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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett responds to Penn State sexual abuse scandal

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With his state reeling over charges of child sexual abuse against a former assistant football coach at Penn State and allegations of a coverup by two top university officials, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) expressed confidence Sunday that state lawmakers would soon pass legislation requiring employees and other individuals to report allegations of such abuse directly to law enforcement officials, rather than merely pass them along to superiors at an institution.

Corbett’s statement came in a response to a question on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about whether ousted Penn State head coach Joe Paterno had done enough after being told in 2002 by graduate coaching assistant Mike McQueary that he had allegedly observed Paterno’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, rape a young boy in a Penn State shower. According to a state report that accompanied the indictment of Sandusky and two university administrators, Paterno communicated McQueary’s story to a superior in the Penn State athletic department but took no further action. Sandusky has been charged with molesting at least eight boys in a 15-year span, beginning in 1994. Sandusky has denied the charges.

Corbett did not directly address the matter of Paterno’s role, though he made clear that he views the state’s current disclosure statute as in need of a stringent overhaul that would have legally required someone in Paterno’s position to do more. “Absolutely,” he said when pressed as to whether the disclosure law should be changed, adding: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bill passed between now and the end of this year.”

He made no effort to conceal his disappointment with McQueary, who told no one in law enforcement about what he had supposedly witnessed. “He met the minimum [legal] obligation of reporting it up — but [he] did not, in my opinion, meet a moral obligation that all of us have,” Corbett said. Then, referring to McQueary’s claim of witnessing Sandusky’s abuse of the child in the university showers, Corbett added: “I think everyone believes that they would go in and break that up.”

In a wide-ranging discussion of the scandal, Corbett — who as Pennsylvania’s attorney general had initiated the state’s investigation of Sandusky in 2009 — did not rule out the possibility of new disclosures and additional criminal action.

Is there more to come? he was asked.

“You never know what’s to come,” Corbett said, referring to the three defendants and the chance of additional evidence. “Should some of them decide to cooperate, if they tell us information that we don’t have . . . sure, there’s always the potential for that.”

Corbett, a Republican in his first term as governor, touched on the fallout of the indictments, including its effect on Penn State athletics. Asked whether the alleged coverup indicated that its fabled football program had corrupted the university, Corbett said no, though he added, “The question should be: What is the openness at Penn State — and maybe at all major universities and even small universities?”

He indicated that he hadn’t made up his mind (“I’d have to give that some thought”) about whether Penn State should play in a postseason bowl game this year, deeming it a matter for the university board of trustees — of which he is a member — to consider. But he resisted a suggestion that perhaps the football program should be suspended or suffer serious sanctions. “This has nothing to do with the men on the team right now,” he said. “I don’t think they should have to suffer because of the actions of a few.”

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