New court documents cast doubt that Penn State coach Joe Paterno may only have heard about Jerry Sandusky's abuse in 1994

By Alex Heigl
May 06, 2016 02:20 PM
Gene J. Puskar/AP

New allegations that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was aware that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing boys as early as 1976 have sparked many questions. Here are five things to know about the allegations.

1. What are these new allegations and why are they coming to light now?
Joe Paterno allegedly was made aware of the sexual abuse allegations against assistant coach Jerry Sandusky as early as 1976. A Pennsylvania court order, released Thursday and obtained by PEOPLE, also states that the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance claimed other “Penn State agents” witnessed four cases of inappropriate conduct by Sandusky towards children between 1976 and 1988. Prior to these allegations, the earliest known incidents involving Sandusky were in 1994.

Penn State is embroiled in a dispute with its insurance carriers over the $60 million-plus it is on the hook for in Sandusky-related civil settlements. Penn State had hoped to see some of those funds reimbursed through various insurance coverages, but one of the college’s primary carriers, the aforementioned PMAI, has pushed back.

2. Why is the insurance company fighting with Penn State?
According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Mike McCann, “The key legal issue for purposes of whether Penn State has a right to collect on its insurance policy with PMA is whether Penn State expected or intended the bodily injuries that Sandusky inflicted upon his many victims.”

Judge Gary Glazer is charged with assessing whether Penn State trustees or shareholders knew about Sandusky’s conduct.

Glazer ruled that because there was no evidence that the allegations went any higher than Paterno, the university’s executives and higher-ups weren’t made aware of them and therefore could not be expected to provide PMAI with any warning.

Many of the aspects of the case are still pending.

3. Will we ever know if the allegation is true?
The 1976 incident has not been corroborated. McCann writes that it’s unlikely it will ever be known whether the allegation is true or false because the record containing the transcript of the deposition referenced by Glazer is sealed. Also, the victim who made the allegation against Paterno may have reached a confidential settlement with Penn State.

4. Paterno’s family statement has slammed the ‘unsubstantiated, forty-year-old allegation’
A statement about the allegations from the Paterno family said, “Joe Paterno’s reputation has once again been smeared with an unsubstantiated, forty-year-old allegation. In response to this allegation and the subsequent media hype, the Paterno family is demanding a full public review of the facts.”

The statement continued, “The reckless, all-out rush to accept accusations as legitimate without a full fair review of the facts, cannot be allowed to happen again. Fighting shadows and rumors on issues that are this significant is a disservice to everyone who cares about the truth.”

5. Where is Sandusky now?
After being convicted of 45 of 48 charges stemming from the allegations he molested 10 boys at Penn State and elsewhere, Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. Last year, he launched an effort to overturn the conviction on the grounds that his rights were violated in the original trial and that his lawyers were ineffective.

Sandusky will be back in court on May 20 while his lawyers continue their efforts.