Penn State sex abuse scandal

Penn State sex abuse scandal


Penn State sex abuse scandal refers to allegations that former Pennsylvania State University football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted or had inappropriate contact with at least eight underage boys on or near university property. After an extensive grand jury investigation, several high-level school officials were charged with perjury and suspended or dismissed for allegedly covering up the incidents or failing to notify authorities.[1] In the wake of the scandal, head football coach Joe Paterno and athletic director Tim Curley were dismissed from their positions and school president Graham Spanier was forced to resign. Sandusky has denied the allegations.[2]


Sandusky was an assistant coach under head coach Joe Paterno for the Penn State football team for 31 seasons from 1969 to 1999. He was the team's defensive coordinator for 23 of those seasons.[3] In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a charity formed to help troubled young boys, in State College, Pennsylvania.[4] In 1998, he was investigated for sexual abuse of a child by the University Police, State College Police, Centre County District Attorney, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and a "child protection agency," but no charges were filed.[5] In 1999, Sandusky retired from his position as Penn State's defensive coordinator, but he remained as a coach emeritus with an office in, and access to, Penn State's football facilities.[6]

Grand jury investigation

The investigation was initiated in the spring of 2008, after the mother of a boy (identified in court papers as "Victim 1"), then a freshman at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, reported that the boy had been sexually abused by Sandusky. According to court papers, Sandusky had been having a relationship involving "inappropriate touching" with Victim 1 since 2005 or 2006, when the boy was 11 or 12. Sandusky had met the boy through the Second Mile program before retiring from the program in 2010.[7][8] Sandusky was volunteering as an assistant high school football coach at Central, also, at the time of the alleged actions.[9] The investigation included testimony from various individuals at Penn State and The Second Mile. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has said that during the grand jury investigation there was an "uncooperative atmosphere" from some of these officials.[10]

In December 2010, assistant coach Mike McQueary appeared before the grand jury looking into the Victim 1 case. McQueary testified that, on March 1, 2002, at 9:30 p.m., he entered the locker room at the Lasch Football Building at Penn State and heard what he believed to be the sounds of sexual activity coming from the shower. He looked in the shower and "saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky."[11][12] The next day, McQueary reported the incident to Joe Paterno, who informed Athletic Director Tim Curley. Ultimately, the only action taken by Curley and Gary Schultz, Senior vice president for finance and business (who also oversaw the Penn State police department), was to order Sandusky not to bring any children from Second Mile to the football building — an action that was approved by school president Graham Spanier.[7][3] The identity of the boy remains unknown to the authorities.[13]

In their testimony before the grand jury, Paterno, Curley, and Schultz rejected the version of the incident presented by Mike McQueary. Paterno testified that he was only told about Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature" to the victim. Curley and Schultz both denied having been told about alleged anal intercourse. Curley denied that McQueary reported anything of sexual nature whatsoever, and described the conduct as merely "horsing around". Graham Spanier likewise testified that he was only apprised of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky and a younger child "horsing around in the shower".[11]

On November 14, 2011, Sandusky's lawyer claimed that he was able to track down Victim 2 and that, according to the child, the incident did not occur as described by McQueary.[14]

Despite Penn State banning Sandusky from bringing boys onto the main campus in 2002, he was allowed to operate a summer camp through his Sandusky Associates company[10] from 2002 to 2008 at Penn State's Behrend satellite campus near Erie, where he had daily contact with boys from fourth grade to high school.[15]

Illustration of victims, people with alleged knowledge of alleged crimes, and official responses as of November 11, 2011

The Pennsylvania statewide investigating grand jury identified a total of eight boys singled out for sexual advances or assaults by Sandusky from 1994 through 2009, after six more victims were identified:[11][16] Five alleged victims testified that they met Sandusky through The Second Mile; each also stated that they showered with him on the campus. According to the witnesses, the showers included physical contact ranging from hugs and wrestling to, in one case, Sandusky placing the boy's hand on his erect penis.[17]

One child's mother reported the incident to Penn State police when he came home with his hair wet. After an investigation by Detective Ronald Shrefler, Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar chose not to prosecute. Shrefler testified before the Grand Jury that director of the campus police, Thomas Harmon, told him to drop the case. University police eavesdropped on conversations during which the mother confronted Sandusky about the incident. He admitted to showering with other boys and refused to discontinue the practice. District Attorney Gricar was not available to testify, as he had disappeared in 2005.[11][18]

Victims also commonly reported that Sandusky would place his hand on their thighs or inside the waistband of their underpants. Two recounted oral sex with Sandusky, sometimes culminating in his ejaculation.[11] Penn State janitor James Calhoun reportedly observed Sandusky giving oral sex to an unidentified boy in 2000, but Calhoun is in a nursing home suffering from dementia, he was deemed not competent to testify.[11]

At least 20 of the incidents allegedly took place while Sandusky was still employed by Penn State.[19]

Criminal charges and further investigation

Penn State President Graham Spanier released a statement of support for Curley and Schultz before being forced to resign.

