In 2014, a man testified that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno ignored his complaints of a sexual assault committed by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in 1976 when the man was a 14-year-old boy, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday in a Philadelphia court.
Four other former assistant football coaches at the school also were aware of Sandusky acting inappropriately with boys before law enforcement was first notified in 1998, according to testimony contained in the documents.
The allegations suggest that Paterno may have been made aware of Sandusky’s actions far earlier than has previously been reported, and that knowledge of Sandusky’s behavior may have been far more widespread among the Penn State football staff than previously known.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, both former Penn State assistants named in the documents, denied the allegations Tuesday.
The testimony of multiple victims who have settled with Penn State, and of former assistant Mike McQueary — who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy on campus in 2001 — comes as the specifics of what Paterno and others knew about Sandusky and when are still being debated in courts and in the court of public opinion in Pennsylvania.
The trove of documents unsealed Tuesday came from a legal dispute between the university and an insurance company over the responsibility for nearly $93 million the school paid in settlements with victims. Additionally, the Paterno family is suing the NCAA for defamation and commercial disparagement; the NCAA is considering using some of the information released Tuesday in its defense.
In the Penn State community, an alumni group is pushing for a bronze statue of Paterno to be restored on campus, and for the university to repudiate a 2012 report by former FBI director Louis Freeh that blamed Paterno, other university leaders and a “culture of reverence for the football program” for Sandusky’s rampant sexual abuse.
Paterno died of lung cancer in 2012, just months before Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys and sentenced to 30 to 60 years. Sandusky, 72, is appealing his conviction.
The 1976 victim, identified in court records as John Doe 150, said that while he was attending a football camp at Penn State, Sandusky touched him as he showered. Sandusky’s finger penetrated the boy’s rectum, Doe said, and the boy asked to speak with Paterno about it. Doe testified that he specifically told Paterno that Sandusky had sexually assaulted him, and Paterno ignored it.
“Is it accurate that Coach Paterno quickly said to you, ‘I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about?’ ” the man’s lawyer asked.
“Yes . . . I was shocked, disappointed, offended. I was insulted. . . . I said, is that all you’re going to do? You’re not going to do anything else?”
Paterno, the man testified, just walked away.
The man testified that he never told law enforcement or his family about the incident.
The documents include no other independent corroboration of the incident, and the Paterno family released a statement questioning the testimony.
“Joe Paterno never engaged in a cover up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes,” the family said. “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.”
In 2011, Paterno testified to a grand jury that he first became aware of possible abuse by Sandusky in 2001, when McQueary told him he had witnessed Sandusky assaulting a boy in a shower. Paterno said then he knew of no other similar event involving Sandusky and a boy.
Sandusky was a longtime defensive coach for Paterno who was respected on the field for his football acumen and off the field for his charitable work before he was unmasked as a serial child predator. Sandusky met most of his victims through Second Mile, a charity he created in 1977 to help underprivileged youth. He often brought Second Mile children to the football team’s facilities on campus.
While law enforcement only first became aware of allegations against Sandusky in 1998, the documents released Tuesday include several incidents in the 1980s and 1990s when Penn State football coaches and officials were aware of improper behavior by Sandusky around boys.
In 1987, according to a man identified as John Doe 75, he was a 13-year-old boy when Sandusky brought him to a coaches’ meeting room and put his hand down the boy’s shorts. Assistant coach Joe Sarra walked into the room and saw them, Doe 75 testified. Startled, Sarra immediately left and closed the door behind him, and Sandusky kissed the boy on his forehead, Doe 75 testified.
Sarra died in 2012.
In 1988, according to a man identified as John Doe 101, he was lying in his underwear on a black leather couch in an athletics facility and Sandusky was rubbing the boy’s back when a weight room assistant named Kevin O’Dea walked into the room. He was 9 or 10 years old at the time, Doe 101 said.
“Did Mr. O’Dea say anything when he came in and saw that?” his lawyer asked.
“No,” Doe 101 said.
O’Dea, who last coached with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, issued a statement denying the allegations and said he did not work at Penn State at that time.
Doe 101 said he often stayed in Sandusky’s room in the team hotel the night before home games, and that he routinely showered with Sandusky and other coaches — including Paterno — and no one raised an eyebrow as Sandusky lathered him up and engaged in “horseplay.”
“Would any of the other coaches bring young men back . . . and shower with them?” his lawyer asked.
“Some of the coaches’ sons would come in and work out,” Doe 101 said. “But I don’t believe I ever saw any, just, coaches bringing random children in and showering with them.”
The first time a law enforcement agency was notified of possible abuse involving Sandusky was in 1998, when a mother reported to Penn State University police that her 11-year-old son had showered with Sandusky. Local district attorney Ray Gricar decided not to press charges. Gricar mysteriously disappeared in 2005. Sandusky retired in 1999 but maintained access to the campus and athletic facilities. The investigation that ultimately resulted in Sandusky’s conviction started in 2009.
In Sandusky’s trial, pivotal testimony came from McQueary, a former Penn State graduate assistant. The documents released Tuesday include new 2015 deposition testimony of McQueary in which he said he’d heard other assistants had knowledge of Sandusky’s abuse.
When McQueary told Bradley, another longtime Penn State assistant to Paterno, what he saw Sandusky doing to a boy in a shower, McQueary said, Bradley was “not shocked.”
“[Bradley] said he knew of some things,” McQueary said. “He said another assistant coach had come to him in the early ’90s about a very similar situation to mine, and he said that he had — someone had to come to him as far back as the early ’80s about Jerry doing something with a boy.”
According to McQueary, Bradley identified Schiano as the other assistant from the early 90s. “Greg had come into his office white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower,” he said. “And that’s it. That’s all he ever told me.”
McQueary said he didn’t know whether Bradley had reported the incident.
Bradley released a statement Tuesday through a spokesman, Brett Senior. “At no time did Tom Bradley ever witness any inappropriate behavior,” Senior wrote. “Nor did he have any knowledge of alleged incidents in the 80’s and 90’s. . . . Any assertions to the contrary are false. When he became aware of the 2001 incident it had already been reported to the University administration years earlier.”
Schiano issued a denial on Twitter. “I never saw any abuse, nor had reason to suspect any abuse, during my time at Penn State,” he wrote.
Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement Tuesday posted on the university’s website.
“Penn State’s overriding concern has been, and remains, for the victims of Jerry Sandusky,” Barron wrote. “Although settlements have been reached, it also is important to reiterate that the alleged knowledge of former Penn State employees is not proven, and should not be treated as such. Some individuals deny the claims, and others are unable to defend themselves.”