One year later, can Paterno be defended?

June 27th, 2015 1:20 am

First Posted: 1/20/2013

Tuesday will be one year since Joe Paterno's death. Paterno was a football coach, not child sex abuse expert, a detective, or Mother Theresa in rolled-up pants. But because he was viewed as saint-like, was he, vis-a-vis Sandusky, held to a higher standard than someone else in the same situation would have been? Among others, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, defended Joe before the Freeh report and retracted after Freeh.

But even after Freeh, William Choslovsky, a lawyer writing in the Harrisburg Patriot News and Paul Mirengoff writing at were two, among others, who wrote defenses of Paterno. This paragraph from the later sums up the defense of Paterno after Freeh: The evidence against Mr. Paterno amounts to virtually nothing. After more than 430 interviews and a review of more than 3.5 million documents, the Freeh Report concludes that three emails from other people – former Penn State President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Timothy Curley, and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz – prove that Mr. Paterno was a co-conspirator in a cover-up.

As to the 1998 accusations when Sandusky admitted to a mother that he had showered with her son, the writers made a good case for Paterno's defense. The Department of Welfare, the University Police, the State College police, the local district attorney's office and a counselor investigated and found no indication of child abuse.

In the report, Freeh writes, At the conclusion of the investigation, no charges were filed against Sandusky. Then, after admitting the investigation proved nothing, Freeh writes, Despite their knowledge of the criminal investigation of Sandusky, Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley took no action.

Was Paterno supposed fire Sandusky then? Choslovsky, the lawyer, writes: It's unclear whether Paterno had grounds to fire Sandusky then. After all, Paterno witnessed nothing and the authorities — after a full investigation — took no action. Had he fired Sandusky or done something, he (and the university) could have been sued for wrongful discharge or defamation.

Paterno is more culpable in the McQueary shower incident, but maybe not to the extent Freeh reported. If Paterno wanted to cover up what McQueary said wouldn't he have then done nothing? How is it a cover up to report it? Is Freeh saying waiting a day to report equals a cover up?

Freeh damned Paterno with four words in the report's 267 pages in an email from Curley to Schultz and Spanier after Curley changed his mind about asking DPW to do an independent investigation of McQueary incident: after giving it more thought and after talking to Joe …

Nobody but Curley knows what Paterno said.

It's often said all Paterno had to do was call the police to stop Sandusky. First of all, Curley, as head of campus security, was the police. And given what happened in 1998, why would anyone have thought that the McQueary incident would lead to Sandusky being arrested?

And remember, too, Sandusky was acquitted of rape in the McQueary incident. So, a jury, after hearing evidence for a week, could not conclude rape had happened, but Paterno was supposed to know it at the time.

Freeh said because Paterno knew everything that was going on he had to know about Sandusky before McQueary. Isn't it just as likely Paterno would have been kept in the dark due to his power? Consider in 2000 a janitor saw Sandusky sexually assault a young boy in the showers, but didn't report it for fear of getting fired.

Freeh charged that Paterno showed callous disregard for the victims, especially in the McQueary incident. Was Paterno was supposed to bang on Sandusky's door and demand to know who the kid was so he, Paterno, could rescue him? Again, he was a football coach, not a cop. Is Freeh saying the kid, if he were found, would have agreed to testify? After all, the kid did not come forward even after Sandusky was arrested.

In an interview with the Washington Post Paterno said: I didn't know exactly how to handle it ... so I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise that I did. He also said, In hindsight, I wish I had done more.

Is it reasonable to conclude that before he had the benefit of hindsight, Paterno was naïve enough to not realize Sandusky was a serial predator and because Paterno later learned the extent of Sandusky's evil he then wished he had done more?

Or is it reasonable to conclude that Paterno went about his business for 10 years knowing, and ignoring, that Sandusky was raping kids next door? I don't have answers, just questions.