Jerry Sandusky Accuser Says Joe Paterno Dismissed Sex Abuse Claim in 1976: 'I Have a Football Season to Worry About'
The man says Penn State coach Joe Paterno allegedly walked away from him when he told him Sandusky had abused him
A man who says he alerted former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in 1976 that he was allegedly being sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky when he was 14 claims Paterno brushed him off, according to newly released documents reviewed by PEOPLE.
“Is it accurate that Coach Paterno quickly said to you, ‘I don’t want to hear about any of that stuff, I have a football season to worry about?,’ ” an attorney said in questioning the man, who is identified in the documents only as John Doe 150.
“Specifically yes,” answered the man, who added, “I was shocked, disappointed, offended. I was insulted.”
The exchange provides the fullest details yet alleging Paterno knew of allegations involving Sandusky, a former assistant coach, long before 1998, which independent investigators established as when Paterno and others school officials first would have been alerted to misconduct allegations reported to police.
The documents unsealed Tuesday relate to a legal fight with the university’s insurer over who should cover millions of dollars in payments to alleged victims of Sandusky, who is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his 2012 conviction on 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Sandusky, the longtime defensive coordinator under Paterno, has maintained his innocence and appealed his conviction, and was granted a hearing scheduled for August. His current attorney, Alexander Lindsay, has alleged prosecutorial misconduct and faults Sandusky’s trial team for alleged errors in his defense, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports.
In response to the unsealed documents, the family of Paterno, who died in 2012, again defended the iconic figure, who retired amid the scandal but before he died had consistently denied knowledge of misconduct by Sandusky.
“The materials released today relating to Joe Paterno allege a conversation that occurred decades ago where all parties except the accuser are now dead,” read a statement obtained by PEOPLE from the family’s attorney, Wick Sollers. “In addition, there are numerous specific elements of the accusations that defy all logic and have never been subjected to even the most basic objective examination. Most significantly, there is extensive evidence that stands in stark contrast to this claim.”
“That Penn State chose to settle claims without fully assessing the underlying facts is something that the University obviously felt they had to do to help resolve this matter. We understand their desire for closure, but it does not remotely validate the assertions about an uncorroborated conversation with Joe Paterno,” the statement said.
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John Doe 150 Says Paterno ‘Just Walked Away’ From Him
The allegations by John Doe 150, and released Tuesday were made in an October 2014 deposition. They expand on revelations this past May, when a court order in the case involving the university and Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co. first stated that Paterno knew about sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky as far back as 1976. At the time, the earliest publicly known incidents involving Sandusky dated to 1994.
John Doe 150 said he was attending a football camp on the campus and showering with a half dozen other boys when Sandusky inserted his finger into the boy’s rectum.
In the deposition, he was asked: “You then say you shouted, and again, there’s quotes around this, ‘He [violated the victim].’ Is that pretty accurate as to what you said?”
“Yes,” he relied.
“Okay. Now you say the other boys all turned around and looked somewhat stunned by what was going on. Sandusky responded, again with quotes, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was getting that close.’ First of all, is that an accurate description, as you sit here today, as to what occurred?”
“Yes,” he again replied.
The man said none of the other campers said anything, and he didn t know whether anyone else actually witnessed what had happened to him. He says he told other adults that he could not identify by name, and their lack of action – “They expressed concern, but that was it,” he said – caused him to seek out Paterno the following day. “I specifically asked to speak with him,” he said.
He said he approached the head football coach in an office. “He and several other coaches were walking, and he said, just follow me,” he recalled.
Asked the attorney: “And you then say that you told Coach Paterno – you approached Coach Paterno and informed him that Jerry Sandusky [violated the victim]; is that accurate?”
“Was it just the two of you? Did anybody else –?”
“Person to person, it was just the two of us, but there were several people within three, four, five feet.” He says he did not recall speaking loudly enough for others to hear. “I was embarrassed,” he said.
After hearing Paterno brush aside his statement, the man says he replied, “Is that all you’re going to do? You’re not going to do anything else?”
Asked the attorney: “And then you say he just walked away from you?”
“Just walked away,” the man said.
The man, whose allegation was not aired at Sandusky’s trial, says he never shared the alleged incident with his own high school coach, his parents, siblings or friends, and kept silent about it for some 20 years, until the early 1990s, when he says he reported it to a Penn State alumnus whose name was redacted from the document.
Among the papers released with the court documents on Tuesday were those quoting an independent expert, lawyer Eric Anderson, who was hired by the university’s insurer and who described some of the victim settlement offers as “extremely high.”
“It appears as though Penn State made little effort, if any, to verify the credibility of the claims of the individuals,” Anderson wrote, adding, “Also present in the analytical process may have been a concern about publicity and a desire to resolve the matters very quickly.”
The names of those who received settlements, and the amounts, have not been made public.