While Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly says that her office won't file charges against Joe Paterno for not reporting the alleged child sexual abuse by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the 84-year-old coach could eventually face criminal charges for perjury, obstruction of justice and violating the state's Child Protective Services Law. Paterno could also become a defendant in civil lawsuits filed by Sandusky's alleged victims. Those lawsuits could allege that Paterno negligently failed to prevent a third party with whom he had a supervisory relationship (Sandusky) from committing abuse.
Perjury and Obstruction of Justice Under Pennsylvania law, as in other jurisdictions, perjury refers to knowingly lying while under oath. Obstruction of justice describes interference with the administration of justice, such as by concealing evidence or delaying or frustrating a criminal investigation. While Paterno has thus far escaped these criminal charges, his statements and behavior suggest that he remains vulnerable to them. That is particularly evident when considering troubling inconsistencies between Paterno's testimony to the grand jury that investigated Sandusky and the testimony of Penn State assistant Mike McQueary.
These inconsistencies related to Paterno's and McQueary's statements about "Victim 2" in the grand jury's statement of facts. According to the grand jury's findings of fact, McQueary detailed how in 2002 he saw a naked Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in the showers in the Penn State football locker room. McQueary also testified that he told Paterno what he saw the following day, though it isn't clear from McQueary's testimony how explicit he was in his description to Paterno.
After hearing from McQueary, Paterno alerted athletic director Tim Curley. Yet instead of relaying what McQueary claims to have told him, Paterno conveyed a milder and vaguer description. Specifically, Paterno testified under oath that McQueary had said that Sandusky was engaged in fondling or "doing something of a sexual nature" to a boy.
To be sure, the phrase "doing something of a sexual nature" technically includes forcibly subjecting a child to anal intercourse, meaning Paterno may have been more evasive than untruthful. Then again, Paterno's hazy choice of words could encompass a band of sexual acts, from raping a 10-year-old boy to inappropriately touching or patting a child, that ranges too widely in heinousness to be deemed consistent with McQueary's allegedly more specific statements. The phrase unnecessarily imports ambiguity and generality where none had existed, and dubiously invites the listener -- Curley -- to assign a lack of severity to the incident. From that lens, Paterno appears to have told Curley a different account than what McQueary had told him.
The inconsistent testimonies raise several questions:...read more