Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paterno Not Out of Criminal Woods

Joe Paterno has said he acted appropriately with the information he received from Mike McQueary in 2002 regarding child sexual abuse allegations against his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno wasn't charged criminally with perjury or obstruction of justice. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly confirmed that Paterno would not be charged since he discharged his obligation by reporting the incident to his supervisor, Athletic Director Tim Curley.

Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Act provides that a person who works in a school must "immediately notify the person in charge" of "suspected abuse".

According to the summary of the Grand Jury Testimony, Paterno reported the incident to Curley the next day. On its face, it appears that Paterno discharged his obligation.

However, it may be premature to conclude that Paterno is out of the woods.

When he testified before the Grand Jury under oath, McQueary said he saw Sandusky having anal intercourse with a boy, "whose age he estimated to be 10 years old", in the Penn State showers. He then says the next day he told Paterno about the incident. However, according to the summary of the Grand Jury Testimony, it's not clear how explicit he was when he spoke to Paterno.

Paterno testified that he then turned around and told Curley that McQueary saw Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy".

Certainly "fondling" or "doing something of a sexual nature" cannot be said by a reasonable person to anal intercourse with a 10 year old boy. 

So the question remains: did Paterno intentionally water down the story or did he relay the story as he understood it?

If Paterno intentionally provided a milder version of the story, he could face obstruction of justice charges. Obstruction of justice refers to attempting to interfere with the administration of justice by doing things such as giving false information, concealing evidence or impeding an investigation.

Many questions remain about who knew what when. As the investigation gains traction, more information will come to light. If it's determined that Paterno in fact knew more, he could face obstruction of justice charges as well as perjury charges, the latter referring to knowingly lying under oath.

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