Sandusky saga: What's next for Penn State?
In this courtroom sketch, Judge John Cleland, second from left; defendant former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, right; and his lawyer Karl Rominger, second from right, listen as the verdict is read.
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The trial for Jerry Sandusky ended Friday night. The tumult from his sexual abuse of children is far from over.
Mr. Sandusky, 68, spent his first weekend of what likely will be a lifetime behind bars after the jury found him guilty of 45 of 48 counts of sexually abusing children. The former revered Penn State University assistant football coach, now a convicted pedophile, will be sentenced within 90 days to spend what promises to be the rest of his life in prison.
His attorney said he will appeal his conviction, primarily on the grounds of insufficient time to prepare an adequate defense.
Yet there are many other chapters that remain unwritten about the sex abuse scandal that called into question whether top officials at a lauded university ignored victimization of children to protect a vaunted football program.
Civil suits loom. Criminal cases are pending. State and federal investigations continue. Additional charges are possible.
What follows is what lies ahead in a case many would prefer to put behind:
Even with his conviction and the possibility of being sentenced to hundreds of years of prison time, Mr. Sandusky still appears vulnerable to additional criminal charges.
On Thursday afternoon, after the jury began its deliberations, attorneys for Matt Sandusky, 33, one of Jerry Sandusky's adopted sons, issued a statement saying that he was prepared to testify as a witness for the prosecution.
"During the trial, Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky's abuse," attorneys Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici said in the statement.
Child abuse experts say it is possible Mr. Sandusky abused others, but state Attorney General Linda Kelly would not confirm whether additional victims had come forth.
"This is an ongoing investigation. We can't speculate on future charges. We are continuing to look into this," Ms. Kelly, who came to Bellefonte for the verdict, told the crowd in front of the Centre County Courthouse after the verdict Friday night.
Spokesman Nils Frederiksen reiterated Saturday that the office could not comment on additional victims coming forward or the possibility that Mr. Sandusky would be charged with additional child sexual assault crimes "given the ongoing nature of our grand jury investigation."
Penn State likely will be facing lawsuits brought by Mr. Sandusky's victims, and the university signaled Friday after the verdict that it intends to settle as many cases as possible.
In a statement, President Rodney Erickson said Penn State "plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky's abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky's conduct."
The purpose, he added, is simple -- to provide a forum where the university "can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims' concerns and compensate them for claims" resulting from the scandal.
David La Torre, a Penn State spokesman, said Saturday the university would have no other comment.
A lawsuit has been filed in the civil division of Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court by Travis Weaver, who alleges that he was sexually assaulted more than 100 times by Mr. Sandusky from 1992 to 1996, starting at age 10. Mr. Weaver, who was not a part of the criminal case, was interviewed last week on NBC's "Rock Center." One of the defendants in the case is Penn State. More lawsuits could be possible now that a verdict has been rendered.
During an interview with editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 1, Mr. Erickson said it probably will be "more than a couple of years" before the university moves beyond the scandal.
At the same time, he said Penn State has taken a number of steps to repair the damage. They include donating $2.6 million to child abuse prevention efforts, new rules for supervising minors on its two dozen campuses, and employee training aimed at spotting and reporting child abuse.
"The university is committed to ensuring that our campuses are safe for children and to being a constructive participant in building greater awareness of child sexual abuse and the practical steps that can be undertaken to prevent, report and respond to such abuse," he said in Friday's statement.
Even as the university seeks to settle claims resulting from the scandal, the costs continue to mount. From November through March 31, it had spent nearly $10 million in legal fees, consultants and public relations firms on Sandusky-related issues. Penn State has said the money to cover the costs would not come from tuition, taxpayers or donors.
Graham Spanier, who was forced to resign as Penn State president last year after the scandal erupted, has not been charged criminally in the case, but prosecutors have not ruled him out as a defendant either.
The most damaging information about Mr. Spanier is evidently contained in a set of emails exchanged among him, Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz in the wake of Mr. McQueary reporting what he'd seen of Mr. Sandusky and a boy in a Penn State shower 11 years ago.
The emails have been turned over by Penn State's own investigative team to the state attorney general's office. NBC reported recently that the emails show the three administrators weighing how to respond to the incident, with Mr. Spanier and Mr. Schultz concluding it would be "humane" to Mr. Sandusky to avoid reporting Mr. McQueary's concerns to the local police. Instead, Mr. Spanier signed off on Mr. Schultz's plan to take away Mr. Sandusky's keys to campus facilities.
Mr. Spanier has sued his former university in an attempt to gain copies of the emails, which he says are needed to refresh his memory. Penn State has said it can't supply them, due to the attorney general's investigation, and has asked a judge to dismiss the ex-president's lawsuit.
Before his ouster, Mr. Spanier, a sociologist and family therapist by training, had been highly respected both locally and nationally for a stable 16-year tenure as Penn State's leader, far longer than is the norm for a university of its prominence. In April, he began working for the federal government on an unspecified project in national security.
A trial lies ahead for two Penn State officials accused of taking insufficient action after hearing allegations against Mr. Sandusky, in addition to allegedly lying to a grand jury about it.
