Sandusky victim: Joe Paterno told me to drop abuse accusation

Story highlights

  • Victim says he was raped by Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky as a boy in 1971
  • He says Joe Paterno spoke to him on the phone and urged him to drop his accusations
  • Paterno family lawyers: That claim is inconsistent with the facts and how late football coach lived his life

(CNN)After four years of feuding over the legacy of Joe Paterno, with a few vague details about what he may have known about allegations of sexual abuse by one of his coaches, it is becoming clear there may be much more.

There are now two allegations by men who say they were sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky, who also say they reported their abuse to the legendary coach in the 1970s.
    One of those allegations was made public in a court order related to a lawsuit Penn State University filed against its former insurer over who should have to pay settlements to the more than 30 men who have come forward as victims of Sandusky. The victim was not identified, and the details come from a deposition that is sealed.
    The other has spoken to CNN, in great detail, explaining how he was a troubled young kid in 1971 when he was raped in a Penn State bathroom by Jerry Sandusky. Then, he says, his complaint about it was ignored by Paterno.
    For this story, we'll call him Victim A -- in keeping with the way that authorities have labeled the Sandusky accusers.
    "I'd be willing to sit on a witness stand and confront Joe Paterno," he told CNN last year. "Unfortunately he died and I didn't get to."
    Joe Paterno's death in January 2012, just two months after Sandusky's initial arrest, has greatly complicated his legacy. He died before he was able to be thoroughly interviewed by authorities. The lack of details about what he knew, and when, has caused a great division among Penn State fans.
    Four years later, much of Central Pennsylvania is still frozen in time, the ambiguity of Paterno's involvement leaving his supporters in limbo.
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    But for many of the victims, it's not ambiguous. Like for Victim A, a 60-year-old State College native and Sandusky's oldest known victim.
    He has never before spoken publicly about the abuse, or what happened afterward, but he did confide in a friend in the 1970s, and that friend has also verified his story to CNN.
    In addition, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, a longtime friend of this man, also confirmed to CNN that days after Sandusky's initial arrest in November 2011, he told the trooper his story.
    Around that same time, this alleged victim hired a lawyer who alerted the state Attorney General's Office and also Penn State University to his existence. Neither investigative body ever interviewed the man, since he fell outside the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil cases.
    He did however receive a settlement from Penn State, acknowledging that he was in fact a victim of Sandusky, although the settlement did not acknowledge that he was ignored by Paterno.

    'I've heard that voice a million times'

    This man, who CNN has agreed not to identify in keeping with our policy on sexual assault victims, was just 15 in 1971 when he says Sandusky raped him.
    Sandusky was 27, a budding public figure who'd played football for Penn State in the 1960s and was one year into his tenure as an assistant linebacker coach. This was long before he started his now-closed children's charity, The Second Mile, which prosecutors would later call his victim factory.
    Victim A says he was hitchhiking when Sandusky picked him up, bought him beer, gave him pot -- and then attacked him as he was standing at a urinal in a Penn State bathroom.
    "I felt his presence behind me," he said. "I felt his left knee on the back of my knee, and his arms went around me, grabbing my ..." he trails off. "He said, 'Let me help you with this.'"
    Victim A said he jerked his head back, hitting Sandusky in the jaw. His head started bleeding and they both fell to the floor.
    "Then there was a wrestling session," he says. "And I lost. One thing led to another and the crime happened."
    Victim A was already a troubled kid. During a church sleepover the year before, he said he was molested by a local priest. When he tried to report it, he was thrown out of the church. He was living with foster parents when Sandusky attacked him.
    A day after the assault, Victim A's foster mom noticed the cut on his head. She pestered him about what happened. And when he told her, she and her husband -- who owned a local bowling alley and knew many high-ranking school officials -- called Penn State against his wishes. "I was blindsided," he said, adding that his foster father told him, "I assure you the police won't be called, but you gotta tell these people what happened."
    He found himself on the phone with two men from Penn State.
    "I tell them what happened -- well, I couldn't get it out of me that I was -- I can't even tell it to this day. It's just degrading -- that I was raped," he said.
    "I told the story up to a certain point. I told them that he grabbed me and that I got the hell out of there."
    He insisted that he "made it very clear" it was a sexual attack.
    "I made it clear there were things done to me that I just can't believe could have been done to me and I couldn't escape. I said, 'I'm very upset and scared and I couldn't believe I let my guard down.' They listened to me. And then all hell broke loose.
    "They were asking me my motive, why I would say this about someone who has done so many good things."
    They accused him of making it up. "'Stop this right now! We'll call the authorities,'" he said they told him.
    Victim A says he couldn't think. "I just wanted to get off the phone."
    The men on the phone had introduced themselves as Jim and Joe, he said. He had no idea who Jim was, and can't, to this day, say for sure.
    "There was no question in my mind who Joe was," he said. "I've heard that voice a million times. It was Joe Paterno."

