Lawyers regrouped for a second day of testimony in a hearing for three former Penn State officials trapped in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, a day after a star witness testified that legendary head coach Joe Paterno had been critical of how the university handled it.
Paterno died in January 2012. He has never been charged, though former FBI Director Louis Freeh said in a university-sanctioned report that Paterno conspired with the three school officials to conceal accusations against Sandusky.
Paterno’s family has vehemently denied those allegations. The former coach was “respectful of the process and wanted to know the truth from the beginning,” and the latest testimony raised more questions about the credibility of Freeh’s report, Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn said.
“Joe Paterno believed the issue would be and should be handled properly,” McGinn said. “That’s been true since the beginning here.”
Joseph Vincent “Joe” Paterno, sometimes referred to as “JoePa,” was a college football coach who was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011. His career ended with his dismissal from the team for his role in this sex abuse scandal.
The hearing, which could last several days, began Monday after being delayed for months because of a legal dispute about the role played in the case by Baldwin, who had accompanied the administrators to their grand jury appearances.
Tuesday’s hearing in a Harrisburg courtroom was expected to be short, with just two witnesses.
Judge William Wenner must decide whether prosecutors showed enough evidence against the ex-school officials to test the charges in a full trial. The charges, including perjury, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children, stem from allegations that former Penn State president Graham Spanier, retired university vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley failed to tell police about an allegation against Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, and then tried to hide what they knew.
In Monday’s hearing, the star witness, Mike McQueary testified in a courtroom for the third time since Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest that top school officials knew that he had seen Sandusky molesting a boy in a locker room shower.
But the former Penn State assistant coach and quarterback also delivered some unexpected testimony – that the late Hall of Fame coach Paterno had told him over the years that university administrators ”screwed up” in how they responded to McQueary’s allegation against Sandusky.
Pressed by defense lawyers about his discussions of the subject, McQueary brought up a specific exchange at football practice in the hours before Paterno’s firing on Nov. 9, 2011 – four days after Sandusky’s arrest.
He recalled the head coach saying the school would come down hard on McQueary and try to make him a scapegoat. Paterno also advised McQueary not to trust the administration or then-university counsel Cynthia Baldwin, the former assistant testified.
Make sure to get your own lawyer, he said Paterno told him.
Lawyers for Spanier, Schultz and Curley say the men are innocent.
The core of McQueary’s testimony is that he saw Sandusky and a boy engaged in a sex act in the locker room shower in 2001 and within days reported it to Paterno, Curley and Schultz.
However, Curley and Schultz have said McQueary never reported that the encounter was sexual in nature, while Spanier has said Curley and Schultz never told him about any sort of sex abuse. They said they believed that Sandusky and the boy were engaged in nothing more than horseplay.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after being convicted last year of sexually abusing 10 boys. He maintains his innocence.
Much of the testimony Monday revolved around prosecutors trying to show that Penn State officials should have known to report Sandusky to police in 2001 after police investigated complaints in 1998 that he had been showering with boys in university locker rooms.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers testified “all hell broke loose” after Sandusky was arrested; PR people got little direction from Spanier. The head of computer forensics for the state attorney general’s office also testified today about unearthing emails that ended up as evidence in the case. Braden Cook discussed the work it took to find the emails, which showed that university officials were aware of complaints about Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)