The Penn State-Sandusky Disgrace: Time For Paterno Worshippers To Face Facts

Amity’s Mayor Larry Vaughn, a.k.a Joe Paterno

Yesterday CNN revealed that e-mails uncovered in Penn State’s internal investigation of the Jerry Sandusky scandal show that beloved, ever-so-ethical Jo Pa appears to have stopped the university from reporting the child-molesting ex-coach to authorities. The e-mail trail seems to show, the New York Times reported, that the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier; the athletic director, Tim Curley, and the official in charge of the campus police, Gary Schultz, were ready to report Sandusky in the wake of assistant football coach Mike McQueery’s eye-witness account of seeing Sandusky molesting a child in the showers.  Curley then wrote the group that talks with Paterno had persuaded him that it would be more “humane” to confront Sandusky, bar him from bringing his young victims on campus, and  urge him to get professional help. This, of course, freed Sandusky for a decade more of  child sexual predation, with the kids foundation he had founded serving as his hunting grounds.

Humane indeed.

So, if the e-mails aren’t some kind of forgery, lie or hoax, it wasn’t that Joe Paterno merely failed to insist that the University take action to protect innocent boys from his old coach and colleague, though that would have been bad enough. If the e-mails are accurate, he actively discouraged other  University officials from acting aggressively to protect the boys, and persuaded them  than to protect their own, the football program, and the school’s reputation. As a result, at least four more children were sexually assaulted by Sandusky, according to the evidence presented at the just-completed trial that found him guilty of 40 counts of child molestation. Joe Paterno, along with Spanier, Curley and Schultz, shares responsibility with Sandusky for what happened to those boys, but Paterno most of all.

I don’t know why, but everything has been reminding me of old movies lately, and this revolting story is redolent of “Jaws.” Paterno played the role of the despicable Larry Vaughn, the mayor of Amity, who stopped the police chief from closing the beaches after a deadly shark attack, because the mayor thought it would be bad for tourism. As a direct result, the little Kintner boy ( and Pippin, a Labrador retriever) ended up as chum for a Great White. The only difference between the mayor and the iconic football coach is that Vaughn was a politician, and everyone knew he was a weasel whose values were skewed. He wasn’t like Paterno, a legend who had built his reputation on his advocacy of ethical values, and “doing the right thing.” When Larry Vaughn faced a test of his values, he played to form. When Joe Paterno faced his test, however, he showed that his vaunted values were only talk, and fed  children to another kind of predator, not as deadly but just as voracious.

Let’s have an end to the Paterno worshippers’ lament about Joe’s “one mistake” and the injustice of his firing and disgrace. His fact-immune defenders deserve a place of shame next to those who call Richard Nixon a great President who was hounded out of office, and those who deny that Thomas Jefferson’s personal character was as flawed as his words were immortal. Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was dangerous and that his prey were children, and yet Paterno not only did nothing to stop him from hurting innocents, he actively worked to allow Sandusky’s attacks to continue. Great men don’t do that. Good men don’t do that.

Larry Vaughn does that.

And Joe Paterno was worse than Larry Vaughn.

Joe Paterno, after all, was real.

_____________________________

Facts: New York Times

Graphic: Fascination With Fear

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

 

21 thoughts on “The Penn State-Sandusky Disgrace: Time For Paterno Worshippers To Face Facts

  1. So, if the e-mails aren’t some kind of forgery, lie or hoax, it wasn’t that Joe Paterno merely failed to insist that the University take action to protect innocent boys from his old coach and colleague, though that would have been bad enough. If the e-mails are accurate, he actively discouraged other University officials from acting aggressively to protect the boys, and persuaded them than to protect their own, the football program, and the school’s reputation.

    Really?

    The story itself does not claim that Paterno advised or encouraged a cover-up.

    But in one e-mail, Curley wrote that after talking to Paterno, he no longer wanted to go forward with that plan.

    Note what is missing- the reason why Curley did not want to go forward with the plan.

    • Right, Paterno gave him a recipe for potato soup, and that made him change his mind.
      The point is, Paterno’s story was that he passed along the information, and was uninvolved in the decision not to report Sandusky. The e-mails indicate that he was part of larger administrative discussions after that, and was an advocate for not reporting him.

      At some point, Michael, you become like Mrs. Sandusky, willfully blind because you don’t want to accept the truth.

  2. Paterno’s plan seemed ok if he followed through with it. If he ensured that Sandusky got help and changed his ways off campus, it sounds more ethical. Like if he made him go to counseling, etc. He just didn’t follow through with it.

