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‘Truthers’ seek to exonerate late Penn State coach Joe Paterno, restore his reputation
At first glance, the chart looks a bit bonkers, like something from a JFK assassination conspiracy theory website.
There are floor plans. Red, dotted sightlines. Corresponding photographs of the blue-and-white-tiled showers at the Penn State football team’s training facility, where former assistant coach Mike McQueary claims he saw and heard ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy, a claim that set into motion the biggest scandal in college sports history and led to Sandusky’s conviction on 45 of 48 sexual assault charges.
Now look closer: There’s also a detailed, decidedly non-bonkers list of the discrepancies in Mr. McQueary’s varying accounts of the incident and his reporting of it to others, including disgraced former head coach Joe Paterno.
According to pro football Hall of Famer Franco Harris, those discrepancies are part of a larger mosaic of evidence that exonerates the late Paterno and raises serious questions about the scandal itself.
A former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Mr. Harris hosted “Upon Further Review: Penn State One Year Later” on Sunday at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, a public forum that provided a critical look at the Sandusky investigation, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh’s scathing report on the scandal, NCAA sanctions against Penn State’s football program and media coverage of the story.
Attracting more than 100 people — many wearing blue-and-white Penn State T-shirts, jackets and scarves — the event was the third in a series hosted by Mr. Harris, the de facto leader of a movement to re-examine the scandal and restore the reputations of Paterno and other former university officials, all of whom have been accused of concealing the scandal and failing to prevent Sandusky from molesting children.
For more than three hours, attendees at Mr. Harris‘ gathering nibbled on blue-and-white M&Ms and applauded the panel that included Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, Penn State law graduate and attorney Robert Tribeck and Los Angeles-based filmmaker John Ziegler, a Georgetown University graduate who screened his film “The Framing of Joe Paterno,” a 30-minute documentary that criticizes the media’s role in creating what Mr. Ziegler called “a largely false narrative.”
Sandusky is serving a 30-to-60 year sentence in a Pennsylvania state prison for the sexual abuse of 10 boys. On Wednesday, a judge rejected his bid for a new trial. Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley all are awaiting trial on charges including perjury, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children.
Paterno was fired in November 2011 and died two months later.
“People think they know the story of the Sandusky scandal,” Mr. Ziegler said. “But they don’t. The media created a false narrative. There’s no evidence that Paterno is the villain. In fact, the media could have made Paterno the hero.”
• The grand jury presentment that was made public in November 2011 and touched off a firestorm, leading to charges against Sandusky and others.
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About the Author
Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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