Dead men tell no tales, offer no rebuttals and provide no corroboration. So aside from potential damage to his legacy, former football coach Joe Paterno escaped further punishment for his role in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case. But Paterno also lost the ability to fight for his name when he died in January.
The same can’t be said for three ex-officials sweating the findings of Penn State’s internal investigation into the matter. The report, headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, is expected to be released Thursday morning, adding another sickening layer to Penn State’s sordid scandal.
If reported email exchanges among former president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tom Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz are accurate, those men were accomplices as Sandusky abused numerous boys on campus and elsewhere. Curley and Schultz already face perjury charges (they pleaded not guilty) for allegedly lying to a grand jury and failing to report suspected child abuse, and they should receive the maximum penalty under law.
The Freeh report should lead to additional charges, if possible, as well as Spanier’s arrest for his role in the cover-up.
It appears that the findings won’t bode well for Paterno. The aforementioned creeps could worsen his appearance, too, by heaping more blame on him to make themselves look better. Covering for Paterno, Sandusky and the school hasn’t panned out, so they might resort to covering their own backs now.
Reading and thinking about Sandusky’s atrocities makes you want to hit him. But the same urge arises — directed at Curley, Schultz and Spanier — when perusing their alleged communication after former assistant coach Mike McQueary reported in 2001 that Sandusky raped a boy in a locker room shower.
Child welfare officials were never alerted of McQueary’s allegation. It appears from the alleged emails that Penn State officials were prepared to do the right thing until a late change (loss?) of heart.
“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps,” Curley purportedly wrote, according to CNN, in an email two weeks after McQueary’s bombshell.
A couple of hours later, Spanier purportedly wrote that he was OK with talking to Sandusky and keeping the matter to themselves: “The only downside for us is if the message [to Sandusky] isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.”
The next afternoon, Schultz purportedly wrote that he agreed with the decision to address the since-convicted pedophile and otherwise conceal the behavior: “This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,” adding that “we can play it by ear” as to eventually informing child welfare officials.
Curley should’ve been uncomfortable with the prospect of further molestations; of the 10 victims that led to Sandusky’s conviction, four were abused after the 2001 incident. Spanier should’ve been concerned about the downside in store for those boys, not the university. Schultz should’ve been focused on Sandusky’s inhumane treatment of youth instead of the coach’s feelings and reputation.
Other alleged emails reveal that school officials were aware of a 1998 incident involving Sandusky and a boy, which makes it even more incomprehensible that they did nothing in 2001. The Freeh investigation reportedly also confirmed what many suspected: Paterno wrested control of player discipline from university officials and ruled on matters himself, usually leniently and with no public notice.
The notion that Paterno didn’t know about Sandusky’s sickness and didn’t approve of its handling likely will be laid to rest upon the report’s release. And suspicions that Curley, Schultz and Spanier aided and abetted Sandusky’s wrongdoing likely will be confirmed.
It will be another sad day in Happy Valley, but not the end of the story. There are sentencings, more trials (criminal and civil) and probably more revelations. The tragic tale will be with us for the foreseeable future, even as Penn State attempts to heal and move on.
The Freeh report, though painful, will be a good first step for a long journey.