    • Huh? Making a criminal go to counseling rather than calling the cops on him is “OK”? Why is it, do you think, that we have a sex offender register for people like Sandusky? Counseling usually doesn’t work. EVER. When you discover that someone is molesting kids, you have them arrested, Period. Stop looking for excuses for Joe–he had none.

      • Bad example Jack. We have a sex offender registry because of “THINK OF THE CHILDREN! I’m SCARED!”

        It’s more: “The behavior is abhorrent and repetition is both likely and irreparable.” If it turns out someone can be rehabilitated with counseling, that’s all for the better, but the same goes for con artists and murderers. You wouldn’t think it was appropriate to not get the police involved for either of those types of people.

        • That’s certainly why we are so undiscriminating in putting people on that list, My point is that genuine pedophiles are widely regarded as incurable—it is unconstitutional to lock them up forever (pre-crime?) but dangerous to let them roam free without warning. As you know, I think they are ostracized beyond all reason, but letting someone you know molests kids stay free as long as he undergoes “counseling” is bat-nuts.

          • I think we’re essentially in agreement here, I just have a more cynical view of the origin of the sex offender registry.

  3. William A. Levinson critiques the Freeh Report

    William A Levinson

    My response to Peetz:

    Dear Ms. Peetz,

    I read your recent letter to alumni which says in part, “I am certain that many of you have read or heard about the report’s findings…” Your statement last Thursday that Coach Paterno’s record of service to Penn State has been “marred” indicates to me that you read no more than the findings before you made this irresponsible and, were Coach Paterno still alive, possibly defamatory statement to the news media. This is also not the first but rather the second time you have done something like this; the first was on 11/9 when you joined your colleagues in an equally irresponsible and reckless rush to judgment based on incomplete evidence.

    I know that the report was released on the morning of the July 12 meeting, and that neither you nor your colleagues had a chance to go through the 200-plus page report to identify its multiple deficiencies, omissions, and contradictions of its own findings. This is not however an acceptable excuse for anybody in a managerial or leadership position. The truth is that the report’s own contents show that Coach Paterno, President Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz exercised due and responsible diligence—exactly the kind of diligence that the Board has now failed to exercise on at least two occasions—in dealing with the allegations against Mr. Sandusky. Other alumni and I are now however doing your jobs for you, and here are some of our discoveries.

    (1) The report stipulates (page 51) that Paterno objected to the presence of Second Mile children on campus for any purpose whatsoever. “Is this [Sandusky’s access to Penn State athletic facilities] for personal use or 2nd Mile kids? No to 2nd Mile. Liability problems.” Freeh nonetheless blames him for not keeping Sandusky and/or the 2nd Mile children off campus.
    (2) Even though the report blames Penn State for not keeping Sandusky off campus, or out of the Lasch Building, it admits (page 81) that University counsel (Cynthia Baldwin) said that the University could not legally revoke Sandusky’s access to the athletic facilities because of his Emeritus status, and because he had not been convicted of a crime. Page 106 reiterates this stipulation. Page 107 adds that Baldwin said “his access could not be eliminated without the University being sued.” The report therefore condemns Penn State’s administrators for not doing something their attorney said could get them sued.
    (3) The report also stipulates (page 69) that Schultz asked Attorney Wendell Courtney for legal advice on the subject of reporting suspected child abuse. The Freeh Group admits that it could not find out what advice Courtney provided, but it nonetheless accuses Schultz and others of a cover-up without having this information in hand. The bottom line is however that Schultz exercised what appears to be due diligence by asking an attorney what obligations the University had regarding the 2001 shower incident.
    (4) The report admits that Curley told the Executive Director of the 2nd Mile about the 2001 shower incident, and the Director then told two 2nd Mile Trustees. They concluded that it was a “non-incident,” but Freeh’s press release and findings do not carry a single word of blame for the 2nd Mile.

    The Second Mile, the Department of Public Welfare (which should have told the 2nd Mile about the 1998 incident even though Sandusky was not prosecuted), and Governor Corbett are all conspicuous by their absence from the Freeh Group’s harsh findings. As Attorney General, Corbett delayed prosecution of Sandusky so he could “gather more evidence” (http://www.yardbird.com/Freeh_report_ignores_Corbett_inaction.htm and http://www.fox43.com/news/dauphin/wpmt-corbett-defends-length-of-sandusky-investigation-20120625,0,467687.story), i.e. allow Sandusky to keep doing what he was doing in the meantime. When Mr. Corbett became a Trustee ex officio, he then withheld from his fellow Trustees knowledge of the problem with Sandusky until he pretended to be surprised by it on November 9. He also apparently accepted campaign contributions from 2nd Mile leaders while he was investigating Sandusky, and approved a state grant to the 2nd Mile.

