Sports

Court Filings Allege Joe Paterno Knew of Sandusky Child Abuse Claim in 1976

Things have just gotten worse for Penn State and Joe Paterno.
May 6, 2016, 1:18pm

A Philadelphia County judge's opinion in an insurance claim fight between Penn State University and its carrier, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co., has unearthed a previously unreported allegation regarding a 1976 incident of sexual abuse involving former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky, reported by the child to Joe Paterno himself. The opinion, written by judge Gary Glazer, also references two other incidents in 1987 where unnamed assistant coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and two unidentified children, and another 1988 incident that was allegedly reported to the athletic director at the time. Sandusky remained associated with the team until one week before his 2012 arrest on dozens of counts of sex-crime offenses.

The new information came to light because Penn State and its insurer are fighting over who should pay out the claims in the school's massive $60 million settlement with Sandusky victims in civil cases. Judge Glazer, writing in his opinion, held that the 1976, 1987, and 1988 claims were not barred from coverage under the policy because Penn State higher-ups, including the president and trustees, were not aware of them. The claims came to light in a separate insurance matter, via witness depositions.

From the order:

In 1976 a child allegedly reported to PSU's Head Football Coach Joseph Paterno, that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky; in 1987, a PSU Assistant Coach is alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a child at a PSU facility; in 1988 another PSU Assistant Coach reportedly witnessed sexual contact between Sandusky and a child; and also in 1988, a child's report of his molestation by Sandusky was allegedly referred to PSU's Athletic Director. There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU.

It's incredibly off-putting to be talking about incidents of sexual abuse reported by the children themselves through the lens of an insurance claim, but here we are. Under the terms of the insurance policy, the only individuals defined as "PSU" were the president, trustees, and stockholders. Since Joe Paterno and the assistant coaches did not hold any of those titles, "their knowledge, expectations, and intentions are not imputed to PSU to bar coverage for PSU." In other words, specifically because Joe Paterno and the rest of the athletics department did not report these specific alleged incidents to anyone at the school—or at least, since there is no proof that they did—Judge Glazer held that PSU may be entitled to coverage on those claims. Since this order is ruling on a motion for summary judgment, those claims will still be litigated; the ruling just declined to agree with the insurance carrier that they should be dropped from the case.

For context, story is in '76 JVP protected an obscure assistant coach no one had yet heard of, when JVP had 5 kids ages 4-14. It's bunk.
— Scott Paterno (@ScottPaterno) May 6, 2016

The order also mentioned several claims in the nineties that would not be covered—meaning Penn State will not be reimbursed by the carrier—because the policy at the time had a specific provision exempting claims of molestation.

Obviously, the Paterno family still disputes all of this. Wick Sollers, the Paterno family lawyer, was most strident, while Paterno's son, Scott called the allegations "bunk."

"Over the past four-and-a-half years Joe Paterno's conduct has been scrutinized by an endless list of investigators and attorneys," the Paterno family's attorney, Wick Sollers, said in a statement.
"Through all of this review there has never been any evidence of inappropriate conduct by Coach Paterno. To the contrary, the evidence clearly shows he shared information with his superiors as appropriate.
"An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky."

The only problem with the statement "there has never been any evidence of inappropriate conduct" is that we never heard of these claims before, and the allegations do not arise from decades-old reports. They were made in court proceedings while under oath with the threat of perjury looming. So even assuming that Soller's statement is true, that through all the evidence we have seen there is nothing to suggest Paterno covered anything up, this is all new, and they are sworn statements.

[Penn Live]