Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thoughts on the Jerry Sandusky Case

I was watching a Penn State football game earlier this season and fount myself thinking, "Wow, Penn State is one of the only big national programs that doesn't seem to have any NCAA violation or scandals surrounding it."  I was impressed with how successful they have been, but even more so in the manner in which they did it.  All of that has changed with the recent developments in the Jerry Sandusky case.

(Please note: the following is my opinion on the case.  For detailed information, please refer to the Grand Jury Presentment.)  For those that don't know, Jerry Sandusky was an assistant football coach at Penn State University from 1966 to 1999.  Even after his retirement, he stayed close to the program.  In his years as a linebacker coach and defensive coordinator, he coached many outstanding defensive squads, and Penn State gained a reputation for outstanding linebacker play.  During his time, Penn State produced 10 first-team All-Americans at that position, and acquired the nickname "Linebacker U".

In 1977, Sandusky founded "The Second Mile," a non-profit organization with the mission to help children who need additional support and would benefit from positive human interaction.  According to the Grand Jury Presentment, the Second Mile gave Sandusky "access to hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations."  It seems that exactly what Sandusky did.  So far eight boys has come forward admitting that they were victims of Sandusky and without a doubt there are many more.

Sandusky was first investigated back in 1998.  This investigation involved Victim 6 (mentioned in the Grand Jury Presentment), but it yielded no criminal charges.  Who knows how many boys could have been saved if Sandusky could have been convicted back then.  Even though he admitted to the mother of Victim 6 that his contact with her son was inappropriate (read the interview with the mothers of two of the victims here), Sandusky as never charged.

In 2002, Jerry Sandusky was seen in the locker room showers engaged in sexual activity with Victim 2 in the Grand Jury Presentment by a Penn State football graduate assistant.  The graduate assistant reported the incident to Head Coach Joe Paterno.  Paterno reported the incident to the Athletic Director Tim Curley.  Eventually others in the Penn State hierarchy were also made aware of the situation.  However the authorities were never notified, and another opportunity to stop a predator was missed.  So what was Sandusky's punishment?  He was just restricted from bringing children to Penn State Campus, as if that could really be monitored that closely.  However the restriction did not stop him.  Sandusky has several confirmed victims after this incident and "investigation."

A big question surrounding this case is Joe Paterno's involvement.  Legally Paterno did what he needed to do, he reported the incident to the AD.  But is doing the bare minimum enough?  Legally he is innocent, but morally, I believe he should have done more.  If he in fact knew that sexual acts between Sandusky and a young boy had taken place, how could he not see that the police were notified?  How could he allow Sandusky to come back onto campus and still be around the Penn State football program?  Is Paterno a bad guy?  I don't think so, but if he did know what took place, he should have done more.  If he would have, many boys could have been saved from Sandusky.  

I am sure over the coming days and weeks much more information will come to light.  If all of the allegations end up being true, I hope that Sandusky receives the punishment that he deserves.  I also hope that if anyone one at Penn State was in fact involved in a cover up, they are punished to the full extent of the law.  

This case is just another illustration that when it comes to sexual abuse, a child's accusation should not be taken lightly.  Most kids, especially young ones will not lie about something of this nature.  To dismiss an accusation as "the child just wanting attention" is unacceptable.

Jerry Sandusky carefully picked out his targets.  He tested the "water" with each victim seeing how far he could go.  He know which ones would give in.  We as parents must talk candidly to our kids about sexual abuse and let them know what to do if ever in those situations.

Society tends to put too much emphasis on "stranger danger."  I think this is because it is the easy way out.  Putting a "stranger" type pedophile away for life isn't hard.  When most of us imagine a pedophile it is the "stranger" type.  But the one who is least understood, least talked about, and the most likely to get away with molestation is the "nice guy."  The "nice guy" molester is a babysitter, a next-door neighbor, a Boy Scout leader, or even a family member.  It seems like the nicer you are, the longer you can get away with it.  On the outside they seem like normal people, but the "nice guy" molester is manipulative and cunning.  They are able to groom their victims to the point where they don't need to use force.  Because of this the child is more likely to feel at fault and feel guilty.  They will be less likely to talk and in turn causing the abuse to continue.

As parents we must do everything we can to prevent this.  We need to talk openly with our children and make sure they understand.  Although we can be there ever moment of the day protecting them, we need to be involved in their lives.  We need to know who they are with.  We need to develop a relationship of trust and communication with them so that if something like this happens they know they can come to you.

It is up to us to help our children, to keep them safe, and to protect their innocence.


