The Reenactment of the Crimes of Joe Paterno

By Thomas A. Praster

The Freeh report draws numerous conclusions and makes significant accusations. However, much is based on conjecture, and when one attempts to unravel the charges against Joe Paterno, it gets confusing because we are sidetracked by accusations against the others. So rather than argue the merits of all of the allegations, I wanted to start by clarifying Paterno’s role. So I have put together this little drama, where you can go through the 1998 and 2001 incidents from Joe’s perspective. Everything here is consistent with the Freeh report’s facts. The only significant discrepancy with non-Freeh statements by Paterno is whether or not he knew of the 1998 incident. I have given critics the benefit of the doubt and accepted Freeh’s conjecture that he did. So put on your coke bottle glasses, lace up your black sneakers, and roll up your pant legs:

May 1998: You are at a meeting in the office of Athletic Director Tim Curley. Several people have been discussing the future of Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky. You told Jerry several months ago that he would not be the next head coach at Penn State unless he drastically curtailed his time with the charity he founded, Second Mile. He is currently asking about other positions at the University, possibly Assistant AD. After the others file out, Tim asks you to stay behind:

TC: Joe, there is something else that has come up with Jerry. I should not tell you this, because the investigation is confidential, but since you will have an input into Jerry’s future here, I want you to know. The police and DA are investigating a report of child abuse.

You: Child abuse?

TC: Well, it may be nothing. You know Jerry is always working out with his foster kids, and the Second Mile kids, and he often showers with them. The program relies a lot on athletics as therapy, and Jerry seems to think his showering with them reassures them while they are in the locker room, which can be intimidating for kids. Not sure I agree, but he is the one being advised by the child development people at Second Mile. Anyhow, one kid told his mom that Jerry hugged him in the shower, and she complained to the cops. Sounds like she is over-reacting, but the DA is investigating.

You: Yeah, well, let me know what happens.

Three weeks later, you get a phone call:

TC: Joe, just wanted you to know we just got the results of that police thing I told you about with Jerry. The police and the DA both have decided it doesn’t merit prosecution, there is no evidence it is criminal. I guess it is like I said, Jerry horsing around and making some people uncomfortable.

You: Okay, thanks Tim.

Fast forward three years to February 10, 2001. Jerry has continued his work at Second Mile. Obviously the State Department of Public Welfare officials who oversee it did not put any credence in the 1998 incident. The charity has been growing in fame. Jerry has been the Home Coming Grand Marshall at Penn State, the Centre County Chamber of Business and Industry recognized him with the Community Service Award, and Senator Santorum nominated him in Congress as an Angel in Adoption. You see Sandusky around campus once in a while, but have little contact with him.

You’re finishing breakfast. There is a knock on the door, and a few minutes later, Sue brings in your graduate assistant, Mike McQuery.

MM: Joe, thanks for seeing me, we really need to talk.

YOU: Yeah, so you said when you called last night. Like I said then, if this is about moving you into a coaching position, I just can’t do that right now.

MM: No, not about that. I was in Lasch last night to pick up some stuff, and I saw something that was really disturbing. Jerry Sandusky was in the showers with a little kid.

YOU: At night, what the hell was he doing there at night?

MM: Well, I am not sure exactly, I just went in to get some stuff from my locker. I only saw him for a few seconds, but it looked wrong to me, kind of sexual."

YOU: Really? Did you break it up?

MM: No, right after I saw them, they got dressed and left. The kid wasn’t crying and didn’t seem afraid, so I kind of just left it at that.

YOU: So the kid was okay? Did you call the police?

MM: No, like I said, the incident seemed over, and no one was in danger. The kid went willingly. But I was really upset. I called my dad, and told him what was going on. He told me to just come home. So I went back and described it all to him, and a colleague of his, Dr. Dranov, and they suggested I come and talk to you. They did not think there was any reason to call the police last night.

