Former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky leaves legacy of disgrace over Penn State
Mom of accuser allegedly confronted Sandusky in 1998 while police listened
Grand jury: Sandusky groomed boys, won their confidence, gave gifts
Sandusky allegedly took boy with him to his final game
Program notes: Tonight at 8 ET on “AC360º,” Anderson Cooper talks to Jerry Sandusky’s attorney Joe Amendola in his first TV interview regarding the child sex abuse accusations against his client.
The Penn State players scooped up their defensive coordinator and hoisted him on their shoulders. It was his final game, a crowning victory in the Alamo Bowl, a perfect ending for the coach’s 32-year career.
One player said it seemed like “a Hollywood script.”
It was December 1999, and Jerry Sandusky had announced his retirement before the start of the season. It was unexpected: the guy who’d spent three decades on the sidelines with legendary coach Joe Paterno wasn’t even going to another team. Just 55 at the time, Sandusky had long been expected to replace Joe Pa.
But he was simply quitting.
Sandusky’s career was deviating from the widely accepted script. And now, it appears, the Hollywood ending may have been just that – fiction. And possibly a façade that covered dark, sordid secrets.
When the players carried Sandusky off that field in San Antonio, triumphant, they weren’t just celebrating the coach known around State College as the “Dean of Linebacker U.” They were honoring a man recognized for his generosity and concern for children in need.
Just as his boss, Joe Pa, had stood for class and dignity, Sandusky represented heart. He raised millions for The Second Mile, the charity he founded for at-risk kids. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush had called it “a shining example.”
The coach and his wife had adopted six children – three after taking them in through foster care. He dedicated most of his off-season to running camps and helping The Second Mile kids, many from single-parent homes and in need of another adult in their lives.
At the Alamo Bowl was one of those boys– a Second Mile kid who had traveled with the coach to the game. He would later tell investigators, according to a grand jury report, that Sandusky sexually abused him for about two years.
That weekend, he said, when he tried to resist Sandusky’s advances, the coach threatened to send him home.
The grand jury report, made public last Saturday, details 40 charges against Sandusky involving at least eight alleged victims and spanning 15 years, beginning in 1994.
Sandusky’s lawyer says his client denies all the charges leveled against him.
In nearly every case, the grand jury says, Sandusky preyed on children who were part of his charity. He selected them himself to join the world of Penn State football.
They ate with players, watched practices and sat in on coach’s meetings. Some traveled with the team on road trips, including bowl games.
The coach spoiled them with tickets to professional sporting events and other gifts. Many slept overnight at his house. They were seen with him everywhere – at football practices, restaurants, church.
Jerry’s kids, they were called.
Grooming young boys
The coach’s actions, according to his accusers, followed a pattern. He’d invite them places, pick them up in his car and then, they say, place his hand on their thigh while driving.
At the Penn State football facility, the grand jury alleges, he’d take them to work out and then suggest they shower together, where the touching progressed: soap fights, back rubs and naked bear hugs. It would allegedly lead to more.
Some accusers described a basement room in Sandusky’s house where they stayed overnight. He’d lie down and tickle them, rub their backs, and blow on their stomachs, they said. One alleged victim, now 24, told the grand jury he “would roll over on his stomach to prevent Sandusky from touching his genitals.”
If any of the boys tried to avoid him, the coach would stalk them by calling dozens of times and by visiting their homes, according to the grand jury report.
He’d try to regain their favor by buying them gifts: shoes, electronics, clothes, anything a kid might want.
The boy who traveled to the Alamo Bowl with Sandusky is 27 now. He told the grand jury his first uncomfortable contact with the coach occurred in 1996 or 1997 while they were swimming. It was as if the coach were testing to see how the boy “would respond to even the smallest physical contact,” he testified. He said he was 12 or 13 when he was “singled out by Sandusky.”
The boy would become a “fixture in the Sandusky household,” traveling with him to games and charity events, according to the grand jury. Sandusky listed the boy as family, along with his wife, for the Alamo Bowl trip.
By then, the alleged victim testified he had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by Sandusky over two years – on campus, in football facilities, and at the resort where the football team stayed before home games.
He said Sandusky told him he could be a walk-on at Penn State one day.
The secret police probe: Mom confronts coach
When Sandusky retired in December 1999, an investigation of his actions in 1998 had never been made public. It involved the university police, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and the district attorney’s office. It is detailed in the grand jury’s report:
A mother had come forward, saying the coach had showered with her son.
Two campus police detectives eavesdropped on conversations in May 1998 when the mother confronted Sandusky. She wanted Sandusky to know how shaken her son was when the coach bear hugged her boy, naked from behind, in the showers.
Did the coach have sexual feelings for her son, the mother asked him.
She demanded Sandusky promise her he’d never shower with boys again. As police listened in, Sandusky said he would not agree to such a promise – that he showered with other boys, too.
The mom pressed the coach: Did his “private parts” touch her son when he bear hugged her boy?
“I don’t think so,” Sandusky said, before adding, “Maybe.”
Six days later, police monitored a second conversation, on May 19, 1998, in which the mother told Sandusky to stay away from her son.
“I understand. I was wrong,” Sandusky said, according to the grand jury report. “I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
According to the grand jury report, Sandusky met with the lead police detective and an investigator with the child welfare department two weeks later. He admitted to showering with the boy whose mother confronted him; he said he was sorry. The detective told him “not to shower with any child again and Sandusky said that he would not,” the grand jury report says.
