Penn State President: No Evidence Paterno Knew About Sandusky Assault in 1976
Penn State University president Eric Barron denounced a string of new allegations about the extent of the university’s knowledge of Jerry Sandusky‘s sexual abuse of children, and criticized the media for continuing to scrutinize the school, four years after Sandusky was convicted on dozens of sexual assault charges.
Barron shared his thoughts in a letter that was posted on Penn State’s website on Sunday, while the university was still reeling from the deluge of claims about Sandusky, who continues to cast a haunting shadow over the school even while he festers behind bars.
The first shockwave hit last Wednesday, in court documents tied to a legal battle between Penn State and its general liability insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company, over the more than $90 million in settlements that the university has paid out to Sandusky’s victims. Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Glazer wrote that PMA claims a boy told late football coach Joe Paterno in 1976 that he’d been abused by Sandusky. The insurance company also claims that two assistant coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children in the late 1980s, and that another molestation claim had been reported to an athletic director around that same time.
The bad news didn’t stop there. NBC reported that as many as six Penn State coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children — some as far back as the late 1970s, others in the early to mid 1990s. And then CNN interviewed a man who claims Paterno and another Penn State employed allegedly told him not to report that he’d been raped by Sandusky in 1971.
Barron called bullshit on the new claims — in so many words.
“None of these allegations about the supposed knowledge of University employees has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity,” he wrote. “I want you to know I am appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations. All too often in our society, people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented.”
Barron said the university re-examined records and depositions when the new allegations emerged, and determined the claims “are simply not established fact.” Paterno’s son, Scott Paterno, took to Twitter last week and dismissed the allegations about his father being aware of Sandusky’s pedophilia in the 1970s as “bunk.”
“The two allegations related to knowledge by Coach Paterno are unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim. They date from the 1970s. Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them,” Barron wrote. “Second, we cannot find any evidence, related to a settlement or otherwise, that an alleged early assault was communicated to Coach Paterno. This raises considerable credibility issues as to this press report.”
Barron derided the media reports as “incomplete” and “sensationalized,” and complained about the continued criticism that the university faces over all things Sandusky-related.
“But I have had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media. We have all had enough,” he wrote. “And while Penn State cannot always comment on allegations that emanate from legal proceedings, I thought it was important to let you know my reaction to the media frenzy that has ensued over the past few days. I am appalled.”
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