Judge Unveils Controversial Depositions Regarding Penn State’s Handling of Sexual Abuse Incidents

The university paid $93 million to alleged victims, one of whom claims Joe Paterno first knew of abuse in 1976.

 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

A Philadelphia judge unveiled depositions that shed light on the details of disturbing claims, revealed in May, that Penn State officials were aware of sexual abuse allegations regarding Jerry Sandusky far earlier than originally thought.

The documents stirred the pot of controversy surrounding Sandusky as well as former head football coach Joe Paterno and other university officials.

The stories of four alleged sexual abuse victims were addressed in multiple cases detailed in documents released by a judge in the university’s courtroom clash with its commercial general liability insurer, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company. The documents could reveal whether Penn State officials knew about inappropriate incidents regarding Sandusky decades ago and chose not to alert the insurance company.

Penn State is attempting to receive insurance coverage for the nearly $93 million it paid in settlements to self-proclaimed victims. The university is pushing for PMA to cover some of the settlements.

Whether or not PMA will chip in is largely based on the extent of knowledge Penn State officials had regarding alleged sexual abuse incidents. The allegations in the recently unsealed records have not been proven in court. The university did, however, make settlement payments regarding all cases addressed in the documents.

Formerly, the focus on cases involving Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse victims dated from 1998 to 2008. Perhaps the most controversial claim recently unveiled dates back to 1976 and involves Paterno.

The account is a direct report from an alleged victim who claimed Paterno said, “I don’t want to hear about that, I have a football season to worry about,” when the victim told Paterno that Sandusky had abused him in the shower.

The reports released by the insurance company also claim that two former assistant coaches walked in on Sandusky inappropriately touching children in the late 1980s. Around that time, another molestation claim that was made had been reported to an athletic director, according to the reports.

Penn State president Eric Barron released a statement yesterday regarding speculation of the allegations, which have not yet been proven in court. In May, Barron denounced the claims.

Paterno’s family issued the following statement, per PennLive, regarding claims that Paterno knew of abuse in 1976:

“From the beginning, the Paterno family has been outspoken in their desire for the complete truth in the Sandusky tragedy. They have also repeatedly called for due process for all affected parties. With this latest release of information, the total mishandling of the Sandusky investigation is highlighted once again.

“The overwhelming evidence confirms that Joe Paterno never engaged in a cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Multiple independent parties have confirmed this conclusion. In fact, consistent with University rules, Joe reported an allegation about Sandusky to administration officials. As President Barron stated in his message to the University earlier today, an environment where faculty and staff feel protected in reporting wrongdoing is a key objective of the University.

“The materials released today relating to Joe Paterno allege a conversation that occurred decades ago where all parties except the accuser are now dead. 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.

“When the Sandusky scandal first became public in 2011, there was a lot of rhetoric in the media about using this case as a model to help prevent other child sex abuse scandals. Sadly, one of the lessons from the Sandusky tragedy is how not to investigate a crime of this type.”

PennLive has the documents.

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