The investigation was promptly dropped. District Attorney Ray Gricar decided not to pursue criminal charges, according to the report. The lead police detective told the grand jury that the then director of campus police, Thomas Harmon, told him “to close the investigation. (Gricar mysteriously disappeared in 2005; authorities this week said they don’t believe it’s connected to Sandusky.)
The report says at least one other person knew of the 1998 investigation: university counsel Wendell Courtney.
But not only was Courtney the university counsel, he was the attorney for Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, according to the grand jury report.
Friction between Paterno, Sandusky
It was a year after the police investigation that Sandusky shocked Penn State fans by saying he would call it quits at the end of the 1999 season.
The decision had seemingly come out of nowhere – and just as the Nittany Lions entered the season with national title hopes.
How could Joe Pa’s right-hand man for so many years abruptly leave?
According to the grand jury report, one of the victims testified that Paterno summoned Sandusky to his office in May 1999 and “told Sandusky he would not be the next head coach at Penn State.”
Sandusky told the victim “not to tell anyone,” according to the report. Two months later, the defensive coordinator told reporters he was hanging it up at the end of the season.
Rumors swirled of some kind of rift between Paterno and his long-time assistant as the season progressed, according to the Centre Daily Times, the main newspaper in State College.
Ahead of his final game, Sandusky was asked if he’d miss Paterno.
“Not exactly,” he said, according to a Sports Illustrated article. “You have to understand that so much of our time was spent under stress, figuring out how to win. That takes a toll.”
Paterno hinted a few years later that Sandusky had been a cancer. “In staff meetings, it was getting to be ‘We’ and ‘You’ and it should be ‘Us.’ Jerry [Sandusky’s] leaving gave me an opportunity to get that out of the way and do things I’m comfortable with,” Paterno told the Centre Daily Times in January 2002.
At the end of 1999, Sandusky left coaching as a champion; the boy with him on that trip tried to distance himself, the report alleges. He cowered in a closet whenever the coach stopped by his house to visit.
The code of silence
Whatever differences Paterno and his defensive coach might have had, they didn’t affect Sandusky’s retirement package. He was given emeritus status, and an office in the team’s practice facility. As a retired coach, he had unlimited access to the football facilities, according to the grand jury report, including the locker rooms.
Such access, prosecutors say, allowed him to prey on the boys he claimed to be helping.
One of the most startling incidents detailed in the grand jury report stems from the testimony of Mike McQueary, who eventually became one of Paterno’s most trusted assistant coaches during games.
On March 1, 2002, McQueary claims to have seen Sandusky having anal sex in the locker room shower with a boy about 10 years old.
A 28-year-old graduate assistant coach at the time, McQueary said he had gone to the facility around 9:30 p.m. to put sneakers in his locker and retrieve some recruiting tapes. He testified he heard “rhythmic slapping sounds” coming from the showers. When he looked in that direction, McQueary said, Sandusky and the boy also saw him.
“The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught,” the report says.
He called his father, and the next morning, the two went to Paterno’s house and McQueary “reported what he had seen,” the report says.
Paterno told the grand jury he received “the graduate assistant’s report at his home” and that McQueary was “very upset.” Paterno called Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley the next day and said McQueary had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”
University President Graham Spanier also was informed of “a report of an incident involving Sandusky and a child in the showers on campus.” Another university official who was told of the incident, the grand jury says, was Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business who also knew of the 1998 probe.
Part of Schultz’s job was to oversee the University Police. Yet the grand jury says he never reported the 2002 incident to campus cops. Neither did Spanier, Curley, Paterno, or McQueary.
A couple weeks after the alleged assault, Curley told the grand jury he met with McQueary again and told him “that Sandusky had been directed not to use Penn State’s athletic facilities with young people and the ‘information’ had been given to the director of The Second Mile.”
And that was it, as far as they were concerned.
At least one boy was molested after the 2002 incident, prosecutors allege, this time in Sandusky’s home and in the locker room of a high school where Sandusky was a volunteer football coach. The alleged incidents happened around 2004 to 2008.
It took officials at the high school level to do what university officials appear to have neglected to do for so many years: report the allegations to law enforcement. When the mother of the most recent alleged victim called with her suspicions, the head high school coach immediately notified authorities.
That was spring 2008. Pennsylvania’s attorney general launched an investigation in early 2009 after the teen said he’d undergone four years of sexual abuse by Sandusky.
It would take more than two years for charges to be brought.
On November 5, Sandusky was arrested and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and seven counts of indecent assault, as well as other offenses.
Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse. Both left their posts this week; they have said they are not guilty.
Others remain under investigation. Authorities say they have received calls this week from more possible victims.
The beloved Paterno, who’d spent 46 years as coach, was fired over the phone. Spanier, the university president, was ousted, too.
Paterno’s final game was two weeks ago – a 10-7 win over Illinois – that made him the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.
But his last Saturday as coach, it turns out, fell on a bye week.
Joe Pa would not be carried off the field in victory.
Instead, the sordid allegations against Sandusky hit State College with a force harder than any of the linebackers he ever coached.
This time, Sandusky wasn’t riding on players’ shoulders; he was riding in the back of a police car.