On November 4, 2011, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly indicted Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys, following a three-year investigation. Sandusky was arrested on November 5 and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, as well as eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault, and other offenses.[20]

Senior vice president Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley were found to be not credible by the grand jury. The two administrators were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse by Sandusky. The indictment accused Curley and Schultz of not only failing to tell the police, but falsely telling the grand jury that Mike McQueary never informed them of sexual activity.[7][3][21][22] Sandusky is currently free on $100,000 bail pending trial. He could face life in prison if convicted of the charges.[23] Curley and Schultz appeared in a Harrisburg courtroom on November 7, where a judge set bail at $75,000 and required them to surrender their passports.[24]

Penn State officially banned Sandusky from campus on November 6, 2011.[25] Later that day, Tim Curley was placed on administrative leave, and Gary Schultz resigned to go back into retirement.[26]

After the charges came to light, Spanier issued a statement in which he said Curley and Schultz had his unconditional support, and saying they "operate at the highest levels of honesty."[27] Spanier was criticized for expressing support for Curley and Schultz, and failing to express any concern for Sandusky's alleged victims.[3]

On November 8, 2011, Congressman Pat Meehan (R-PA04) asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan to probe whether Penn State violated the Clery Act when it failed to report Sandusky's alleged incidents of child molestation that took place on campus. The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to record and disclose incidents of crime on campus. The next day, Duncan announced an investigation into possible Clery Act violations at Penn State, saying that colleges and universities have "a legal and moral responsibility to protect children", and that Penn State's failure to report the alleged abuse would be a "tragedy".[28] Officials in San Antonio, Texas also began investigating whether Sandusky molested one of the victims at the 1999 Alamo Bowl.[29]

Media reaction

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was the first to report on the grand jury investigation, in March 2011.[30] The story did not receive much attention outside of the immediate area,[31] and many readers at the time assailed the newspaper for impugning Sandusky's and Penn State's reputations.[32]

Joe Paterno was heavily criticized for his reaction to the allegations, and was subsequently fired.

Joe Paterno was not accused of legal wrongdoing by the grand jury, since he fulfilled his obligation to report the incident to his immediate supervisor, Curley, and he also reported it to Gary Schultz, who oversaw the campus police at the time.[11] However, he was harshly criticized for not reporting the incident to police, or at least seeing to it that it was reported.[33] Several advocates for sexual abuse victims have called for charges to be brought against him for not contacting the police himself.[34] However, others feel that by contacting Gary Schultz, the VP of business and finance who oversaw the University police, he did contact the police.[citation needed] After McQueary was identified as the graduate assistant who reported the 2002 incident, he was criticized for not intervening to protect the boy from Sandusky (an accusation McQueary has since disputed[35]), as well as for not reporting the incident to police himself.[36][37] On November 7, Pennsylvania state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that though some may have fulfilled their legal obligation to report suspected abuse, "somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child." Noonan added that anyone who knows about suspected abuse, "whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building," has "a moral responsibility to call us."[38] Paterno said McQueary informed him that "he had witnessed an incident in the shower ... but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report."[39]

Further, criticism and condemnation of Penn State leadership and Paterno himself, including calls for his dismissal, followed reports of these arrests for their role in "protecting Penn State’s brand instead of a child",[40][41] and allowing Sandusky to retain emeritus status and unfettered access to the university's football program and facilities, despite knowledge of the allegations of sexual abuse.[3] In an interview with New York City radio station WFAN, sports reporter Kim Jones, a Penn State alumna, stated that, "I can't believe [Paterno's] heart is that black, where he simply never thought about [Sandusky's 2002 incident] again and never thought about those poor kids who were looking for a male mentor, a strong man in their life."[42] Former sports commentator Keith Olbermann called for Paterno to be immediately fired, saying that "he failed all of the kids—the kid kids and the player kids—he purported to be protecting."[43]

On November 8, 2011, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg published a rare full-page, front-page editorial calling for the immediate resignation of Penn State President Graham Spanier; it also called for this to be Joe Paterno's last season.[44] The same day, an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called for the resignations of both Joe Paterno and his assistant coach Mike McQueary.[45]


Although Sandusky later admitted to showering with boys, he has denied the allegations that he sexually abused them.[2] Despite this, the allegations have had an effect on Sandusky's Second Mile charity. Jack Raykovitz, the longtime president and CEO of the Second Mile foundation, announced his resignation on November 14.[46] In addition, the United States Congressional program Angels in Adoption, subsequently rescinded its earlier 2002 award to Sandusky for his work with The Second Mile "in light of the serious allegations against him, and to preserve the integrity of the Angels in Adoption program."[47][48]

Penn State has responded in various ways, such as removing Sandusky's image from a mural near the college,[49] and renaming an ice cream flavor which had been created in his honor.[50][51] The university has also responded by oustering both Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, as well as placing Mike McQueary on indefinite paid administrative leave.[52][53] In anticipation of further fallout, Penn State's Aa1 revenue-bond rating was "placed on review for possible downgrade" by Moody's Investors Service because of the scandal's possible effects on the university's finances.[54]

Student response

Downtown State College was the location of the November 9-10 student protest.

