If he were alive today, Joe Paterno – the coach who stood for so long for character and integrity both on and off the football field – could be looking at charges such as child endangerment, perjury and conspiracy.
Legal experts said emails and other evidence in the Penn State investigative report released Thursday suggest that Paterno might have misled a grand jury when asked when he first heard about Jerry Sandusky’s misconduct, and show that Paterno and other university officials put boys in danger with their failure to report sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago.
Duquesne University law professor Wes Oliver said the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh reads like a prosecution case for a child endangerment charge against Paterno, then-President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and now-retired vice president Gary Schultz. Oliver noted that a former top official in the Philadelphia Archdiocese was convicted of that charge in June for allowing a suspected pedophile priest to be around children.
“If you look at what happened here, it’s very clear that they were aware that they had a pedophile on their campus,” Oliver said.
Will Spade, a former Philadelphia prosecutor who worked on a grand jury investigation of priests about a decade ago, agreed: “Spanier, Paterno, Schultz and Curley are arguably responsible for endangering all of those kids that were abused later.”
So far, the only two figures arrested in the alleged cover-up are Curley and Schultz. They were charged last fall with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse and are awaiting trial. They have denied any wrongdoing.
Spanier, who was ousted as Penn State president over the scandal, has not been charged, but a grand jury continues to investigate. Paterno died in January of lung cancer at 85.
Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn declined to comment on the criminal legal issues on Friday.
At the very least, the Freeh report provides powerful ammunition to Sandusky victims looking to sue the university or Paterno’s estate.
PLAYERS STILL BACK PATERNO: Penn State tailback Silas Redd still stands by his former coach Joe Paterno. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill does, too.
Redd, Hill and the rest of the Nittany Lions are trying to weather another stormy period after the university’s investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal said Paterno concealed allegations.
Most Nittany Lions, before a player-organized charity event Friday, said they didn’t watch the news conference Thursday about the probe, but had at least heard of the findings.
Redd says Paterno did “a lot more good than bad” for Penn State, while Hill said no one was perfect.
Nearly all the Nittany Lions declined comment about the report itself. They’re focused on getting ready for the upcoming season.