Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Scandal That Keeps On Giving

The Paterno home near the Penn State campus
Eleven days after the arrest of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the hydra-headed scandal shows no sign of abating.

In the last 48 hours, there have been these development:

* Mike McQueary, the assistant football coach under fire for his reported lack of action in an alleged 2002 anal rape of a boy by Sandusky in the team's locker room showers, said in an email to a former classmate that he stopped the assault and discussed it with police. This account contradicts the accounts of now-fired football coach Joe Paterno, university police and testimony given to the grand jury that indicted Sandusky.

* Paterno, who has been criticized for not taking more decisive action when after he spoke to Sandusky about one of the alleged incidents, transferred full ownership of his house to his wife, Sue, for $1 in July, less than four months before the scandal broke. Some legal experts suggested that the transfer was made to help shield himself from legal exposure if he became the target of lawsuits.

* NBC News made public Bob Costas' entire interview with Sandusky, a portion of which had aired on Monday night. The contortions he made in maintaining his innocence heightens the impression that he seems to be a very sick and remorse-free man perhaps unaware of his own addiction, as well as failing to comprehend that his on-air comments were the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire.

* Centre County, Pennsylvania District Judge Leslie Dutchcot, who was once a volunteer for Sandusky's Second Mile charity, was criticized for releasing Sandusky on $100,000 bail at the conclusion of a hearing in her court on November 5, far less than the $500,000 that prosecutors had called for.

McQueary states in an email dated November 8 obtained by the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, that he "did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police" following the alleged incident. He wrote that he "is getting hammered for handling this the right way or what I thought at the time was right."

"I had to make tough impacting quick decisions," McQueary wrote.

In a brief interview with CBS News on yesterday, McQueary said he could not discuss specifics of the situation but described his emotions as "all over the place. . . . Just kind of shaking. Crazy. Like a snow globe."

McQueary has been criticized widely for not going directly to police to report the alleged abuse. In an appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said McQueary met "the minimum obligation" in reporting the incident to his superiors, including Paterno, but did not "meet a moral obligation that all of us would have."

According to the grand jury report, the graduate assistant, later identified as McQueary, said he saw a boy, whose age he estimated at 10 years old, "being subjected to anal intercourse" by a naked Sandusky in a shower at the Penn State football building in March 2002. The graduate assistant left "immediately," was "distraught" and called his father. His father told him to leave the building and come to his home.

In the email, McQueary said "I did stop it, not physically, but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room."

Paterno and his wife had jointly bought their off-campus house for $58,000 in 1969, while documents filed in Centre County show that it is now worth $594,484,40. The transfer of Paterno's share to his wife was made for a dollar plus "love and affection."

Wick Sollers, a lawyer for Paterno, said in an e-mail to The New York Times that the Paternos had been engaged in a “multiyear estate planning program” and the transfer “was simply one element of that plan.” He said it had nothing to do with the scandal.

Experts in estate planning and tax law, in interviews, cautioned that it would be hard to determine the Paternos' motivation simply from the available documents. It appears the family house had been the subject of years of complex and confusing transactions.

Lawrence A. Frolik, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in elder law, said that he had "never heard" of a husband selling his share of a house for $1 to his spouse for tax or government assistance purposes.

"I can’t see any tax advantages," Frolik told The Times. "If someone told me that, my reaction would be, 'Are they hoping to shield assets in case if there’s personal liability?' " He added,"“It sounds like an attempt to avoid personal liability in having assets in his wife’s name."

Having now listened to the entire Sandusky phone interview, I have to agree with Times television critic Alessandra Stanley, who writes that it was "one of the more disturbing and damaging attempts at spin control in recent memory — and this is an election year. Sandusky sounded a little like those men who are caught in pedophile sting operations on the program 'To Catch a Predator' and can’t stop talking. But Sandusky wasn't ambushed; his lawyer was the one who asked Costas if he wanted to talk directly to his client."

At one point, Sandusky seems to take credit for all the young boys he didn’t touch or shower with. Costas asked him about reports that still more possible victims from the Second Mile, the charity founded by Sandusky, could come forward.

"I would . . . I would guess that there are many young people who would come forward," Sandusky replied, "many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods, and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life."

Not content to leave it at that, he added: "And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped. There are many that I didn't have -- I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."

Among those criticizing District Judge Dutchcot was Monroe County, Pennsylvania District Attorney David Christine.

"I won't comment about her decision in that case, but I will say I don't believe any district judge here in Monroe County would have set a bail amount that low for someone charged with what Sandusky is charged with," said Christine. "I think the prosecution's request in that case was reasonable."

Dutchcot is a former Monroe County assistant prosecutor and was a volunteer at The Second Mile at-risk children's camp Sandusky founded in 1977.

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