes Paterno’s public message at best questionable.

    To me they tried to hide it and now the whole house of cards is collapsing.

    I wish I could read the testimony of Paterno to the Grand Jury, because if he was asked if the 2002 incident was the first he had heard of this, then I would be looking very hard a perjury charges for him too.

  • gaius marius

    That Paterno, his staff and the university hierarchy knew and chose vainglory over basic human decency is so probable that it is really beyond question. They have no honor.

    The open question now is whether the Penn State community is any better. If this coaching staff is allowed another day to represent them, it will be a profound and shameful failure of honor for the entire community. They will have shown themselves to have lost any moral capacity before the golden calf of football.

    On the other hand, they can set about salvaging their honor immediately by excommunicating these lost men. Forfeit the remainder of the season – football is trivial in this light, and the community needs to show it understands that. Spend the rest of the year purging the university of everyone who knew and did not act – which is likely much of both the athletic department and the university administration. Find and help the victims with all the university’s resources. And start next year with a clean slate and committed to restoring the good name of the school.

  • Explain to me how the 1998 report didn’t get Sandusky arrested? Do you think Paterno covered it up? The police and Child services were involved! If Paterno covered it up, then he is a monster. But, if he knew of it and knew that the POLICE and CHILD SERVICES didn’t lend it much credence what should he do? He told people. I don’t see how Paterno should be expected to question the findings of Police and Child Services.

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  • don

    How could anyone allow such horrific acts to happen and continuously happen?


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