  1. This is a very thoughtful piece and I admire the work your organization does. One small correction, however: Sandusky was not "cleared of all charges" in 1998, because no charges were made. The investigation was dropped, apparently due to a lack of evidence. When more is known, perhaps we'll see connections between this truncated investigation and Sandusky's retirement the next year (why did he retire at 55, given his successful career?) and/or between the DA's decision in 1998 and his later disappearance. (Admittedly, the latter connection may only be in my imagination.)

  2. Thank you for your comment and for pointing out that Sandusky was not cleared of all charges. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest of the investigation.

  3. From Page 16 of the report: "Victim 4 remembers Sandusky being emotionally upset after a meeting with Joe Paterno in whhich Paterno told Sandusky he would not be the next head coach at Penn State and which preceded Sandusky's retirement. Sandusky told Victim 4 not to tell anyone about the meeting. That meeting occurred in May, 1999."
    -suggests a link between his retirement and the abuse

  4. That's hardly a thoughtful piece. It's wrought with inaccurate statements. The 1998 investigation mentioned in your fourth paragraph was conducted by University police (PSU police have, through Commonwealth law, equivalency to any municipal police force). They told the Centre County District Attorney, who chose not to proceed. The chief of University police then terminated the investigation. Two of the detectives independently eavesdropped on two phone conversations where Sandusky admitted to the mother of a victim that he showed with her son, touched his genitals to him, and so on. But when neither the detectives nor mother did what we all wanted Paterno to do - report it independently to an even higher authority (State Police, Attorney General). Are you getting how this is hypocritical?

    Your implication is that PSU - Paterno, et. al - was party to the 1998 investigation, when the football program had no knowledge of it beyond Sandusky. The way in which you phrased your blog entry is irresponsible. I don't mean to be rude, but perhaps you shouldn't try to be a pro because you have an internet connection. Refer people to the Grand Jury report.

  5. Sandusky felt free to use the showers at Penn state whenever he felt the need and felt he could be "public" with his molestation of young boys. He did this on numerous occasions, making eye contact with those who walked in on him and his victims. It's outrageous for any person who has logical thinking to assume no one in the Penn State football program knew this was happening. What kind of person would allow a sexual predator of young children to go on without reporting it to the state authorities? That same person feels it's within his right to live his life and not interfere....that same person has the blood of innocence on his hands.

  6. This is a response to Anonymous #3 and anyone else still defending the staff of the PSU football program or members of the PSU administration.

    Part 1. Your comment (posted at 9:49pm) is not only factually inaccurate but also seriously misguided in its criticism of James and its defense of the PSU administration. The detectives in 1998 did not “independently” eavesdrop on Victim 6's mother’s conversation with Sandusky--that was part of the police investigation, an investigation that involved both PSU and State College detectives. While it’s true that the CC DA was ultimately the one who made the call about not pursuing criminal charges (supposedly due to lack of evidence, even though another kid, "BK," corroborated Victim 6's reports of Sandusky’s behavior), PSU is absolutely implicated in that decision. In fact, the main detective on the case was told to close his investigation by the director of the campus police, not the DA. This DA later disappeared and is now presumed dead; his computer hard drive was found in a local river. Thus, because the Grand Jury was not able to hear his testimony, we may never know what conversations he had with the head of the PSU police or, for that matter, anyone else in the administration (like Shultz or Courtney), or why he made the decision not to charge Sandusky.

  7. Part 2. So, to review: first of all, the same PSU VP (Shultz) was involved in both the 1998 and 2002 incidents--the latter is the one about which we know for a fact that Paterno was informed. Among other things, Shultz oversees the PSU police, who were obviously involved in the investigation. (He's also the one who, with the AD, made the decision to take care of the 2002 situation "in-house," instead of reporting it to the police, like they were bound by law to do. If they'd done so, the police & DA would have had ample evidence to press charges against Sandusky, since by then there were three adult witnesses--McQueary and two members of the facilities staff.) Second of all, the PSU counsel, Wendell Courtney, certainly knew of the 1998 investigation (in fact, he signed off on Sandusky being interviewed by both police and an investigator with the Department of Public Welfare ). That counsel, lo & behold, was also--and still is--the lawyer for Second Mile (Sandusky’s organization). Any conflicts of interest there? Hmm...do you think he might have had anything to do with the 1998 charges never being filed or the 2002 incident not being reported to the police? Third, Sandusky obviously knew he was being investigated--not only because he had the conversation with the mother of Victim 6 but also because he was interviewed during the process. Do you think maybe he told some of his co-workers or friends about the investigation, perhaps in part so they might cover for him or at least confirm his version of events (see the Grand Jury report for evidence that Sandusky, his wife, and a friend tried to get in touch with Victim 7 many years after their last contact and just before his testimony–I wonder why)? Fourth, I’m not sure what this PSU-defender thinks is involved in such an investigation, but (in all likelihood) several members of the PSU football coaching staff were probably interviewed and asked if they’d ever seen anything strange going on with Sandusky and the numerous boys he brought to campus and other football events (tailgate parties, home games, hotels at away games). When an employee--which is what he was in 1998--is accused of and investigated for a crime, you can bet that co-workers, subordinate staff, & supervisors (as well as friends, family, & members of the Second Mile org.) would be interviewed.