A few Penn State students, angered over Spanier's role in the 2002 incident as well as his statement of support for Curley and Schultz, created a Facebook page, "Fire Graham Spanier", to call on Penn State's Board of Trustees to fire Spanier.[55] An online petition at calling for Spanier's ouster garnered over 1,700 signatures in four days.[56]

After the termination of Paterno was announced on live television, students and non-students rioted near the Penn State campus. Sources estimate that thousands of students and others gathered to support Paterno, with some tipping over a WTAJ news truck.[57] Police used tear gas in response. No major injuries were reported.[58] Approximately $20,000 in damages resulted from the riot, with police criticizing the timing of the announcement at 10 P.M. in the evening as exarcebating the situation.[59]

On November 10, a group of Penn State alumni set up and announced ProudPSUforRAINN,[60] a fundraiser for the anti-sexual violence network RAINN with a goal of $500,000, saying

After having so closely identified with all things Penn State over the past 15 years, the recent events have shaken our beliefs – and those of other alumni – to the core. Simply put, Penn State is way bigger than the alleged actions of a few people. To honor the victims, our goal is to raise over $500,000 – one dollar for each of Penn State’s 557,000 alumni.[61][60][62]

As of 2:00 p.m. the next day, they had raised over $113,000 and as of 3:00 p.m. the following Sunday, over $320,000.[61]

On November 11, students also planned a candlelight vigil on the lawn of Old Main with over 10,000 planning on attending.[63][62] Former NFL player and Penn State alum, sports broadaster LaVar Arrington spoke at the event which attracted an estimated ten thousand.[64][65]

On November 12, before the start of the season's final home game, against Nebraska, the players and coaches from both teams knelt at midfield for a group prayer led by Nebraska's assistant coach Ron Brown.[66][67]

Ouster of Spanier and Paterno

Penn State's Board of Trustees appointed Rodney Erickson as interim president on November 9.

On November 8, 2011, Spanier canceled Paterno's weekly Tuesday news conference, citing legal concerns. It was to have been the coach's first public appearance since Sandusky's arrest. Paterno reported that Spanier canceled the press conference without providing Paterno with an explanation.[68] That same day, The New York Times reported that Penn State was planning Paterno's exit at the close of the college football season. Based on interviews with two individuals briefed on conversations among top university officials, the Times reported: "The Board of Trustees has yet to determine the precise timing of Mr. Paterno’s exit, but it is clear that (he) will not coach another season."[69]

The following day, the Associated Press reported that Paterno had decided to retire at the end of the 2011 football season, saying that he didn't want to be a distraction.[70] In a statement announcing his retirement, Paterno said, "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."[71]

On the afternoon of November 9, The Express-Times of Easton, Pennsylvania, reported that the board had given Spanier an ultimatum—resign before that night's meeting or be fired.[72][73] At that night's meeting, Spanier, facing almost certain termination, resigned; provost Rodney Erickson was named interim president.[74] At the same meeting, the board turned down Paterno's offer to resign, instead voting to fire him immediately; defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was named interim coach for the remainder of the season.[75][76][77] The next week, Big Ten Conference removed Paterno's name from the championship trophy for its conference championship game, renaming it the Stagg Championship Trophy. The inaugural game was scheduled for December 2011, and the trophy was originally named the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy after Paterno and Amos Alonzo Stagg, a college football pioneer.[78][79]

An attorney retained by the families of some of the boys who were allegedly abused by Sandusky has criticized the decision by the board to fire Paterno, saying, "The school let the victims down once, and I think they owed it to the victims to at least gauge how the immediate termination decision would impact them as opposed to Mr. Paterno's resignation at the end of the year."[80]

However, one of the trustees told The Morning Call of Allentown that he and his colleagues had no choice but to fire Paterno in order to contain the growing outrage over the scandal. According to the trustee, the board considered letting Paterno stay on for the rest of the year with Bradley as team spokesman, but ultimately decided it would still keep the focus on Paterno. The board also didn't like that Paterno released statements on his own rather than through the school, with some feeling he may have breached his contract. The anonymous trustee said that he and many of his colleagues felt Paterno either "knew about [the abuse] and swept it under the rug, or he didn't ask enough questions." As for Spanier, the board was very angered by Spanier's statements of support for Curley and Schultz.[81]


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