Paterno states he is shocked by charges, urges fans to stay calm
November 7, 2011 11:15 AM
Penn State coach Joe Paterno, shown in 1999 with then-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, left.
By Sadie Gurman and Karen Kane Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Two high-ranking Penn State University officials requested to step down so they could defend themselves against allegations of a cover-up of a child sex abuse scandal, the university announced after an emergency meeting of its board of trustees late Sunday night.
The scandal involves charges that head football coach Joe Paterno's former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assaulted eight boys over a 15-year period.
Athletics director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business, are charged with perjury and failing to report the alleged assault on campus of one boy after being told about it by Mr. Paterno, who heard about it from then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary in 2002. That assault supposedly occurred in a football locker room shower. Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz deny any wrongdoing.
Mr. Curley asked to be placed on administrative leave and Mr. Schultz will step down and return to retirement, university President Graham Spanier said. Mr. Spanier declined to comment to reporters after the meeting.
Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz were charged Saturday after a grand jury investigation of Mr. Sandusky. Lawyers for all three men have said they're innocent.
University spokesman Bill Mahon said resignations of Mr. Paterno and Mr. Spanier weren't discussed at the board's meeting, which was arranged Sunday and lasted two hours, The Associated Press reported.
Senior associate athletics director Mark Sherburne will serve as interim athletic director until Mr. Curley's legal situation is resolved, board chairman Steve Garban said.
Earlier Sunday, Mr. Paterno said he was shocked by sex abuse charges levied against Mr. Sandusky and accusations of lying against two university officials, but he cautioned that the legal process was still unfolding and asked "Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents."
"If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters," Mr. Paterno said in a statement his family released Sunday night. "While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred."
He said he and his wife, Sue, had devoted their lives to helping young people reach their potential.
"The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. If this is true, we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families," he said.
Mr. Paterno referred to his testimony before a grand jury that the graduate assistant, who has since been identified as Mr. McQueary, current team wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator, told him in March 2002 that he witnessed an incident in a locker room shower. But Mr. Paterno told the grand jury that he was not informed of the specific details of the alleged actions described in the panel's 23-page report on its findings.
The assistant testified that he witnessed what he believed to be Mr. Sandusky subjecting a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old to anal sex in the shower.
"It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report," Mr. Paterno said. "Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators."
Mr. Paterno is not implicated in the case. Mr. Curley, 57, and Mr. Schultz, 62, both charged with felony perjury, are expected to surrender and be arraigned today before District Judge Marsha Stewart in Harrisburg. Prosecutors said they tried to mislead the grand jury investigating Mr. Sandusky.
The grand jury described a wide-ranging pattern of sexual misconduct against boys who Mr. Sandusky met during his involvement with The Second Mile, a charity he founded that runs programs for at-risk children. Grand jury testimony by his alleged victims outlines a pattern in which he would befriend them and then assault them repeatedly over the years.
Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for state Attorney General Linda Kelly's office, said Sunday that he was unsure how children get involved in The Second Mile program. The office has scheduled a news conference for today in Harrisburg. Each of Mr. Sandusky's alleged victims became acquainted with him through The Second Mile, which he founded in 1977 while he was defensive coordinator of the football team. Lawyers for Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz have said their clients are innocent.
On Sunday, Mr. Schultz's attorney, Thomas J. Farrell, said it was his understanding that a state law requiring some school officials to report suspected child abuse to authorities does not apply to his client. That's because the law "applies only to children under the care and supervision of the organization for which he works," and that is the university, not The Second Mile, Mr. Farrell said.
Mr. Curley's lawyer, Caroline Roberto, could not be reached for comment Sunday but said in a statement Saturday that, "We will vigorously challenge the charges in court, and we are confident he will be exonerated."
Penn State said it will pay the attorney fees for Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley because the case concerns their work as university employees. There is no indication that either has been suspended.
Mr. Sandusky, who retired as a coach in 1999 but was allowed to keep an office at the Lasch Football Building, was banned in 2002 from bringing Second Mile children onto campus.