    And if all of this is not enough to suggest that both the PSU administration and members of the football program knew *something* was going on in 1998 and after (like when JS took an early retirement), many--if not all--of Sandusky’s criminally abusive acts were carried out in the FOOTBALL BUILDING while he was a member of the FOOTBALL COACHING STAFF. He used his position as a PSU COACH AND INSIDER to get access to and impress these boys: PSU FOOTBALL is what he gave them and what he *took* in exchange for this gift is horrific and inexcusable. How far does your head have to be buried in the sand for you to want to deny deep connections between Sandusky, the PSU football program, and the PSU administration or to defend these people--and, further, to suggest that the mother of a victim and the police detectives were hypocritical or irresponsible in their actions?! How little exercise do your faculties of logic, moral imagination, and sympathy get? Do you know what it means to “speak truth to power”? And do you know who had the power here? Not the boys, not the mother, not the janitor who was another witness to Sandusky’s crimes–not even, as it turns out, the detectives. The whole thing is tragic, but for the bravery of these boys and their families. They are the only ones who deserve our defense and support.

    Lastly, to James: I'm sorry to go off on your page. But I just couldn't stand to let that outrageous comment go unremarked--or, frankly, have you feel as if you were the one using your internet connection irresponsibly. Sincerely, Anonymous #1.

  8. Anonymous #1 - Thank you for those detailed facts. I sincerely appreciate you clearing somethings up for me and other readers.

  9. Everyone in the chain of events is at fault for everything that this idiot (Sandusky) did. Paterno, the AD and administration, AND the under grad who witnessed the actual incident. Why would HE not run immediately to the police? After all he was the witness, and the police would be happy to hear the full story. He went to his superiors just like Paterno did.

    I can understand the backlash against everyone involved, but I just wanted to clarify, the first witness should have gone to the police as well. Why now? Why come out and say what he saw now? The whole thing stinks, it really does.

  10. Seriously, did you have to bring the Boy Scouts of America into your article? The BSA does more training than probably any other organization to ensure that young boys are as safe from predation as possible. No encounter shall ever take place between a single Scout and single leader, unless of course that leader is the Scout's parent.

    The BSA practices and enforces Two-deep leadership, which ensures the safety of the Scouts as well as the safety of the adult leaders to prevent false accusations.

    There are probably way more predator coaches than Boy Scout leaders, as is obvious from this whole disgusting Sandusky mess. Leave the BSA out of this.

  11. Wondering if this is something like the Witch Trials of Salem Massachusetts. Wonder who the fools Really are. We finally learned who the fools were in Salem. It will take time (lots of time probably) but, we will figure out who the fools are in this case.

  12. My point in bring up the Boy Scout leader was not to point fingers at the organization. I participated in many BSA events as a youth and think that they do wonderful things for America's young men. My point was that generally predators are not the "stranger danger" type of a person, usually they are the most unsuspecting person, like a neighbor, Boy Scout leader, or family member. The fact is we can't safely assume someone is not a predator simple because of a title. I am not saying that we need to constantly be suspicious of everyone, but we need to understand that a predator can come from any walk of life.

  13. Thank goodness the Penn State trustees are worthy of the name they carry. They uphold the Trust they are appointed to with true honor and speak for trustees everywhere. Thank goodness for a pure heart at the core of an American institution!

  14. Penn St did the right thing and fired Joe Paterno. Joe is not a good coach, he tried to protect a child molester and let Jerry Sandusky use the locker room for sex with children.
    Joe didn't call the police. He doesn't see whats wrong with this? Is Joe a pedaphile too?

  15. We need to remember who this is really about. Here is a great article by Rick Reilly, http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7208581/rick-reilly-penn-state-scandal