Criminal Justice

Penn State Officials Reportedly Discussed 'Humane Approach' of Keeping Silent on Sandusky

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A series of emails exchanged among three former Penn State officials reportedly indicate that coach Joe Paterno was consulted before they decided to keep silent on an alleged sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky.

CNN broke the story on the 2001 email exchanges that began 16 days after graduate assistant Mike McQueary first reported the shower incident involving Sandusky and a boy in a Penn State locker room. The emails were uncovered in an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh on behalf of the university’s board of trustees. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) also have stories. The reports rely on unnamed sources.

The email correspondence “suggests that Paterno influenced the university’s decision not to formally report the accusation against Sandusky to the child welfare authorities,” the Times says, relying on its unnamed source.

The emails were exchanged among university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, and vice president of business administration Gary Schultz. At first, the officials discussed reporting the incident to child welfare authorities, the stories say.

The plan apparently changed. CNN cites an email by Curley in which he refers to a talk with Paterno. “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps,” the email reportedly says. “I am having trouble with going to everyone but the person involved. I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell them about the information we received and tell them we are aware of the first situation.”

In another email, Schultz reportedly signs off on the approach, calling it “a more humane and upfront way to handle this,” CNN says. He goes on to say Sandusky’s charity should also be alerted.

Curley and Schultz face charges of perjury and failure to report the assault. One of their lawyers issued a statement saying “the responsible and ‘humane’ thing to do” in 2001 “was to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague but troubling allegations. Faced with tough situations, good people try to do their best to make the right decisions.” Curley and Shultz have previously said they thought the allegations concerned “horsing around” in the shower.

Paterno died of lung cancer in January. A lawyer for his family said in a statement that Paterno testified truthfully to the best of his recollection before a grand jury. “Coach Paterno followed university procedures and promptly and fully informed his superiors,” the statement says. “He believed the matter would be thoroughly and professionally investigated.”

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