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Joe Paterno and Penn State officials conspired to protect Jerry Sandusky from prosecution in 2001 after Mike McQueary reported seeing Sandusky raping a young boy in the football locker room. That’s the only conclusion that any reasonable person can draw from CNN”s blockbuster Friday night report uncovering multiple emails discussing the Sandusky incident between Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, and vice president Gary Schultz.
Based on the emails it appears that Joe Paterno was the driving force behind the decision not to report Sandusky to authorities.
According to athletic director Tim Curley the decision not to report Sandusky was made after a meeting with Joe Paterno. “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe (Paterno) yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”
Curley, a former Penn State football player under Paterno, buckled under the wishes of his old coach, calling an audible that led to a conspiracy of silence. A conspiracy, that was he still alive, would probably lead to criminal charges being filed against Joe Paterno.
Told that a former assistant coach was raping a young boy in Penn State’s locker room Paterno counseled against informing authorities, as was required by Pennsylvania law, and instead at least four additional young boys were raped in the ensuing decade.
More details will continue to emerge from former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigation, but there is no doubt now that a cover-up took place at Penn State and there is no doubt that Paterno was involved in that cover-up.
Sandusky’s crimes were not a secret in State College. His reign of terror featured willing enablers, men whose own self interest coalesced to form a conspiracy of criminal silence.
Why would Paterno want Sandusky’s crime to remain a secret?
The answer is simple: So he could keep his job.
Remember that Paterno’s coaching job was under siege in 2001, when McQueary witnessed a sexual assault in the locker room showers. The 2000 team finished 5-7, and Paterno’s lack of control over the program was a constant source of discussion among fans and media. In 2001 Paterno’s team went 5-6 and Paterno was 74 years old. Do you really believe Paterno would have survived as coach if word had broken that a former assistant coach was raping young boys in the locker room? Especially if, as the case will doubtless turn out to be true, Penn State officials and Paterno knew about the 1998 investigation of Jerry Sandusky as well?
Of course not, Paterno’s coaching career would have ended in disgrace. Much less disgrace than now, but disgrace nonetheless. So Paterno and crew decided to hope Sandusky would clean up his act, tried to bury his crime in a heap of silence. Sure, Curley, Spanier, and crew could have defied Paterno, but only one man had complete control of State College. And that man, Paterno, wanted to take the “humane” approach and tell a serial child molester to stop.
Grown men confronted a monster and asked him to stop.
And by “or else,” what they were really telling him was we’ll keep silent some more.
It’s unbelievable and shameful.
We all know monsters exist, but isn’t it more troubling that grown men who weren’t monsters kept quiet in the face of evil? Especially when they already knew of the monster’s prior crimes?
Despite denying any knowledge of that 1998 incident, emails show that athletic director 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, he refers to another shower incident with a boy in 1998 that was investigated by police but never resulted in charges against Sandusky.”
So you can assume that Paterno and crew knew all about the 1998 incident as well.
Which makes sense, right? Did you really think that an investigation like this could happen in 1998 and not be common knowledge in a community like State College? Did you really believe that Sandusky, recently honored as the defensive assistant of the year, suddenly walked away from coaching the year after this investigation?
Of course not, Paterno and his crew of enablers knew all about both incidents. Both times they chose to keep it quiet. After the 1998 investigation, Sandusky was forced out as coach, after the 2001 incident, they took away Sandusky’s keys to the facility.
Think about this for a moment, faced with clear evidence of child rape in the locker room, Penn State took away Sandusky’s keys.
Paterno had a choice to make twice and he made the wrong choice both times.
Then he did what people do when they make the wrong choice — he continued to lie about what he did and what he knew until the day he died.
Given a choice to do the right thing or keep his job, Paterno chose to keep his job. Like so many aging, doddering authoritarian leaders, Paterno sacrificed his principles to maintain his power. This wasn’t about protecting Penn State — the university would have been able to hire a top coach in 2001 — this was about protecting one man’s job. Penn State officials weren’t trying to protect the university as much as they were trying to protect Joe Paterno’s legacy and his pursuit of the all-time wins record.
In many respects Paterno is probably fortunate he died, otherwise it’s likely he would face criminal charges for both conspiracy and perjury. Indeed, Paterno may well have faced perjury charges when he was still living if these emails had been uncovered prior to the Sandusky trial, back when the grand jury investigation was taking place. Which raises some interesting questions, why weren’t these emails found? Probably because Jerry Sandusky is never mentioned by name — Penn State officials thought they were being smart — and because the dates of the incident were incorrect. Certainly the state of Pennsylvania would have subpoenaed relevant emails. But those officials were searching in the wrong year and without the name Sandusky being used in the email it’s possible that nothing was uncovered when the email system was searched.
So Paterno skated on criminal charges and without being confronted with his lies in court, without being asked about this conspiracy of silence, without being forced to admit that he’d been lying about what he knew for a decade. Curley and Schultz both face perjury charges already. So far their defense has been that they believed Sandusky and the boy were engaged in horseplay. Yes, of course, horseplay. Because horseplay would definitely lead to covertly worded emails and hushed meetings.
We all conspire to keep quiet about a little horseplay.
State College is truly a world upside down. A place where allowing a serial child molester to maintain his reign of terror can be called “humane.”
You know how bad it’s become at Penn State? It might take Jerry Sandusky on the witness stand to finally tell us the truth about what Penn State officials knew about his actions and when they knew it.
Welcome to Penn State, where a convicted child molester still has the chance to be the only honest man from the university in a courtroom.
In the meantime, the NCAA should go ahead and take action against Paterno’s greatest victory, the most wins all-time in major college football. Paterno was protected until the end. Do you guys really think it’s a coincidence that news about these charges didn’t break until the week after Paterno passed Eddie Robinson to set the all-time wins record? On a bye week no less? Please. Paterno’s record-breaking climb was protected because football was more important than anything else.
We can debate whether the university’s football program should get the death penalty. (As I told you back in November the NCAA has the authority to give the death penalty in this case.)
But I’ve already seen enough evidence that Paterno lied to protect his job and enable his pursuit of the all-time coaching record.
You know what the humane thing to do now is?
The NCAA should take away every Paterno victory from the past decade. Strike them right off the record book. Every win from 2001 to his final victory this past season.
Eighty-seven times after he helped to cover up Sandusky’s rapes Joe Paterno won football games.
Those wins need to disappear.
Generally stripping wins doesn’t matter, but the wins are Paterno’s proudest life accomplishment, the reason he kept coaching, the reason he stayed silent in the face of great evil.
And that’s just the start of the price Penn State should pay for its conspiracy of lies.