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Joe Paterno, moral monster

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It is becoming apparent that Joe Paterno not only knew that Jerry Sandusky was a child rapist, but that he was probably the person most responsible for covering up Sandusky’s previous crimes, and allowing Sandusky to commit many more.

CNN is reporting that a series of internal PSU emails between former PSU president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former vice president Gary Schultz reveal the following chronology:

*On February 9, 2001, former PSU quarterback and current graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary meets with Paterno and tells him that on the previous evening he saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers of the PSU football facility.

*At some point between February 9 and on or about February 19th, Paterno informs Curley of what McQueary has told him.

*On or about February 19th, Curley and Schultz contact McQueary about the incident.

*On February 26th, Schultz writes to Curley to confirm that Curley is aware/approves of a three-part plan to deal with the potential institutional difficulties raised by having Joe Paterno’s former defensive coordinator continue to rape little boys on campus. This plan consists of talking to Sandusky “regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility,” … “contacting the chair of the charitable organization” [this is Sandusky’s Second Mile foundation, which he used to procure victims] and “contacting the Department of Welfare.” [The latter step was the minimum legal obligation placed on Penn State officials by Pennsylvania law].

So, three years after Sandusky’s habit of sexually assaulting young boys was first reported to the authorities, PSU is finally about to do the right thing. Then:

The next evening, February 27, Curley allegedly writes to Spanier. Schultz, who’s out of the office for two weeks, is copied.

Curley refers to a meeting scheduled that day with Spanier and indicates they apparently discussed the Sandusky incident two days earlier.

Curley indicates he no longer wants to contact child welfare authorities just yet. He refers to a conversation the day before with Paterno. It’s not known what Paterno may have said to Curley.

Curley writes: “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”

The athletic director apparently preferred to keep the situation an internal affair and talk things over with Sandusky instead of notifying the state’s child welfare agency to investigate Sandusky’s suspicious activity.

“I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved,” Curley allegedly continues.

Curley writes he’d be “more comfortable” meeting with Sandusky himself and telling him they know about the 2001 incident and — according to a source with knowledge of the case — refers to another shower incident with a boy in 1998 that was investigated by police, but never resulted in charges against Sandusky.

Curley writes to Penn State’s president Spanier that he wants to meet with Sandusky, tell him there’s “a problem,” and that “we want to assist the individual to get professional help.”

In the same purported e-mail provided to CNN, Curley goes on to suggest that if Sandusky “is cooperative,” Penn State “would work with him” to tell Second Mile. If not, Curley states, the university will inform both Second Mile and outside authorities.

Curley adds that he intends to inform Sandusky that his “guests” won’t be allowed to use Penn State facilities anymore.

“What do you think of this approach?” Curley allegedly wrote to Spanier.

Graham Spanier, president of a major research university, (and family sociologist, demographer, marriage and family therapist, and founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues) replies that he thinks this is a very fine plan indeed. “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” Spanier writes.

The downside for the many children Sandusky went on to rape was apparently not part of President Spanier’s pragmatic calculus.

Joe Paterno — the most powerful person on the PSU campus — decided to use his immense institutional influence to allow a child rapist who was about to be exposed and stopped to instead remain free to rape more children, which Sandusky proceeded to do for many more years.

And while it’s true we don’t know precisely what Paterno said to Curley, if we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to Paterno we would conclude that Curley told Paterno that he was thinking of backing out of the “three-part plan,” and Paterno — who could have had Curley fired on the spot with a single phone call — went along with this. If we consider the evidence in the most realistic light, it’s far more probable that Paterno ordered his putative superior to drop the plan to expose Sandusky. In other words, Paterno not only went along with the coverup, but in all likelihood initiated it.

With luck, Paterno’s entire estate, along with whatever assets Spanier, Curley, and Schultz possess, will be confiscated and distributed to those of Sandusky’s victims who can be identified. That, at least, would be a start on the road to something resembling justice.

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