Penn State fans, please put down your pom poms, place the life sized cardboard cutout of Joe Pa back in the closet, and have a seat. This does not look good.
(CNN) -- With convicted serial child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky behind bars, new questions are surfacing about what Penn State officials knew about a 2001 incident involving the former assistant football coach's encounter with a boy in the shower -- and whether they covered up the incident.Very interesting, isnt it, how they never mention Jerry Sandusky or The Second Mile by name. It's almost like they were trying to cover their asses or something. Still, it seemed at that point they were willing to take the necessary steps by contacting the child welfare agency. So what happened?
In an exchange of messages from February 26-28, 2001, Spanier allegedly acknowledges Penn State could be "vulnerable" for not reporting the incident, according to two sources with knowledge of the case.
"The only downside for us is if the message (to Sandusky) isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier purportedly writes.
The alleged e-mails among Spanier, Schultz, 62, and former Athletic Director Tim Curley, 57, never mention Sandusky by name, instead referring to him as "the subject" and "the person." Children that Sandusky brought on campus --some of whom might have been victims -- are referred to as "guests."
The exchanges began 16 days after graduate assistant Mike McQueary first told Coach Joe Paterno on February 9, 2001, that McQueary believed he saw Sandusky make sexual contact with a boy in a locker room shower.
In an alleged e-mail dated February 26, 2001, Schultz writes to Curley that he assumes Curley's "got the ball" about a three-part plan to "talk with the subject asap regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility," ... "contacting the chair of the charitable organization" and "contacting the Department of Welfare," according to a source with knowledge of the case.
Schultz refers to Sandusky as the "subject" and Sandusky's Second Mile charity as the "charitable organization," according to a source with knowledge of the e-mails.
Pennsylvania law requires suspected child abuse be reported to outside authorities, including the state's child welfare agencies.
But then, something changes.During Mike McQueary's testimony, he said something I found very interesting. When asked by Joe Amendola (Sandusky's lawyer) why he had not pursued further action, he asked if he could testify to a conversation he had with Joe Paterno- "Because that would explain why I didn't". He was not allowed to testify to this because it would have been considered hearsay.
The next evening, February 27, Curley allegedly writes to Spanier. Schultz, who's out of the office for two weeks, is copied.
Curley refers to a meeting scheduled that day with Spanier and indicates they apparently discussed the Sandusky incident two days earlier.
Curley indicates he no longer wants to contact child welfare authorities just yet. He refers to a conversation the day before with Paterno. It's not known what Paterno may have said to Curley.
Curley writes: "After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps."
The athletic director apparently preferred to keep the situation an internal affair and talk things over with Sandusky instead of notifying the state's child welfare agency to investigate Sandusky's suspicious activity.
"I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved," Curley allegedly continues.
Curley writes he'd be "more comfortable" meeting with Sandusky himself and telling him they know about the 2001 incident and -- according to a source with knowledge of the case -- refers to another shower incident with a boy in 1998 that was investigated by police, but never resulted in charges against Sandusky.
Curley writes to Penn State's president Spanier that he wants to meet with Sandusky, tell him there's "a problem," and that "we want to assist the individual to get professional help."
In the same purported e-mail provided to CNN, Curley goes on to suggest that if Sandusky "is cooperative," Penn State "would work with him" to tell Second Mile. If not, Curley states, the university will inform both Second Mile and outside authorities.
Curley adds that he intends to inform Sandusky that his "guests" won't be allowed to use Penn State facilities anymore.
"What do you think of this approach?" Curley allegedly wrote to Spanier.
About two hours later, Spanier responded to Curley in another e-mail and copied Schultz. Spanier allegedly called the plan "acceptable", but worries whether it's the right thing to do, according to two sources.
"The only downside for us is if the message (to Sandusky) isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier purportedly wrote.
"But that can be assessed down the down the road. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed," he adds.
The next afternoon, Schultz allegedly responded to the Penn State president and its athletic director. Schultz signs off on handling the matter without telling anyone on the outside, at least for now.
"This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,' Schultz purportedly wrote. But he made clear Penn State should inform Sandusky's charity Second Mile "with or without (Sandusky's) cooperation."
