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The Penn State Child Sexual Abuse Cover-up: A Timeline

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Nov. 11th, 2011 | 11:26 am

Appropriate outrage over the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and the response of Penn State University has been expressed much more eloquently by Scalzi and others.

Despite this outrage, I still hear people standing up for Joe Paterno or defending the actions/inactions of the university. Because I like you -- no seriously, I like you a lot -- I applied my training as a historian and read all of the grand jury presentment against Jerry Sandusky, as well as scouring other sources, to create a timeline of events.

Between 1998-2008, there were four reported instances of child sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky. The first three were reported at Penn State and all three investigations were discouraged from going further. Only the fourth, reported by the school of one of the victims, led to legal action.

Background to incident #1:

  • 1963-1965 - Jerry Sandusky played football at Penn State, where Joe Paterno was an assistant coach

  • 1966 - Paterno becomes head coach at Penn State

    • - Sandusky is first graduate assistant hired by Paterno

  • 1969 - Sandusky becomes Paterno's defensive line coach

  • 1970 - Sandusky becomes Paterno's linebackers coach

  • 1977 - Sandusky becomes Paterno's defensive coordinator and is identified as Paterno's successor

  • 1977 - Sandusky founds The Second Mile, a group foster home for troubled boys that became a charity for children with absent or dysfunctional families

Incident #1:

1998 - Sandusky showers with an 11 year old boy from The Second Mile program in the Penn State locker room when no one else is present. The shower invokes Sandusky touching the boy. When the boy is delivered home, his hair is wet and he immediately tells his mother what had happened. This is the following sequence of events:

  • Mother informs University Police

  • University Police Detective Ronald Shreffler investigates and identifies a second boy who was subjected to nearly identical treatment by Sandusky

  • Shreffler and State College Police Department Detective Ralph Ralston arrange to eavesdrop on two conversations in which Mother confronts Sandusky

  • Sandusky admits to Mother than he showered with other boys, admits that his private parts may have touched the boy, admits that what he did was wrong. He refuses to promise the mother that he will never do it again with other boys.

  • Shreffler and Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare investigator Jerry Lauro meet with Sandusky. Sandusky admits to showering naked and touching young boys, and says that he knows it is wrong. He promises he will never do it again.

  • The incident is reviewed by Penn State Legal Counsel, Wendell Courtney. Courtney is also the legal counsel for The Second Mile and represents their interests. He advises everyone that no action is necessary.

  • Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar refuses to bring criminal charges against Sandusky.

  • Director of Campus Police Thomas Harmon orders Shreffler to close the investigation.

  • Case closed.

Outcomes of incident #1:

  • 1999 - Paterno informs Sandusky that he will never be the head coach at Penn State. Sandusky decides to take early retirement. As part of his retirement negotiations, he is given:

    • emeritus status, including an office and phone in the football practice facility, the Lasch Building that houses the football program.

    • access to all recreational facilities on campus

    • unlimited access to all football facilities, including the locker rooms and showers

Incident #2

2000 - Jim Calhoun, a janitor in the Lasch Building, observes Sandusky in the showers with a boy who he has pinned against the wall and is performing oral sex on him. This is the following sequence of events:

  • Calhoun seeks out fellow staff to report the incident and finds Ronald Petroksy

  • Petrosky witnesses Sandusky and the boy, aged 11-13, leaving the shower

  • Petrosky and Calhoun, both new employees, go to the other janitorial staff for advice on what to do: the other employees all tell Petrosky and Calhoun not to report anything or they'll all lose their jobs. Petrosky decides to do nothing.

  • Despite the advice, Calhoun goes to Jay Witherite, his immediate supervisor. Witherite follows Calhoun to the parking lot, where he confirms the identify of Sandusky as the man in the shower.

  • Witherite informs Calhoun that he (Witherite) will not make any report, but tells Calhoun that he can if he wants to.

Outcome of incident #2:

Calhoun decides not to make an additional report. He is only a temporary employee at the Lasch Building and is not offered an opportunity to continue to work there afterward.

Background for incident #3:

  • 1994-1997 - Mike McQueary plays football at Penn State where Sandusky is the Defensive Coodinator

  • 2000 - McQueary is hired as graduate assistant at Penn State

Incident #3:

2002 - McQueary goes to the Lasch Building at 9:30pm on a Friday night to pick up some recruiting tapes and witnesses Sandusky anally raping a 10 year old boy in the locker room showers. This is the following sequence of events:

  • McQueary panics and calls his father, a physician practicing in State College, for advice; his father advises him to do nothing at that moment, but to leave the building and come to his parents' home, which McQueary does. They discuss the incident and what to do.

