In my column in Sunday’s paper, which came from Friday’s Penn State BOT meeting in Hershey, I referred to something I have written often, that based all the evidence I’m aware of (in the column, I used the term, “powerful evidence), Joe Paterno had to have known about the 1998 incident/investigation of Jerry Sandusky showering with an 11 year-old boy.
Today I have received numerous e-mails from readers suggesting I iterate that evidence. I didn’t do that in Sunday’s column because 1. I’ve done it before, and 2. It would have made the column at least twice as long.
I can understand that neither of those reasons would be satisfactory to the average reader. An old rule of writing: Don’t introduce a gun to the plot if you don’t plan on firing it. In retrospect, mentioning the evidence, calling it powerful, but not detailing it, was a mistake.
Rather than write the same thing 15 times, I am referring the e-mailers, and everyone else, to the following:
The Freeh Report 1998 timeline:
May 3, 1998- Victim 6’s mother reports to PSU police an incident in which her 11 year-old son showered with Sandusky. Police begin investigation.
May 4- Gary Schultz, who oversaw PSU police, attends a meeting. His handwritten notes from the meeting: “Behavior at best inappropriate, at worst sexual improprieties.” “At min- poor judgment,” etc.
May 5- Schultz’ receives report from Harmon, and again takes notes- including “Is this the opening of a Pandora’s Box?’’ “Other children?” etc.
PSU police chief Thomas Harmon informs Schultz that, “We’re going to hold off on making any crime log entry. At this point in time I can justify that decision because of the back of clear evidence of a crime.’’
Later May 5, e-mail from Curley to Schultz and Spanier with subject line “Joe Paterno,” reads, “I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.’’
May 6 – Reply to Curley’s e-mail of previous day, with Spanier CCd: “Will do. Since we talked tonight I’ve learned that the Public Welfare people will interview the individual Thursday.”
May 13 – e-mail from Curley to Schultz, subject line “Jerry”, reads, “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.’’
May 18 and May 30 – Curley requests updates from Schultz via e-mail, and is told there is no news, Shultz doesn’t expect to hear more before the end of the week.
May 19 – Sandusky, in Victim 6’s home, while police officers listen from another room, says to Victim 6s mother: “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.’’
May 30 – Curley again asks for an update. Schultz is on vacation.
June 1 – Jerry Lauro, investigator with Pa. Dept. of Public Welfare, and Det. Ron Schreffler conduct the first interview with Sandusky connected with the Victim 6 investigation.
June 8 – Schultz gets back to Curley, saying that before his vacation, his understanding was that “DPW and Univ. police services were planning to meet with him. I’ll see if this has happened and get back to you.’’
The Paterno Report’s response to the above:
1. Cites Graham Spanier’s interview with Freeh, in which Spanier claims the 1998 incident was not reported to either Spanier or Paterno, if at all, “in serious terms.”
2. Dismisses Freeh’s conclusion that the references to “Coach,” in the May 5 and May 13 e-mails are to Paterno, saying it could have been Sandusky or someone else.
3. Claims the May 13 e-mail, asking “Anything new in this department?,” could have been a reference to Sandusky’s attempt to start a football program at the Penn State Altoona campus.
4. Pointed out that the records from Freeh show that the 1998 incident was thoroughly investigated, that experts outside the Penn State football program were told about it. The 1998 incident was investigated by Penn State police, Centre County prosecutors and caseworkers. No charges were brought.
First, let’s be clear about what I am NOT saying. I’m not saying there’s any reason to believe Joe Paterno was fully informed of all the details of the investigation, or that he was involved in a coverup, or committed a crime, or, certainly, that anything about the Sandusky mess invalidates Paterno’s life and/or career.
I’m not saying the Freeh Report is flawless, although I would argue it is far less flawed and questionable than the Paterno Report, and that most people defending or touting the Paterno Report would see those flaws if they weren’t so emotionally invested.
I’m not saying the Freeh Report justifies the NCAA sanctions; in fact I have written precisely the opposite, emphatically, more than once.
This is what I AM saying: Joe Paterno said, in grand jury testimony and in interviews with Sally Jenkins and Joe Posnanski, that he was unaware of the existence of any incident/investigation of improper behavior by Jerry Sandusky prior to Mike McQueary coming to him in 2001.
I am saying I am convinced that cannot be true.
First, the idea that Penn State’s defensive coordinator was under investigation for an incident such as the one of May 3, 1998 and Penn State’s head coach was never aware of the incident/investigation’s existence is, on the face of it, insane.
Reading the Freeh Report, particularly Schultz’ notes and the e-mails, reinforced that opinion.
Reading the Paterno report reinforced it further.
Point 1. above is irrelevant, because of the obvious leeway Spanier gives himself by using the words, “in serious terms.” Again, serious terms are not the issue. JoePa said he wasn’t aware of the incident’s existence.
Point 2: Think about this. The incident, involving the defensive coordinator, occurred May 3. Schultz’ notes indicate that on May 4 and the morning of May 5 there are meetings at which the incident was discussed.
On the afternoon of May 5, an e-mail is sent from Curley to Schultz and Spanier, with “Joe Paterno,’’ in the subject line, saying “I have touched base with the coach.’’ And the Paterno Report would have you believe the coach in question was not Joe Paterno. If the word “coach,’’ doesn’t refer to Paterno, why is the subject line “Joe Paterno?”
The Paterno Report ignores Schultz’ notes. It pretends they don’t exist, makes no attempt to refute them. If “coach,’’ refers to Sandusky, in the May 5 or May 13 e-mails, then Sandusky obviously knew the investigation existed as of those dates, even though there’s no record anywhere of him having been informed of the incident before he was interviewed about it June 1.
The Paterno Report goes to tremendous lengths to portray Sandusky as a calculating master manipulator, a genius at “grooming”. But its theory on the e-mails implies Sandusky knew he was being investigated no later than May 13, then went to the victim’s home May 19 with that knowledge and essentially confessed to the crime. That’s not a genius. That’s an idiot.
Point 3: If the May 13 e-mail refers to Sandusky and the possibility of starting a football program at Penn State-Altoona and not the incident, why do subsequent messages refer to the Department of Public Welfare (DPW)?
Point 4: The Paterno Report makes much of the fact that 1998 was thoroughly investigated and no charges brought. Again, in terms of Joe’s knowledge of the incident’s existence, so what? It had not been thoroughly investigated on May 5.
The Paterno Report is informative and useful on the general subject and identifying and reacting to child sexual abuse. Beyond that, the reality is a high-powered law firm, plus a former U.S. Attorney General, were hired by the Paterno family to rebut the Freeh Report, and had the Freeh Report in front of them to examine for months, and came up with nothing.
It is of course possible, in the very broad, theoretical sense that almost anything is possible, that Schultz’ notes and the e-mails are fictional. But does it make any sense to believe that? What did Freeh have to gain? He was getting paid either way. Falsifying evidence could achieve nothing but damaging his own reputation.
In the same broad sense, even though the available evidence suggests overwhelmingly otherwise, it is theoretically possible that PSU officials conspired to keep things from Joe. But Nittany Nation scoffs, outraged, at the suggestions of conspiracy in the Freeh Report (and I agree with them about that). You can’t be outraged at conspiracy talk that includes Joe and OK with conspiracy talk that excludes him, especially without one shred of evidence.
I take no joy in this. I’m not taking sides. Unlike everybody who’s mad at me over this, I simply don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m looking at the available information, and I’m telling you what I see.