As for telling child welfare authorities, he added, "we can play it by ear."
No one ever reported the 2001 shower incident. A decade later, a 2011 grand jury found no Pennsylvania law enforcement or child welfare agency was ever told.
We may never know what Joe Paterno said to Mike McQueary that day, or what he said to Gary Schultz to change his mind about contacting the proper authorities. But these emails would seem to put to rest any talk that Joe Paterno didn’t know what was going on, or that he didn't have any power or influence over how the investigation proceeded.
What we do know is that their collective inaction meant that Jerry Sandusky continued his predatory behavior for almost another decade. That is, until a 15 year old kid with more courage in his little finger than Joe Paterno and all of these men combined, finally stopped him.
UPDATE-When this was initially reported, none of the sources I found seemed to be making the connection that these emails implicated Paterno himself. That has changed over the last few hours. This New York Times article had some interesting additional information:
Freeh’s investigation, begun last fall, is expected to be the most thorough examination of the university’s dealings with Sandusky, including the question of whether there was a cover-up involving the 2001 accusations.That lawyer was Wendell Courtney, who coincidentally also represented The Second Mile (on a pro-bono basis) until the scandal broke. He stated back in November that he was NOT notified of the nature of the allegations.
To that end, Freeh’s investigation has identified previously undisclosed billing records showing that officials of the university, when deciding what to do in 2001, consulted with the law firm that served as its outside counsel on their legal obligation to report the assault, the person familiar with the inquiry said. It is unclear from the billing records whether the officials disclosed the nature of the accusations against Sandusky or simply made a general inquiry. Several hours were billed, beginning on a Sunday night, the person said. The lawyer who represented the university at the time did not return a phone call requesting comment.
And then, there is this...
Freeh’s investigators are also exploring the circumstances surrounding Paterno’s decision to eventually hire McQueary as an assistant coach, the person familiar with the investigation said. McQueary, a former quarterback for Paterno at Penn State, has testified under oath that when he first contacted Paterno to inform him of what he had seen in the showers, Paterno assumed he was calling to ask for a job, and that Paterno brusquely told him he would not be hired.Stay tuned....
McQueary was ultimately hired over another, more experienced candidate, and investigators are curious about whether that development came as a consequence of what he told Paterno that morning in 2001.
4:00 PM PT: Another take from the always excellent Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports:
*UPDATE #3 (Final)*
Perhaps Curley lied in that original email, although why is anyone's guess. Perhaps Paterno forgot about the meeting (a decade had passed by the time the then 84-year-old testified in front of the grand jury). Or perhaps Paterno was trying to cover his tracks by not mentioning it under oath.
The other possibility is that the meeting did take place and Paterno supported turning Sandusky over to child welfare but Curley, after "giving it more thought," overruled Paterno's position and changed direction.
That one is difficult to believe. Tim Curley was Joe Paterno's boss in title only. Curley grew up in State College in a house just down the street from the current Beaver Stadium. He parked cars and sold programs as a kid. He played football at Penn State and was said to be JoePa's handpicked choice as athletic director years later.
This latest report could really damage former Penn State coach Joe Paterno's legacy. (AP)Tim Curley, like so many in State College, stood in awe of Paterno. Forget the organizational chart, he worked for the coach more than the coach worked for him.
The notion that he would ignore Paterno's advice, and then upon doing so never have Paterno question him or later overrule him, is highly unlikely.
The Paterno family's lawyer responds:
Some number of email exchanges between former Penn State officials have apparently been leaked to the media. Since the Paterno family is not in possession of these emails, it would be inappropriate to comment on their supposed content. To be clear, the emails in question did not originate with Joe Paterno or go to him as he never personally utilized email
From the beginning, Joe Paterno warned against a rush to judgment in this case. Coach Paterno testified truthfully, to the best of his recollection, in the one brief appearance he made before the Grand Jury. As he testified, when informed of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky in 2001, Coach Paterno, followed University procedures and promptly and fully informed his superiors. He believed the matter would be thoroughly and professionally investigated and he did not interfere with or attempt to compromise any investigation.