  • McQueary reports the incident to Paterno the next morning and describes witnessing anal rape.

  • Paterno contacts Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and reports that a graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky in the showers "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

  • A week and a half later, Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz interview McQueary. McQueary describes witnessing anal rape.

  • Curley and Schultz meet with Joe Paterno. They agree that nothing sexually explicit was described, that the allegation is not that serious, and that no crime had occurred.

  • Schultz reports the incident to Penn State President Graham Spanier. They agree to ban Sandusky from bringing children into the football locker room and to report the incident to The Second Mile.

Outcomes of incident #3:

Schultz admits to the grand jury that the ban on Sandusky bringing children into the facilities "was unenforceable." No restrictions were put on Sandusky's access to facilities, even though Curley informed McQueary that this was the case. No one reports the incident to University Police or any other police or child welfare agency despite a state law requiring them to do so.

Additional notes for context:

Paterno is the longest-serving employee at Penn State (61 years, including more than 40 years as head coach): Sandusky (41 years, including his access to the university as emeritus), Spanier (16 years as President), Curley (18 years as Athletic Director), Schultz (17 years as Senior VP). Paterno is the highest paid employee at Penn State, making significantly more money than Spanier or the other senior administrators. Paterno is responsible for raising millions of dollars from donors for university projects, more than any other single individual and is considered "the face of Penn State." He is clearly recognized as the most powerful employee in the university.

In 2006, Paterno makes jokes about sexual assault during a press conference, implying that women look for it, in answering a question about a player on an opposing team who was accused of rape.

Incident #4:

2008 - Another young boy from The Second Mile program is frequently removed from his school classes by Sandusky, with the approval of the school's football coach, for "mentoring." The boy becomes reluctant to go with Sandusky and describes sexual abuse by Sandusky to the school administrator, who reports it immediately to the boy's mother, the police, and child welfare authorities. This begins a 3-year investigation of Sandusky, in which victims, witnesses, Penn State officials, and Second Mile representatives are called to tesitfy.

Outcomes of incident #4:

2010 - Sandusky retires from The Second Mile. Legal counsel for The Second Mile is still Courtney, former legal counsel for the university.

2011 - Sandusky is indicted on 40 counts of molesting 8 young boys over a 15 year period. Curley and Schultz are indicted for committing perjury to protect Sandusky during the grand jury investigation. Paterno claims not to have known anything and Spanier commits the university to the position that the charges are groundless; both are relieved of their positions by the university board of trustees. McQueary is a key witness in the grand jury case against Sandusky; he continues to remain employed by Penn State but will not be on sidelines during games.

You're entitled to your informed opinion. Now you have the information.

Update: There is an interesting discussion about what are and aren't facts in this account over on the facebook post that links here - http://www.facebook.com/ccfinlay/posts/238636056196402

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Comments {48}

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(no subject)

from: frigg
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)

I am not familiar with the case, most likely partly because of my location and partly because I haven't been following the news much lately, but...I am speechless.

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(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)

You should read the grand jury report yourself. While it will probably be the ugliest thing you EVER read you will see that this author has taken some libertys when stating who told who WHAT. Also NPR has a timeline that states the FACTS not opinions

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Sara McClung

(no subject)

from: Sara McClung
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)

This is so disgusting. I'm saddened and disheartened and furious, which I know everyone is saying--but how else can a person feel? Thanks for posting all the facts, I'll be sure to point people in this direction when they say anything stupid so they can get their freaking information straight.

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(no subject)

from: cathshaffer
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC)

This is really helpful. Yesterday I was getting opinions from all over the map, so I sought out this information so I could understand what was going on. It's very disappointing, very disheartening. This sort of thing keeps happening. It seems no matter how often a pedophile is covered up and protected by others, then exposed with maximum resulting scandal, it still happens over and over again. Part of the problem may be denial.

Many of the people who support Paterno mistakenly believe that he called the police.

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Fred Coppersmith

(no subject)

from: unrealfred
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)

Thank you. I didn't quite have the stomach to wade through the grand jury testimony myself, only the parts of it that have been widely reported. But even then, I thought the university made the right call in firing Paterno and Spanier. (And I say that as an alum and one-time University employee, who generally liked both of them up til now.) Turns out the failure to report, particularly by Paterno, is significantly worse than I'd thought.