YOU: Well, what do we do now? It has to be reported, but if it was not an immediate matter for the police, it has to go up the administrative chain. Let me think about this, I have not faced anything like this before, so I’ll call you.

Sunday, Feb 11 Phone Call to Tim Curley

YOU: Hey Tim, Mike McQueary came to see me yesterday. He saw Jerry Sandusky showering with a kid in Lasch. I am not sure what he saw, he was a little vague, but could be serious. Or it could be 1998 all over again, Jerry horsing around and creeping folks out, but nothing criminal. Either way, I think it needs to be looked into. Can you and Gary get together and talk to Mike? Let me know what happens, but I don’t want to get too involved. I don’t want Jerry deflecting from the enquiry claiming I am out to get him.

Sunday, Feb 11 Phone Call to Mike McQueary

YOU: Mike, I told Tim Curley and Gary Schultz what you told me, they should be in touch with you. Tim controls access to facilities, and negotiated Jerry’s contract, so if we need to keep Jerry from coming on campus, he can speak to that. And the police report to Gary. So seems like anything that can and needs to be done at this point they can do. Let me know if you need me to get further involved, but I should probably keep out of it as much as possible.

Monday, Feb 26

You have not heard anything for 2 weeks, but you have been busy, and you are not too concerned. You have known Mike for more than ten years. He is a good, level-headed kid – well, not a kid anymore, he is 28 – and you have every reason to believe he can handle whatever this is, especially with the help of Curley and Schultz. Then you get a phone call from Tim:

TC: Joe, wanted to give you a heads up on the McQueary/Sandusky thing. We checked with legal on our reporting requirements, and then with Graham (University President Graham Spanier). We can’t let the sort of thing Mike saw continue, so first we are going to tell Jerry not to bring kids onto campus anymore, report him to Public Welfare, and then report it all to Dr. Raykovitz, who is running Second Mile.

You: Well, that sounds good. Are you going to tell Jerry you are reporting him to DPW?

Tim: Well, have not thought that through yet, why?

You: Well, you know how that stuff always leaks, and if Jerry gets labeled as a pedophile it could really cripple Second Mile. Jerry isn’t my favorite person, but I think we need to consider that.

Tim: Yeah, I see your point, let me think about it and run it by Graham. Not sure how much it matters. If I understand Legal correctly, once we give Second Mile a credible report of an incident like this, they will have to report and investigate.

You: Sure, you’re the experts, do what you need to do.

The next time you see Mike, you ask him how he is feeling. He says he is okay, and he is satisfied with what has been done. No one who has heard Mike’s story ever comes to you to complain about inaction, or to suggest more needs to be done. Seems like everyone decided this was a minor incident, and it quickly fades in your memory.

That’s it until 2010 when you are notified of the Grand Jury investigation. Curtain.

As I said, all of the above is completely consistent with the Freeh investigation. When you add in all the things Freeh claims Spanier, Curley and Schultz were doing at the same time, and start trying to match it all up with Grand Jury testimony, other statements made by principles, etc, it gets very confusing. But when you strip it down to just what anyone can know and prove Paterno did, it is, in my opinion, difficult to see some great moral failing or evidence of a cover up. I will entertain any new facts that show Joe knew more or did more, but that does not exist, to my knowledge. He had two data points: 1) a 1998 allegation of shower hugging that was determined unworthy of charges (we don’t know how it was characterized to Joe; my version above is as good as any); 2. a toned-down description of a similar incident 3 years later. He turned that information over to the right people, and expected them to do their jobs.

What of inconsistencies among this, what JP testified to, and what he told Sally Jenkins? I don’t know. The most significant thing focused on by Freeh and Jenkins was his denial of knowing about 1998. Why he denied it I won’t speculate, but as I demonstrate above, knowing about it in some ways strengthens his case, so there seems little reason to lie.

That is what has had people across the country and in the media suggesting that he rot in hell for protecting a child rapist all these years. So again, I have to say, if this qualifies Joe for eternal damnation, God help the rest of us.