No trial date is yet set for Tim Curley, who is on leave from his position as athletic director, and Gary Schultz, who served as the school's interim senior vice president for finance and business before retiring. After testifying before a grand jury in Harrisburg, they were each charged last year with perjury and failing to report a possible incident of child abuse.
The charges stem from their response in 2001 after hearing from Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant on the Penn State football staff, about his seeing Mr. Sandusky and a boy in the shower in a Penn State locker room. Mr. McQueary testified at their preliminary hearing that he told Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz he saw Mr. Sandusky sexually molesting the youth.
The defendants have maintained the description they received from Mr. McQueary was less explicit and not as severe, justifying their decision not to take the matter to police as a suspected crime.
The next court hearing in their case is scheduled July 11, with prosecutors due to provide discovery information to the defense team by Aug. 1, and the defense to file pre-trial motions by Sept. 17.
To Gov. Tom Corbett, the verdict is a "complete vindication of the thoroughness of the investigation" he started against Mr. Sandusky when he was state attorney general, spokesman Kevin Harley said.
The governor's next step will be to sign a bill passed last week by the state House and Senate that allows for expert testimony for the prosecution in child sex abuse cases, Mr. Harley said. The new legislation will allow experts to explain why it sometimes takes victims of abuse a long time to come forward, he said. Pennsylvania was the only state without such a law.
An investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, examining the university's handling of the allegations against Mr. Sandusky, has been under way since November.
Mr. Freeh's team has conducted more than 400 interviews with current and former employees in various departments, including athletics; current and past members of the board of trustees; and other individuals, according to the university.
Penn State is hoping that the investigation, ordered by the Board of Trustees, will be finished by the start of the next academic year. Mr. Harley said it could be done within the next couple of months.
"That will be, hopefully, a road map for Penn State and the trustees to follow," he added.
While there had been talk that the trustees might get an early look at the finished product, the university said in a statement this month that the report would be made public at the same time it is given to the board and other Penn State officials.
The charitable group that Mr. Sandusky founded in Central Pennsylvania -- and used to find and groom young male victims of sexual abuse -- is in the process of phasing out its operations.
Second Mile CEO David Woodle told The Associated Press that about 200 kids are enrolled in a summer camp program that begins July 15 in State College. It will likely be the last such program, however, run by Second Mile, which has served thousands of troubled children with mentoring, social services and recreational programming.
Due to the difficulties it faced as a result of the Sandusky scandal, the nonprofit filed a court request in May to transfer the bulk of its operations to Arrow Child & Family Ministries Inc., a larger, unrelated charity based in Houston, Texas, and operating in multiple states.
Founded by Mr. Sandusky in 1977, Second Mile has been serving about 6,000 children annually in a variety of programs. The organization's fund-raising abilities diminished after the abuse charges became public against Mr. Sandusky, who selected boys he abused from among the ranks of Second Mile participants. Second Mile officials were aware as early as 1998 that concerns about inappropriate contact with boys by Mr. Sandusky had been reported to authorities, but he remained closely involved with the organization for at least a decade afterward.
The Sandusky case likely brought more attention to the issue of child sexual abuse than anything since the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal. In its tragic way, the Penn State-related scandal brought a reminder of potential for abuse that advocates for victims believe needs to be acknowledged publicly.
"It's got people paying attention," said Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center. And a key lesson, he said, is, "Never trust anyone explicitly. More than 90 percent of all child sexual abuse is committed by someone well known to the child. No one is immune from that coming into the home. While someone may look good, may be good, they may also be masquerading."
He said Mr. Sandusky's actions are a reminder for parents to intermittently drop in on activities that may involve their child and a mentor, and to have an open dialogue with their children about the boundaries of acceptable physical contact with any adult.
Mr. Newlin also hopes the case sparks harder thinking by all adults about reporting suspected incidents of abuse, rather than withholding them from authorities to protect the potential abuser, who may be someone with a high reputation like Mr. Sandusky.
"We should all ask just one simple question: What would I do if it was my child?" he said. "If we boil it down to that, all of us have a level of clarity to do what's needed."
Nonprofit organizations helping youths in need, such as The Second Mile has done for thousands of kids aside from those abused by Mr. Sandusky, frequently struggle for volunteers and don't need attention such as he's brought to make their jobs any harder.
Charles Pierson, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, said there's risk "of people seeing a situation like this, becoming frightened and going into a shell," in terms of getting involved. He believes that will be avoided, however, from people realizing how many children need help from caring, committed, trustworthy individuals. His group lines up adults to mentor about 200,000 youngsters in need of guidance presently, with another 100,000 on a waiting list to be paired with a big brother or big sister once new volunteers emerge.
If his organization and others do their jobs right, Mr. Pierson said, they perform criminal background checks, do careful interviews with volunteers and maintain a staff of caseworkers who keep tabs on program participants and volunteers to help ensure nothing inappropriate takes place between them.
"Whenever you're doing that in a systematic, ongoing basis you're going to catch the intent of somebody who's improper," Mr. Pierson said. "It's possible for that person to make it for a short period, but it's going to come out" that something inappropriate is taking place.
The only way to guarantee actions like Mr. Sandusky's are not repeated elsewhere, however, is to give up doing mentoring work entirely, and Mr. Pierson said "that is unacceptable."
First Published June 24, 2012 12:00 am