Paterno widow, son unaware they could be called
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s widow and son weren’t told that they may be called to testify in Jerry Sandusky’s upcoming child sex abuse trial before defense lawyers unveiled their list at jury selection this week.
Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers said Sue Paterno and her son Jay Paterno “had no advance notice of this development and have no idea if they will in fact be called to testify.”
The family did not plan to comment during the trial of Paterno’s former assistant coach out of respect for the legal process “unless something exceptional and unexpected develops that necessitates a response,” Sollers said in a statement Thursday.
Sandusky, 68, is charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. He has denied the allegations. Opening statements in his trial are scheduled to start Monday.
The scandal following his arrest in November led to the firing of Paterno, who had been head coach for more than four decades. Paterno died of lung cancer in January at age 85.
Sollers said the late coach told his family to “pursue the truth, while forcefully defending the honor and integrity of Penn State” and all those associated with the university.
Trustees cited a failure of leadership in part for ousting Paterno. Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, went to Paterno in 2001 to report that he had seen Sandusky naked in a team shower with a boy, and Paterno relayed the information to his superiors, including the administrative head of the campus police department.
While Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation, trustees in part said he had a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities outside the university. After Paterno was fired, he described the scandal as one of the great sorrows of his life and said he wished he had done more after allegations against Sandusky were raised.
Paterno’s firing roiled many university alumni, some of whom have said the school should take steps to recognize Paterno for his 61-year career at Penn State, including 46 as head coach. Trustees have said they want to wait until the release of results from an internal investigation of the scandal that is being led by former FBI director Louis Freeh.
Relations between university leadership and the Paterno family have been strained since Paterno’s ouster. In April, Penn State agreed to provide millions of dollars in payments and benefits to Paterno’s estate and family members under his employment contract, although a family lawyer said the Paternos did not sign away their right to sue.
Last month, trustees chairwoman Karen Peetz said she hoped to reach out to Sue Paterno to bring her “back in the fold” as an ambassador for the school.
“We are regularly making overtures to have those kinds of conversations,” Peetz said then. “The Paterno family stands for Penn State.”
Asked this week if any progress had been made, school spokesman Dave LaTorre said, “As we indicated, the entire University community is grateful for the support provided by Sue Paterno and the entire Paterno family to Penn State. It is our hope that the strong relationship with Penn State continues.”
Paterno family members, especially Sue Paterno and Jay Paterno, have gradually been making more public appearances in recent months, mainly for charity events. This week, Sue Paterno is expected to be on campus to help orchestrate the Summer Games for the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, a cause she has long championed.
The Paternos have heaped gratitude on fans and alumni who have showed support over the past six months.
GENARO C. ARMAS
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.