Ethics Quote Of The Month: Judge John Boccabella

“[These defendants are] good people who made a terrible mistake…Why no one made a phone call to police is beyond me.”

—-Dauphin County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas Judge John Boccabella,  as he sentenced three former Pennsylvania State University officials, including  former university president  Graham B. Spanier, to jail terms last week for doing nothing after they were informed that told in 2001 that a former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, had been seen molesting a boy in a locker room shower. Sandusky was found guilty of subsequently molesting many other children.

Of course he’s good person—just look at the guy!

This is, of course, the last act of the Joe Paterno/Penn State/Jerry Sandusky tragedy, which burgeoned into an Ethics Train Wreck and occupied as much attention on Ethics Alarms as any other event in the blog’s history. You can review all of that here, if you have the interest or the time.

Right now I want to ponder the judge’s statement with a few questions and observations….

1. By what standard can the judge call this “a mistake’? This is like George Costanza in “Seinfeld” asking his boss if having sex on his desl with the office cleaning woman was wrong, as if the option posed a legitimate puzzle at the time he did it. Was it a mistake because Sandusky turned out to be a serial child predator rather than just trying it out that one time? Was it a mistake because for once the justice system held a university president and other administrators criminally responsible when they looked the other way to protect their precious institution while endangering innocent children? Did Spanier et al. make a “mistake” in calculating the odds? Was the  alleged “mistake” not understanding that “I saw Jerry a huge 50-year old man naked in a shower with a little boy” meant that something was amiss? Do you really believe that was how these men were thinking? Did the judge?

2. Why does the judge say these were good people? Because they had responsible, prestigious jobs? Because people trusted them? Because they are white, or wealthy, or have no criminal records? There are millions of prison inmats who have done less damage than Spanier, Peterno and the rest. Are the good too? Better than the Penn State enablers?

3. It your ethics alarm fails when it is most essential that it ring like crazy, what good is it?

_______________________

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times

18 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Quotes, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

18 responses to “Ethics Quote Of The Month: Judge John Boccabella

  1. charlesgreen

    “It your ethics alarm fails when it is most essential that it ring like crazy, what good is it?”
    Amen.

  2. “If your ethics alarm fails when it is most essential that it ring like crazy, what good is it?” Not much else to say here…………

  3. That’s the awful power of cognitive dissonance and just how corruptingly important people see college football. It was really strong enough to erode just how evil Sandusky’s locker room molestations were.

  4. Judge John Boccabella said, “[These defendants are] good people who made a terrible mistake…Why no one made a phone call to police is beyond me.”

    Judge John Boccabella’s personal ethics alarms should have been banging, clanging, and screaming in his head before those words came out of his mouth! I think this was a terrible, terrible gaff on the part of Judge John Boccabella; the statements show that he really didn’t put much forethought into this and certainly didn’t realize the enormity of the case. He really should have written a well thought out statement instead of stating this unethical nonsense.

    This is the kind of statement that should eliminate him from ever running for any higher court.

    • This sounds like you are making the same comment about him that he made about the defendants.

      That it was merely a mistake…

      • texagg04 wrote, “This sounds like you are making the same comment about him that he made about the defendants.

        That it was merely a mistake…”

        Sure, that’s a reasonable argument based solely on the core ethics of each statement; never thought of my statement that way. Good point.

      • Does that essentially mean that my statement was an equivalent ethical failure like Judge John Boccabella’s? 🙂

        • Nope, IMHO. Consequences matter, and more consequential situations involve a higher bar of ethics. Still wrong, but the damage is less. My opinion is subject to correction by EA, of course.

          My reasoning is that marginalizing the enormity of the defendants’ failure was ethically worse than your statement giving him a similar pass for doing so. His statement could have impacted future parole boards, and had a greater deterrent value for others in a similar position, that message being “this is what we do to those so blinded or corrupt that they allowed this to go on.”

          • Zanshin

            Is the Judge’s statement (in the words of Zoltar Speaks) a terrible, terrible gaff or it is of signature significance?

            This same question can be asked regarding the (non-) behavior of the three former Pennsylvania State University officials.
            As I see it, the Judge deemed it a terrible gaff by otherwise very good people, and Jack sees it more as signature significance, they are not good people — because their ethics alarm failed when it was most essential that it rung like crazy.

            Is my assumption about your interpretation correct, Jack?

  5. Dauphin County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas Judge John Boccabella, as he sentenced three former Pennsylvania State University officials, including former university president Graham B. Spanier, to jail terms last week for doing nothing after they were informed that told in 2001 that a former assistant football coach,

    What was wrong with doing nothing. Christopher C. Morton pointed this out.

    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2017/04/daniel-zimmerman/quote-of-the-day-south-caroline-cop-criticizes-constitutional-carry/#comment-3344091

    * Police have no legal duty to protect individuals.
    * Police have no legal liability when they fail to protect individuals.
    * Police not assigned as bodyguards have no physical ability to protect individuals.

    It is completely nonsensical that a university bureaucrat has a greater legal duty to protect you than the police.

    The courts routinely rejected lawsuits against the LAPD for their handling of the Los Angeles riots. There is neither legal nor ethical principle that holds a university to a higher standard.

    • That just means they don’t have to physically intervene. They still have a duty to report crimes committed by their staff, or they become complicit. I think the exception to the rule of having to report people is if it is your family?

      • John Billingsley

        EC, in Florida there does not appear to be (I am not a lawyer) any exception for family members. Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes states; “(1)(a) Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, as defined in this chapter, or that a child is in need of supervision and care and has no parent, legal custodian, or responsible adult relative immediately known and available to provide supervision and care shall report such knowledge or suspicion to the department in the manner prescribed in subsection (2).”

        The statute goes on to also specifically mention sexual abuse and abuse by a person other than the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare as requiring the same reporting. I believe the penalty for failure to report is a first degree misdemeanor and the penalty for a false report is a third degree felony. Anyone who interacts with a child in a professional relationship such as health or child care worker. law enforcement officer or teacher, is required to provide his or her name to the hotline staff when making a report and is referred to as mandatory reporter. In Florida, I don’t believe these three men would have been mandatory reporters but they would have been breaking the law by not reporting their knowledge or suspicion of abuse.

      • Jerry Sandusky was not working for Penn State at the time.

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