If the details released in a new email are true, then there are new questions to ask in the Penn State scandal that cost the school its famed head football coach, Joe Paterno.
The school fired Paterno, who had already said he would retire at the end of this season, along with others, apparently for failing to act more vigorously after being alerted to an accusation of child sexual abuse on the school’s campus. The suspect in the alleged abuse was an assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, who still maintains that he is innocent of molestation.
A graduate assistant at the time, Mike McQueary, says he saw it happened, and contacted Paterno. Paterno reported it to his bosses that same weekend, but didn’t call police himself.
Paterno was let go, but McQueary is still, as of this writing, employed at the college.
It always seemed strange to me that they’d fire Paterno for not going to police, but not terminate the guy who says he actually saw it happen. After all, who is a police officer going to listen to in such an accusation: a guy who says someone told him that a crime happened, or a witness who saw it happen firsthand? The former is hearsay; the latter is direct eyewitness testimony.
You learn that much from one episode of Judge Judy.
In an email that has now gone public, McQueary allegedly claims that he did make sure the assault stopped and that he did contact police about the incident.
McQueary allegedly wrote that he “did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police.”
If that’s true, then that changes the picture entirely. At least, it does for me.
Let me be clear for a minute: as we might say in the South, I have “no dog in this hunt.” I’m not a Penn State fan, I’m not a Joe Paterno fan, and I didn’t even know he was the winningest coach in college football history until someone pointed that out to me. I’m not even much of a football fan: being a Gamecock was enough to do that to me.
So it really doesn’t matter to me who leads the Nittany Lions to victory (or defeat) each week.
But if I put myself in Paterno’s place, and I was approached by a graduate assistant with such an allegation, I would have done two things: I’d have contacted my bosses to let them know what happened, and I’d have gotten the assistant to call police himself and bring them into that.
If McQueary’s email is authentic, and accurate, it now appears that both of those things happened.
And that begs a whole new of question: if police heard from an eyewitness that an adult had some sexual encounter with a child, why wasn’t he arrested at once? And why was Paterno fired for not contacting police of McQueary already had? There was nothing Paterno could add to the situation if the guy who witnessed it was already in contact with authorities.
And if police investigated and found the accusation without merit, why would anyone at the school be fired? We do still live, presumably, in a nation in which one is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Interestingly enough, Penn State police say they have no record of McQueary contacting them about what he says he saw.
Which police agency did he contact? Did he tell Paterno at that time that he was going to or already had contacted police personally?
The sum of the parts still don’t equal the whole we’ve seen so far.