2 years on, Penn St. scandal has left its mark
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Two years after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child molestation charges, the scandal continues to play out with a criminal trial still ahead, litigation in the works and policy changes being made around the country.
Sandusky and two high-ranking Penn State administrators were first charged on Nov. 5, 2011, the beginning of a criminal case that left him serving a decades-long sentence as one of the nation’s most notorious criminals. It forced the university to accept unprecedented NCAA sanctions and address a tarnished reputation.
Penn State has been adopting many of the reforms recommended in a report it commissioned by a group led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, changing its internal governance and administration and taking new steps to protect children on campus.
University President Rodney Erickson released a statement on Monday in connection with the second anniversary of Sandusky’s arrest that indicated he was pleased with the university’s progress.
“Our missions of teaching, research and service are at the heart of what we’ve done, and all indications are that we are continuing to experience a great deal of success in those areas,” Erikson said. “Through the work of many individuals, the university is a safer, stronger and better-governed institution.”
The school announced last week it had reached settlement agreements with 26 of the 32 young men who have approached the university with claims of abuse at Sandusky’s hands, and would be paying nearly $60 million to resolve those claims. Talks with other claimants were continuing.
Other lawsuits have been threatened or filed as well, including one that pits longtime coach Joe Paterno’s family and others against the NCAA. The case went before a judge last week, who did not say when he would rule on the NCAA’s request to have it thrown out in the preliminary stages.
The Pennsylvania Legislature has been developing changes to laws governing child safety, an effort that has produced some results and remains a work in progress. Similar reviews have been launched on campuses and in statehouses around the U.S.
In September, the AP reported that 55 of 69 BCS football schools had reviewed or strengthened their policies regarding minors on campus in as a result of the Sandusky matter. At least 18 state governments have adopted new laws, most adding university employees and volunteers to those who must report child sex abuse.
The scandal broke in March 2011, when The Patriot-News of Harrisburg revealed a grand jury investigation involving Sandusky, a retired coach and the founder of a charity for children, about improper contacts with boys.
The charging documents made public two years ago painted Sandusky as a serial predator who had abused children by using his status as a Penn State sports legend and head of The Second Mile charity to find and groom victims.
The court papers also made allegations against the university’s athletic director, Tim Curley, and vice president for business and finance, Gary Schultz, saying they had mishandled complaints about Sandusky and lied to a grand jury.
The arrests drew immediate and intense public interest as it involved a major research university with one of the country’s premiere college football programs.
Within a week the board of trustees had forced out President Graham Spanier and fired Paterno, a man who over six decades had become a living symbol of the university and a driving force in its prodigious fundraising.
Paterno died from complications relating to lung cancer more than two months later, at age 85.
After eight of Sandusky’s victims testified against him, he was convicted in June 2012 of 45 of 48 counts and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
About a year ago, more charges were added against Curley and Schultz, and Spanier was charged for the first time. They are expected to face trial together, although the county judge in Harrisburg handling the matter has not scheduled it.
Sandusky, who turns 70 early next year, is likely to die in prison unless he can persuade an appeals court to reverse the conviction, a request that the state Superior Court recently rejected. Last week, he asked the state Supreme Court to consider his appeal.
He maintains his innocence and recently declined another request by The Associated Press for an interview, saying his lawyers did not think it was a good idea.
“There is so much I would like to say,” Sandusky wrote. “Trying to say just a little bit about it doesn’t seem to work. I’m sorry.”
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