Penn State’s insufficient action amid child sex allegations stunning
At approximately 9:30 p.m. on March 1, 2002, a Penn State graduate assistant entered what should have been an empty football locker room. He was surprised to hear the showers running and noises he thought sounded like sexual activity, according to a Pennsylvania grand jury “finding of fact” released Saturday.
When he looked in the shower he saw what he estimated to be a 10-year-old boy, hands pressed up against the wall, “being subjected to anal intercourse,” by Jerry Sandusky, then 58 and Penn State’s former defensive coordinator. The grad assistant said both the boy and the coach saw him before he fled to his office where, distraught and stunned, the grad assistant telephoned his father, who instructed his son to flee the building.
The next day, a Saturday, the grad assistant went to the home of head coach Joe Paterno and told him what he had seen. The day after that, Paterno called Penn State athletic director Tim Curley to his home to report that the grad assistant had told him he had witnessed “Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
A week-and-a-half later, according to the grand jury report, the grad assistant was called to a meeting with Curley and Gary Schultz, the school’s senior vice president for finance and business, where he retold his story.
Sandusky had retired from the Penn State program in 1999, a surprise to many who saw him as a possible successor to Paterno. He instead dedicated himself to “Second Mile,” a group home he founded in 1977 dedicated to helping troubled boys. He often brought troubled kids through the Penn State facilities, including the famed Beaver Stadium, bought them gifts and took them to sporting events.
Curley did not notify university police or have the graduate assistant further questioned involving the incident. No other legal or university entity investigated the case.
Merely alerting police would’ve been significant since they investigated Sandusky in 1998 for “incidents with children in football building showers.” Curley never asked for a background check on Sandusky.
Curley instead took it upon himself to inform the director of “Second Mile” about the charge, although it didn’t concern potential sodomy of a minor.
Curley told the grand jury he was merely told that Sandusky was “horsing around” with the boy. The grand jury did not find that credible in part because Schultz said he had gotten the impression “Sandusky might have inappropriately grabbed the young boys’ genitals while wrestling around.” Both Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury for claiming the grad assistant didn’t inform them of “sexual activity.”
Curley later met with Sandusky and told him he was no longer allowed to bring children onto the Penn State campus. He forwarded the report on to university president Graham Spanier, who approved of Sandusky’s ban from bringing children onto campus and himself never reported the incident to police.
On the base of the grand jury findings Sandusky was arrested Saturday morning and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault and other offenses. He was released Saturday on $100,000 bail.
Pennsylvania’s attorney general cited incidents involving Sandusky that ran from 1994 until 2009, including the above act.
[Grand jury findings: Read the press release]
Curley and Schultz are expected to turn themselves in to authorities on Monday. The attorneys for both men released statements proclaiming their innocence.
“This is a case about a sexual predator who used his position within the university and community to repeatedly prey on young boys,” attorney general Linda Kelly said. “It is also a case about high-ranking university officials who allegedly failed to report the sexual assault of a young boy after the information was brought to their attention, and later made false statements to a grand jury that was investigating a series of assaults on young boys.”
It is actually even more than that, a stomach-turning 23-page grand jury report that could be the ugliest scandal in the history of college athletics.
The failure of Penn State officials to call in the proper authorities potentially allowed the alleged sexual predator to live free for an additional nine-and-a-half years.
This case demands answers to deep and troubling questions right up the chain of command at Penn State, including Spanier and the legendary Paterno.
Instead, thus far, all we’ve gotten is a pathetic statement from Spanier who quite incredibly deemed Sandusky’s charges as merely “troubling” (and said little more) and then expressed continued support for Curley and Schultz.
“The allegations about a former coach are troubling, and it is appropriate that they be investigated thoroughly,” the statement read. “Protecting children requires the utmost vigilance … I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support.”
Really, that’s it? That’s what the guy who is running Penn State has to say? That’s all he thought was appropriate?
Curley and Schultz need to be suspended immediately. Some actual adult in Pennsylvania needs to step in and sit Spanier down also and not merely for issuing a statement that expressed no concern for the victims, no shock at the charges, some of which occurred on his campus, and little concern about crimes this despicable.
More importantly, Spanier needs to be immediately removed from an authority position since his culpability is tied to Curley. After all, Spanier both knew of the allegations against Sandusky and approved of Curley’s handling of the case.
That includes an act almost unfathomable in its insensitivity. According to the attorney general, no one at Penn State ever tried to find the boy. At worst, he was raped in a shower. At best, according to testimony that law enforcement finds non-credible, he was either “horsing around” with or being “inappropriately grabbed” by an old man in an empty locker room.
Yet no one thought they should go find the kid so he and his family could get proper help or further protection. Not even the university president?
“Despite a powerful eyewitness statement about the sexual assault of a child, this incident was not reported to any law enforcement or child protective agency, as required by Pennsylvania law,” said Kelly, the attorney general. “Additionally, there is no indication that anyone from the university ever attempted to learn the identity of the child.”
How? How could all these people of power, people of education, people of authority simply look the other way? And how could Graham Spanier maintain a level of arrogance to release that statement on this day?
There can simply be no tolerance, no leniency, no looking the other way with any charge involving an adult and a child. None. There isn’t a gray area here, not only in the letter of the law, but in the spirit of any semblance of ethical conduct.
The legal process will and should be allowed to play out and determine the guilt and innocence of all involved. The accused have the right to a proper defense in a court of law.
In a broader sense, however, an immediate, thorough and limitless investigation must be launched by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to find out why this wasn’t turned over to the proper authorities. This isn’t just about what it is and isn’t a crime, it’s about what is and isn’t right.
[Related: Sandusky, others charged in child sex case]
The chief question is this: If Curley, Schultz and Spanier believed it was no longer appropriate to allow Sandusky to bring children onto the Penn State campus – an act that suggests some concern over his behavior – how could they possibly believe his actions didn’t warrant a full police investigation?
And then there is the conduct of Paterno, the 84-year-old legend. He is beloved for being the winningest coach in college football history and for running a program for more than five decades that never ran afoul of NCAA statutes.
While he may have committed no crime, he must fully explain the actions he took after hearing such an unspeakable allegation.
Did he really listen to this story and think merely telling the AD was enough? Why did he wait a day to summon Curley to his home? Wouldn’t a charge like this take precedent over pretty much everything? Why didn’t he personally look into it further? This is something that allegedly happened in his locker room, by a man he both coached and employed as a trusted assistant for a combined 33 years?
Technically Paterno may have done the right thing, reporting the allegation to his superior, but he isn’t just some middle manager. Tim Curley worked for Joe Paterno more than Joe Paterno worked for Tim Curley. He could’ve called in the police himself.
Paterno was 75 at the time and his advancing age and the limits of his participation in the program are well known. That simply can’t be used as an excuse. Positions of authority come with great responsibility and advancing age does not excuse someone of merely accepting the plaudits of success while avoiding the more difficult duties of the position.
Paterno may very well have appropriate answers to all of the above questions and more. He needs to give them. Four-hundred-plus victories shouldn’t absolve anyone from being accountable in a case such as this.
This is a scandal that goes beyond nearly anything college athletics has ever witnessed. These are the most horrific charges that can be made, the worst of the worst kind of crime that haunts victims forever.
The time for hiding behind statements and closed doors and parsed explanations from so-called leaders are over.
This demands real investigation conducted by real adults, something that’s at least eight years and who knows how many unnecessary victims overdue.