Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

The Penn State Pedophile Scandal

The unravelling began in 2009. It should have started much earlier. It should have started in 1998, when Jerry Sandusky, then heir apparent to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, allegedly gave an 11-year-old boy a much too tight, clearly uncomfortable hug from behind while in the shower in the university's football facility. It should certainly have started in 2002 when Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary saw Sandusky, then already retired but with team prerogatives and privileges still intact, allegedly raping a 10-year-old boy in the showers. But those allegations went nowhere: Sandusky apologized to the first boy's mother (the university police were aware of the incident but no charges were made). McQueary's report went up through Paterno to the highest ranks of Penn State, but Sandusky was, in the end, merely forbidden from bringing children on campus. The state police were never called in. The case against Sandusky had to wait until two years ago to get going. By then, Sandusky was not just a hallowed member emeritus of the Penn State Nittany Lions but an important member of the larger community around Penn State's Happy Valley campus, the much respected founder of the Second Mile, a multimillion-dollar charity begun in 1977 to focus on at-risk kids. However, the mother of a freshman at a small-town high school in the area grew alarmed at what her son was saying. The boy, who had been through the Second Mile system in 2005 or 2006, would eventually tell her and the school principal that Sandusky had been forcing oral sex on him as well as coercing him into performing the act on the older man. (Sandusky had become a full-time volunteer at the high school football team in 2008, the year the boy enrolled there.) The football and wrestling coaches provided corroborating testimony to a grand jury convened to look into the charge — and many other alleged victims came forward, including those involved in the incidents on the Penn State campus. Almost as soon as the grand jury report was released, the Penn State meltdown began — two high-ranking school officials (the vice president overseeing the campus police, and the athletic director) were charged with perjury; both denied any wrongdoing. The university president was fired and most dramatically — and in spite of his hallowed, almost super-heroic status — so was Paterno. Sandusky faces 40 charges related to sexual abuse of minors involving eight alleged victims detailed in the grand jury report. He denies the charges and is free on $100,000 bond. In an interview with NBC, Sandusky admitted only to "horsing around" and showering with children. In the meantime, perhaps 20 more accusers have emerged.