New court documents reveal that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno knew about allegations of sex abuse against assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in 1976 and did nothing about it.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer Tuesday unsealed hundreds of pages of documents connected with a dispute between Penn State and its insurer over paying nearly $100 million in insurance claims brought by victims.
The accuser, identified in the documents as John Doe 150, said under oath that at the age of 14, he was molested by Sandusky during a football summer camp, and that he told Paterno.
“Is it accurate that Coach Paterno quickly said to you, ‘I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about?'” the victim was asked under oath.
“Specifically. Yes,” he replied in the 2014 deposition.
Looking back at that response from 40 years ago, John Doe 150 said he was “shocked, disappointed, offended.
“I said, ‘Is that all you’re going to do? You’re not going to do anything else?'”
Joe Doe 150 also said that, before approaching Paterno about the abuse, he informed players and other coaches, yet nobody acted on his account.
“He set up a system, and a climate and a culture in which nobody felt child sex abuse reports should be taken seriously,” said David Clohessy, who heads the Chicago-based group SNAP, a group dedicated to preventing sexual abuse and helping victims.
Clohessy said he hopes the new documents mute the public defense of the popular Paterno, who died in 2012.
“It’s a hurtful defense. Because when people defend someone who reportedly concealed child sex crimes, it deters other people from reporting child sex crimes,” he said.
Sandusky was convicted on dozens of sex abuse charges and is likely to serve the rest of his life in prison.
Paterno previously said the first he heard of Sandusky’s abuse was in 2001, but there are recorded complaints from years before detailing molestation allegations.
The Paterno family issued a statement Tuesday denying any wrongdoing or attempts to cover up a long pattern of molestation.
“The materials released today relating to Joe Paterno allege a conversation that occurred decades ago where all parties except the accuser are now dead,” Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers said. “In addition, there are numerous specific elements of the accusations that defy all logic and have never been subjected to even the most basic objective examination. Most significantly, there is extensive evidence that stands in stark contrast to this claim.”
The newly released documents also contain an analysis from lawyer Eric Anderson, who was working as an impartial expert for the insurance company locked in a legal battle with Penn State over the civil payouts.
He said the total settlements — $92 million so far — to Sandusky victims may have resulted from Penn State being overly concerned with the damage the case would inflict on the university’s image. School officials, Anderson said, did little to verify claims and settled the cases as quickly as possible.
Clohessy said that didn’t surprise him.
“I think this notion that Penn State settled these claims quickly to avoid PR damage is partially true,” he said. “I think maybe we’re seeing now more of the real reason Penn State settled these cases, and settled them for fairly substantial sums. Not only were Penn State officials concerned about what had surfaced but also about the complicity of Penn State staff.”