Suit: Sandusky Used Joe Paterno’s Famous White Socks to Buy Victim’s Silence

The newest lawsuit emerging from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State contains a fresh allegation that seems designed to renew all the hurt feelings that seem to have quieted in recent months. Sandusky, his accuser says, tried to buy an abuse victim’s silence by giving the young man … a pair of Joe Paterno’s socks.

Courthouse News Service first reported the allegation Thursday, which is contained in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by “John Doe 6,” with Penn State, Sandusky’s charity The Second Mile, and Sandusky himself named as the defendants. The plaintiff says he was 11 years old when he was sexually abused by Sandusky in May 1998. Sandusky invited the boy to the Penn State football offices at the Lasch Building on campus.

“Sandusky exploited his status as a member of the PSU football staff to facilitate grooming and coercing his intended victim, John Doe 6,” the lawsuit alleges. “Among other things, Sandusky invited John Doe 6 to visit the coaches’ offices and gave him a pair of Paterno’s socks.” Sandusky then lured the boy to the Lasch Building’s showers. The complaint continues, in some detail:

To be clear: There’s no suggestion in the lawsuit that Paterno himself ever knew that his own locker and possessions—his famous white socks—were being used to buy the silence of Sandusky’s abuse victim. The socks, of course, were part of Paterno’s much-beloved rumpled coach-Brown University grad persona that helped make the football program so popular.

The boy’s mother called Penn State police the next day to report the incident. From there, the lawsuit relies largely on the findings of the Freeh Report to suggest that Penn State officials didn’t pursue the case as vigorously as they should have—and at times seemed more interested in exonerating Sandusky than in substantiating the boy’s report. (This is the case where investigators listened to Sandusky telling the boy’s mother he’d probably acted inappropriately, and “wished (he) was dead.) Ultimately, of course, no charges were brought in the incident—and Sandusky continued to prey on young men for more than a decade, using Penn State’s facilities—his office next to Paterno’s for much of the time—until being charged in 2011.

“Instead of protecting children, including Plaintiff, from sexual abuse by Sandusky, Defendant Penn State and Sandusky acted in concert to shield Sandusky from criminal detection, shielded the hierarchy and the leadership of Penn State from scandal, attempted to shield Penn State from liability, fostered a culture of silence, and attempted to protect its reputation instead of protecting, and actually helping, children,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff demands a jury trial, and damages in excess of $75,000 on each of six civil counts of liability, conspiracy, and neglect raised in the suit. [Courthouse News Service]