    The Freeh Report’s failure to even mention these organizations’ and Governor Corbett’s roles in allowing Sandusky to continue his activities taints the entire work product with a perception of incomplete work at best. The only things that have been “marred” by this report are therefore the Freeh Group’s brand name, and also Trustee Peetz’s own record of service to Penn State for accepting its findings without (apparently) reviewing the information presented above. To recap:

    (1) On 11/9, the Trustees turned the Sandusky scandal into the Penn State scandal by effectively accepting blame on Penn State’s part for Sandusky’s activities.
    (2) The Trustees then brought in the Freeh Group to deliver what is, in my opinion as supported by the facts above and others, an incompletely researched product that does not support its own conclusions, and even contradicts its own conclusions.
    (3) Trustee Peetz, without apparently reading and assessing the report’s contents as shown by her statement to the press, accepted the Freeh Report’s defective conclusions on Penn State’s behalf.

    Regards,

    –Bill Levinson B.S. ‘78

    • The argument is unimpressive, debating leaves while ignoring trees and forests. And it loses me up front with the ignorant suggestion that the statement that Paterno’s legacy is “marred” might be defamatory. It obviously is marred. A reasonable reading of the facts shows that Paterno knew or should have known that Sandusky was behaving inappropriately with young children. Nothing in Levinson’s rationalizations changes that. So what if the university risked being sued by taking action that would protect Sandusky’s victims? If you really believe that’s a justification, your Paterno apologia know no bounds.

      • So what if the university risked being sued by taking action that would protect Sandusky’s victims?

        Civil liability arises from a violation of a legal duty. If the proposed actions would risk the university being sued, the proposed actions necessarily violate the university’s legal duties. Sandusky had emeritus status, and revoking his access to athletic facilities would risk the university being sued, because the university had a legal duty to provide Sandusky access to the athletic facilities.

        More broadly, a duty to protect children from sexual predators does not and can not translate to a duty to violate legal duties.

          • Someone named Ed Jagels believed so. The Kern County child abuse cases were the result. A trillion incidents like what happened in Penn State is better than what happened in Kern County.

            Grant Snowden, Gerald Amirault, and Timothy Cole were victims of those who believed that legal duties can be cast aside in the name of fighting sex offenders.

            • You’re WAY out on a limb here, Michael. There is no duty to avoid being sued if there is legitimate reason to risk the suit, and a good faith defense to it. Avoiding law suits is not a “legal duty.” Avoiding wrongdoing that loses lawsuits is. Penn State is going to be sued for far more money, lose far more in damages, over the coming law suits than any Mickey Mouse suit over evicting Sandusky.

              • You’re WAY out on a limb here, Michael. There is no duty to avoid being sued if there is legitimate reason to risk the suit, and a good faith defense to it.

                The report concedes that the university was acting on the advice of its legal counsel, Cynthia Baldwin

                Penn State is going to be sued for far more money, lose far more in damages, over the coming law suits than any Mickey Mouse suit over evicting Sandusky.

                If so, it would be on allegations that the university should have kept 2nd Mile off campus. Sandusky had athletic facility privileges due to his emeritus status, but these privileges did not extend to the rest of 2nd Mile. Joe Paterno had concerns that allowing 2nd Mile to use the athletic facilities would expose the university to liability.

    • By truth, you mean

      1) A pretty loose missed conflict (that may not have even been known),

      2) A claim that the report was an accusation of a crime because some people used the report to call for a prosecution? (I don’t even know what they’re thinking here)

      3) A claim of inflammatory statements…which are conclusions based on evidence… and there’s no attack on the evidence

      4) A claim of incomplete evidence…which was noted in the report and the evidence was weighted based on that.

      5) A claim that Paterno didn’t know of investigation into sandusky because exhibit 1A doesn’t exist, even though the reference was to exhibit 2A, which does reference contacting Paterno about it by name. Other nonnamed references that don’t mention Paterno are attacked for some odd reason.

      6) A claim that a reference to discussing the incident with Joe, and, as a result, then not wanting to come forward with the accusation could mean something odd, so it’s unfair to suggest it meant the logical conclusion.

      7) A claim that Paterno and Penn State coming forward with what they knew would be akin to inviting a libel or slander lawsuit, because he passed background checks that were completely separate from and did not include the information that Paterno and Penn State knew. Noone has ever been cleared of crime A, and then commited a crime B in history. Never. Claiming someone may have commited a crime B is libel and slander!

      8) A claim that mentioning accusations against Sandusky would be defamation. I can’t even.

      — I’m giving up on the rest of it. I was taking points in order and not skipping any.

      This site is a very, very poor attempt at rationalization. Instead of restoring Penn State’s good name, it suggests that you have to throw out any semblance of reason to think Penn State should be restored.

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