    A tarnished legacy

    Just days after he was fired, the legendary "JoePa" -- synonymous with Penn State football for six decades -- was diagnosed with lung cancer. His death two months later robbed him of the chance to explain what -- if anything -- he knew about his assistant's crimes.
    Until now, the only public allegations about Paterno's knowledge of Sandusky's crimes involved a 1998 police report which initially went nowhere, and a 2001 report by Mike McQueary, one of Paterno's assistant coaches. McQueary testified at the criminal trial that he told Paterno he witnessed something sexual between Sandusky and a young boy in a Penn State locker room shower, and then he says he told former athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz in detail about a sexual assault. They have denied the charges.
    Both were criminally charged with failure to report suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of children, which are misdemeanors. (Felonies were dropped earlier this year when a judge ruled they had been misled by Penn State's attorneys early in the investigation.)
    After Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys, Paterno's legend took a series of hits.
    The NCAA stripped Penn State, and Paterno, of more than two decades of victories. The school removed a statue of Paterno from its spot outside Beaver Stadium. And a scathing, but widely criticized, report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found that Paterno and three other top school officials covered up Sandusky's attacks and showed a "total and consistent disregard" for his victims.
    But over the years, tides shifted, and the NCAA eventually reached a deal in which it reinstated Paterno's victories.
    Paterno's family disputed the details of the allegations from 1998 and 2001. They pointed to vague assertions, and details of McQueary's story that seemed to change. Their public relations campaign worked.
    But the court order made public on Thursday shows that a dispute over whether or not there was a cover-up at Penn State will not slowly simmer away.
    In addition to the new allegations against Sandusky, the judge also wrote that there is evidence that in 1987 and in 1988, Penn State assistant coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children on campus. In the 1988 case, the child's report was referred to the Penn State athletic director, the judge wrote.
    Details of those documents are sealed. But the court wrote that the allegations were from depositions from the civil case.

    A cover up?

    Unlike many victims who kept the abuse secret -- some even lying for years when asked about their close relationships with Sandusky -- Victim A found the courage to tell a few people what happened.
    One was a man who remains a good friend to this day. He confirmed to CNN that back in early 1972, a short time after the assault, Victim A confided in him what happened the previous year -- including the details of his phone call with the two men from Penn State, Jim and Joe.
    The friend, Bernie McCue, told CNN that Victim A used Joe Paterno's name when he told him the story in 1972.
    "It was along the lines of, he said, 'You can't mistake the voice of Joe Paterno.' That's what he said to me," McCue said.
    Victim A also believed state police were aware of his story in detail, something that he learned to be untrue only in late 2015, when his attorney told him that the allegations against Sandusky were the only thing relayed to authorities.
    In November, 2011, days after Sandusky was arrested, Victim A went to an old family friend who is a state trooper and told him his story.
    "I believed my story was told to police. I know my story was told to people involved in the investigation because (my attorney) kept telling me there's a good possibility that I'll be subpoenaed and questioned," he said.
    The trooper told CNN that he does remember on the day of Sandusky's arraignment, talking to Victim A, and thinking the story seemed too crazy to be believed.
    ""Who is going to believe that Joe Paterno would do that? Honestly," he said.
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    Sandusky's prosecutors knew about Victim A's alleged rape, but his allegations are from so long ago that they fell outside the statute of limitations.
    In 2013, Frank Fina, a prosecutor who built the case against Sandusky and the three Penn State officials told "60 Minutes Sports" that there was no evidence that Paterno participated in a cover-up. However, the scope of their investigation did not go past the 1990s.
    Victim A was one of 30 men who received part of a $60 million settlement with Penn State. The school also paid for his two-plus years in rehab that ended in 2014 after anger drove him to alcohol.
    In a statement, Penn State acknowledged the allegations outlined in the recent court filing and said, "The university has no records from the time to help evaluate the claims. More importantly, Coach Paterno is not here to defend himself. Penn State does not intend to comment further, out of concern for privacy, and due to the strict confidentiality commitments that govern our various settlement agreements."
    The Paterno family lawyers said this to CNN:
    "Joe Paterno's life has been scrutinized endlessly the last four and a half years. The facts that have emerged have repeatedly confirmed that he acted appropriately."
    In addition, last year, the Paterno family lawyers told CNN, "The suggestion that Joe Paterno participated in the call described is in direct conflict with the facts as we know them and contrary to the way he lived his life."

    'There's going to be more people'

    In the past year or so, life has become more difficult for Victim A. He's had a heart attack and several other health scares. The stress, he says, is overwhelming -- especially because he feels like people in State College care more about Paterno than the victims. He has lost friends.
    One of them, a former pro player who used to take him to Super Bowls, told him he didn't want him hanging around his football friends anymore, and humiliated him at a party.
    "He taped something to my ass and called it Sandusky's hole," he said. "It's absolutely horrible what he did to me. He's hurt me about as much as I've been hurt."
    Victim A becomes outraged and visibly upset when he talks to people who can't seem to get past the impact the scandal had on their idol, Paterno.
    "State College is a disgusting place, the way they treat crimes against kids," he said. "We are living in a very sick atmosphere."
    On the advice of his attorney, Victim A has stayed quiet publicly since the scandal broke four years ago. Last year when he talked to CNN, he said he now feels that speaking out is his only form of justice -- even though he knows things will only get worse for him.
    Back in November, he said, "I am looking for a wave of s*** to come down on me like I've never seen before. I know that's going to happen. It's going to be a very bad outcome for me. That's just the way Penn State fans are."
    When he learned Thursday night that he's not the only one who came forward four decades ago, he said he was overcome with relief.
    "That kind of took the wind out of me," he said. "I knew, I had a feeling when I first came forward that this wasn't going to be the end. There's going to be more people and there is, there was. It's crazy. I am just kind of lost for words right now."