He was himself banned from campus Sunday. PSU spokeswoman Lisa Powers did not explain why the university did not take sanctions against him earlier, nor did she say why Penn State President Graham Spanier did not inquire further or ask for an investigation after he heard allegations of Mr. Sandusky's alleged locker room assault.
She also would not describe the university's affiliation with The Second Mile, nor would she say whether PSU plans to continue any affiliation with the program.
The grand jury's report says that Wendell Courtney was an attorney for both the university and The Second Mile in 1998, when university police and the Centre County district attorney's office investigated other reports of Mr. Sandusky having inappropriate contact with young boys on campus. Mr. Courtney still represents The Second Mile, the report says, and he could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Mr. Courtney's law firm was replaced last year by the university's first in-house general counsel, Cynthia Baldwin. Ms. Baldwin is a Pittsburgh native and Penn State trustee who served as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice from 2006 to 2008 and previously served in several divisions of Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. She declined to comment Sunday.
The Harrisburg Patriot News reported over the weekend that state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin County, wants university trustees to investigate whether Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz allegedly failed to report the alleged child sexual abuse.
Gov. Tom Corbett was the state attorney general when the investigation of Mr. Sandusky began. His spokesman, Kevin Harley, said Sunday that Mr. Corbett "knew everything about the case up until he became governor" but added that the governor would not comment before Ms. Kelly's news conference today.
On Wednesday night, the university board of trustees is expected to attend the Renaissance Fund dinner in honor of Mr. Spanier and his wife. The board will hold its regular public meeting on Friday.
The grand jury presentment documents a series of possible failures to respond by school officials and other adults who became aware of individual incidents over the 15-year period.
There were janitors who didn't officially report incidents they allegedly witnessed for fear of losing their jobs.
And Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz reportedly denied during their grand jury testimony that they were told that Mr. McQueary had reported that he had witnessed a sex act.
Mr. Curley termed the conduct "horsing around" and Mr. Schultz called the incident "not that serious."
Reports of that incident made it to the top of the university, though it's unclear what words were used to describe it to the president. In the end, Mr. Spanier approved of how Mr. Curley had chosen to deal with the matter: taking away Mr. Sandusky's locker room keys, which he retained as part of his retirement agreement a few years earlier.
The grand jury criticized that lack of action: "[Mr. Schultz] never reported the 2002 incident to the University Police or other police agency, never sought or reviewed a police report on the 1998 incident and never attempted to learn the identity of the child in the shower in 2002. No one from the university did so. Schultz did not ask the graduate assistant for specifics. No one ever did."
The grand jury presentment lays out a litany of missed opportunities to stop the alleged abuse. It says boys spent numerous nights at Mr. Sandusky's home, accompanied him on multiple family and university outings and were the recipients of gifts.
He operated beneath the radar of officials at a Clinton County school that at least one victim attended and where Mr. Sandusky volunteered as an assistant football coach. Then a wrestling coach caught Mr. Sandusky and a boy in an "odd" location after hours, lying on a mat face to face. There's no evidence in the presentment that he told his bosses.
There was a campus police investigation of the1998 incident involving Mr. Sandusky and a youngster in the shower. University officials were aware of the investigation: Mr. Schultz testified before the grand jury that he had known of the case as had Mr. Courtney, the university attorney at the time. But still, no action was taken against Mr. Sandusky.
A police detective did a lengthy investigation after a mother contacted him about the shower incident, but the detective was directed by his boss to close the investigation after then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided not to file criminal charges. Mr. Gricar disappeared in 2005 and was declared dead this year.
In another incident, a janitor said he witnessed Mr. Sandusky performing oral sex on a young boy in PSU locker room shower in 2000. When he told his colleagues about the incident, the janitor became so upset they feared he would have a heart attack. But, no one reported it.
In the end, the janitor, a temporary employee, went to his immediate supervisor, who advised him how to proceed if he wanted to take the complaint to the next level. The janitor never did.
Ultimately, state investigators got involved and the grand jury was empaneled after a high school administrator in Clinton County banned Mr. Sandusky from school property and went to the authorities after a distraught mother called him about her son having been assaulted by Mr. Sandusky. The assistant principal acknowledged in his grand jury testimony that he had found Mr. Sandusky's behavior with youths "suspicious."