Just over four months after Penn State’s board of trustees fired iconic football coach Joe Paterno and the university’s president in reaction to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the board released a report Monday reaffirming its decision.
The report, posted on the university’s website, was commissioned after a major public outcry among students, faculty, and others in and around the university community, charging that the firings were improper.
Though the report applauded the legacies and contributions of both former University President Graham Spanier and Paterno, who died in January after battling cancer, it condemned Paterno’s failure to call police after a graduate assistant told him that he had seen former assistant football coach Sandusky molesting a young boy in a university athletic facility.
“The Board determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno,” the report said.
It also defined the board’s “overriding commitment going forward — to remember the children who may have been victims of sexual abuse on or near the University Park campus over the last 10 or more years and to support their healing process as best we can.”
Trustee Ken Frazier was quoted in the report further explaining the board’s position, ”[E]very adult has a responsibility for every child in our community. And …we have a responsibility not to do the minimum, the legal requirement. We have a responsibility for ensuring that we can make every effort that’s within our power not only to prevent further harm to that one child, but to every child.”
Not long after the report was posted, the Paterno family released a scathing retort, ”The latest statement is yet another attempt by the Board to deflect criticism of their leadership by trying to focus the blame on Joe Paterno. This is not fair to Joe’s legacy; it is not consistent with the facts; and it does not serve the best interests of the university. The board’s latest statement reaffirms that they did not conduct a thorough investigation of their own and engaged in a rush to judgment.”
The Paterno family’s statement also decried what it called the board’s lack of leadership, concluding that, “Everyone who cares about Penn State is longing for strong, courageous, honest leadership. Today’s statement is anything but that.”
Meanwhile, Sandusky’s attorney Joe Amendola was back in court today.
During a short hearing this morning, he addressed his request for a more specific bill of particulars, arguing with prosecutors about how much information the defense should be allowed to see in regards to the accusers and their accounts of the alleged abuse.
Amendola argued that the accusers should be able to remember dates when the alleged abuse occurred. He said that if they cannot remember dates, he plans to motion to dismiss the trial, citing a violation of the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
“I think it’s fundamentally unfair to Mr. Sandusky’s due process rights and his chance to have a fair trial,” Amendola said.
But prosecutors said that any inability of the alleged victims to describe the abuse with more specificity is not surprising, considering their ages at the time, and the nature of the abuse. The alleged victims were all youths when the alleged assaults occurred. One boy was 10 years old.
Prosecutors also added that Sandusky gave up that right to ask those kinds of questions when he waived his preliminary hearing in December.
Sandusky did not appear in court today; Amendola said that he did not want to cause an uproar by bringing his client, who he described as “anxious.” Sandusky is under house arrest in his Centre County home.