It's a shame his career has to end like this, and that this has to tarnish the school's reputation, but it's much more a shame that he and others failed to protect those boys.

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(no subject)

from: renoir_girl
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)

Good god. Thank you for applying your considerable skills to this.

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(no subject)

from: charmingbillie
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)

Thank you, Charlie. This is very clear and useful.

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Laurel Amberdine

(no subject)

from: amberdine
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)

Thanks for this. When I went to get a copy of the indictment yesterday it had been made password-protected due to server overload.

Utterly horrific. I cannot understand how anyone can defend Paterno after learning the sequence of events.

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Stephanie C. Leary

(no subject)

from: sleary
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)

And then there's the DA who went missing after incident #3.

Thank you for the timeline, Charlie. I'm going to go drown myself in kitty pictures now.

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C. C. Finlay

(no subject)

from: ccfinlay
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)

That's the thing about kitty pictures - they never drown you, they only buoy you up.

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from: anonymous
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC)

I'd love for someone--ANYONE--to tell me how an adult male having anal intercourse with a 10 yr old boy isn't considered "that big of a deal". My mouth was literally hanging open. I hope that more punitive action is taken against ANYONE who had knowledge and failed to protect these children. Unreal.

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(no subject)

from: maggiedr
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)

Yes, thank you for the clear presented facts in chronological order. I knew nothing about this until two days ago, when it was announced Paterno was fired. When I started reading various internet reports yesterday, I couldn't figure out how long this had gone on and who knew what and when they knew it.

Now I wish the protesting students and other supporters of Palerno would read it and digest it.

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(no subject)

from: barbarienne
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)

I applaud your intestinal fortitude in reading the grand jury report. It is horrific.

There are so many people in this situation who failed again and again to do the right thing. This just kills me. There's no gray area here! If a professor and a student over the age of 18 were having a fling, it's inappropriate and possibly a problem, but I can imagine scenarios where it's not morally, ethically, or legally wrong.

There is no ambiguity about raping a child. There is no interpretation of those actions that is anything other than WRONG.

I hope some prosecutor decides to make his or her career by being the bulldog who went after the whole crew of adults who covered up this horror show.

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Dena Landon

Thank you for digging through this

from: dlandon
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)

This timeline is both useful and horrific. What Sandusky did is beyond terrible, but what also gets me is that he did it to already vulnerable youth in his charity. It's just...

It's also unfathomable to me that all these adults covered it up and turned a blind eye to it. I don't know how you could walk in on this happening and just walk out. My instinctual reaction is one of extreme violence towards the perpetrator.

I hope the parents file a class action suit against the university pronto. But, as I told Matt when he said Sandusky would be doing a lot of jail time, "You can't give back their innocence. There's no amount of money, or jail time, that can compensate a child for that loss."

- D

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Re: Thank you for digging through this

from: starcat_jewel
date: Nov. 15th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)

The fact that he did it to already-vulnerable children doesn't surprise me at all. That's what rapists do. They don't go after people who might fight back, either physically at the time of the attack or afterwards by reporting the incident. They seek out victims who can't fight back, or who are unlikely to do so because they're already in a one-down position (which is the scenario here), or whose testimony can be compromised because they said or did something that was "asking for it". Sandusky is absolutely typical of a serial rapist.

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(no subject)

from: shelly_rae
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC)

I'm appalled that in none of these incidents did anyone rescue the child. I don't let people get away with abusing pets much less a child! If I ever saw such a horror I'd be finding something to swing at the "bad man" and get that child out of there. I'm beyond appalled at anyone, ANYONE who can even begin to make excuses for not acting. We rescue kids. We don't let them be used in anyway. You never, ever walk away.

And yes, I know what I'd do in such a situation because I've done it--without a thought or doubt.

All those who did nothing need to go to jail. I hope the victims sue everyone.

Yes, I'm a little angry.


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Andrea Blythe

(no subject)

from: blythe025
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)

I heard about this case on the radio this morning, and it is the most vile thing I've ever heard about.

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In all seriousness, this is vile.

from: pingback_bot
date: Nov. 11th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)

User blythe025 referenced to your post from In all seriousness, this is vile. saying: [...] you want more information, here is an excellent break down of the Penn State events by a historian [...]

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