Abuse victim: Penn State coach Paterno ignored ’76 Sandusky complaint
New documents made public Tuesday in the Penn State sex-abuse scandal portray legendary football coach Joe Paterno and some of his top assistants as willfully blind, valuing football over children when dealing with allegations of Jerry Sandusky’s serial child rape and molestation.
“I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff. I have a football season to worry about,” Paterno supposedly told a then-14-year-old boy, identified in court records as John Doe 150, in 1976 after the football camper told him Sandusky molested him in a shower.
An assistant coach, who previously swore he told Paterno about seeing Sandusky molest another boy in 2001, also provided testimony that other top coaches knew for decades about allegations of child sexual abuse surrounding the storied program and its one-time defensive coordinator. The coaches have denied those allegations.
“It’s a sickening, shocking, astonishing level of turning away,” said Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Assistant football coach Joe Sarra looked into a meeting room in 1987 and saw Sandusky with his hand down a victim’s shorts, testified John Doe 75, who was 13 at the time.
“Oh, sorry,” Sarra said, according to the deposition; Sarra closed the door, and Sandusky then kissed the boy on the forehead.
Sarra died in 2012.
A lawyer for the Paterno family denied allegations by John Doe 150 and others revealed in the newly released documents.
“With this latest release of information, the total mishandling of the Sandusky investigation is highlighted once again,” the statement read. “The overwhelming evidence confirms that Joe Paterno never engaged in a cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Multiple independent parties have confirmed this conclusion.”
A Philadelphia judge unsealed hundreds of pages of previously secret court documents that were filed in civil lawsuits between Penn State and an insurance company. Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association has refused to cover most of the $93 million in settlements the university has paid to at least 32 victims.
The insurer claims Penn State violated contract terms by not reporting earlier alleged incidents of Sandusky’s sexual abuse, including incidents that reportedly occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.
A jury in June 2012 convicted Sandusky, 72, of sexually abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2008; he is serving at least 30 years in prison.
Criminal charges are still pending against former top Penn State administrators — President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley. The three men were fired after the release of the Sandusky grand jury report. They are charged with failing to report allegations against Sandusky.
Several civil lawsuits are pending, including between Penn State and its insurance company, the NCAA and the Paterno family — which continues to maintain the late coach knew nothing about Sandusky’s crimes until 2001, and that he immediately reported what he’d been told to his superiors.
The mother of an alleged victim contacted police in 1998 and accused Sandusky of molesting her son, according to court documents.
Sandusky retired in 1999 with a generous package from Penn State, including an annuity, access to a campus office, athletic facilities, tickets to football and basketball games and an emeritus status.
Aside from the insurance implications, revelations made public Tuesday help establish a better picture of who might have known what and when, said John Gismondi, a civil trial attorney in Pittsburgh for 35 years.
“It’s tremendously important information for the reputation and legacy of the people whose names are being associated with it,” Gismondi said, “or in the case of Joe Paterno, whose knowledge is being pushed back in time.
“On the one hand, it’s information that legally goes to the question of insurance … but the public could care less about insurance coverage. What the public wants to know is, does the knowledge of this go back further than 1998?”
Penn State President Eric Barron also rebutted claims made in the documents and any assertions that the State College school spent decades hiding Sandusky’s actions.
“Penn State’s overriding concern has been, and remains, for the victims of Jerry Sandusky,” Barron said in a written statement. “While individuals hold different opinions, and may draw different inferences from the testimony about former Penn State employees, speculation by Penn State is not useful. We must be sensitive to all individuals involved, and especially to those who may be victims of child sexual abuse.”
Any alleged knowledge of sexual abuse by former Penn State employees, as some court documents suggest, has not been proven, Barron said.
“Some individuals deny the claims, and others are unable to defend themselves,” he said.
The last part of that statement would include Paterno, who died in January 2012 — six months before Sandusky’s conviction.
According to the deposition of John Doe 150, a group of Penn State football campers were in a shower together with Sandusky in 1976.
“He stuck his finger up my (rectum),” John Doe 150 screamed at one point, causing other boys to turn around and look, the document stated.
“I’m sorry,” Sandusky is said to have replied. “I didn’t realize I was getting that close.”
Penn State paid John Doe 150 a settlement through mediation.
John Doe 150 testified that he approached Paterno the day after the assault in a campus hallway and asked to talk. The coach rebuffed him and walked away after he reported what happened, John Doe 150 said in the deposition.
“I was shocked, disappointed, offended,” John Doe 150 said of Paterno’s reaction. “I was insulted.”
About 20 years passed before he told anyone else about the shower incident, John Doe 150 testified.
Sworn testimony from depositions provided by other victims provided more dark details of Sandusky’s abuse.
John Doe 101 gave a deposition in November 2014 in which he claimed Sandusky molested him at team hotels, at his home, in the Penn State swimming pool, in the coaches’ locker room and shower.
Several alleged victims, including John Doe 101, said they were part of the Second Mile, a charity Sandusky started for at-risk children in 1977.
John Doe 200 said Sandusky abused him while he was in high school in 1995 and 1996, including several times with a girl involved.
John Doe 102 testified that in the late 1980s he met Sandusky and was molested on a golf course after sneaking out of Nittany House, a group home for juvenile delinquents.
The home’s director called Sandusky and another university official to the home and threatened to send the boy to a juvenile lock-up unless he wrote Sandusky a letter of apology, John Doe 102 said during his deposition.
A deposition from former assistant coach Mike McQueary revealed not only that he claimed to have told Paterno that he saw Sandusky molest a boy in a locker-room shower in 2001 but that years later he mentioned the incident to Tom Bradley, who spent more than 40 years at Penn State as a player and coach — including serving as interim head coach after Paterno was fired during the 2011 season. Paterno became Penn State’s head coach in 1966.
“He said he knew of some things,” McQueary said Bradley told him. “He said another assistant football coach had come to him in the early ’90s about a very similar situation to mine, and he said that he had — someone had come to him as far back as the early ’80s about seeing Jerry doing something with a boy.”
Though McQueary did not say if Bradley told him the name of the coach from the 1980s, he testified that Bradley said the 1990s coach was Greg Schiano — now the defensive coordinator and associate head coach at Ohio State.
Schiano denied to ESPN witnessing any such conduct.
“I never saw any abuse, nor had reason to suspect any abuse, during my time at Penn State,” Schiano said via Twitter.
A representative for Bradley, now the defensive coordinator at UCLA, also denied allegations from McQueary.
“At no time did Tom Bradley ever witness any inappropriate behavior,” attorney Brett Senior said in a statement. “Nor did he have any knowledge of alleged incidents in the ’80s and ’90s. He has consistently testified as such. Any assertions to the contrary are false.
“When he became aware of the 2001 incident, it had already been reported to the university administration years earlier.”
Staff reporters Kari Ardren, Debra Erdley and Matthew Santoni contributed. The Associated Press also contributed.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review pitt football reporter. You can contact Jerry at 412-320-7997, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .