Paterno family, supporters say truth is yet to come out

mdawson@centredaily.comNovember 9, 2013 

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Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers, left, talks with Scott Paterno as they enter the courthouse. Lawyers for the NCAA, Paterno family and Paterno supporters were in Bellefonte, Pa., at the Centre County Courthouse, Tuesday, October 29, 2013, for a court hearing. The lawsuit brought by the Paterno family aims to wipe out the NCAA sanctions against Penn State University. Centre Daily Times/Nabil K. Mark

NABIL K. MARK — CDT photo Buy Photo

Ten days after the Freeh report’s release, Penn State took down the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium.

The university has kept its hiding place a secret, and so rumors persist over where it’s being kept and fans speculate about whether it’ll ever see the light of day again.

That mystery is just one of many of the question marks left in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that have been building up over the past two years, since the charges against the former defensive coach for the Nittany Lions rocked the university and the community.

As the scandal and the aftermath march into a third year, there are those who are hoping that the unanswered pieces of the scandal puzzle will some day become known.

“In the two years since we first learned of the tragic events within our community, my family and I have pursued the simple direction Joe left us: find the truth,” said Sue Paterno, the widow of Joe Paterno, in a statement released by the family’s spokesman. “We remain committed to that patient and methodical pursuit to this day.”

The family is pinning its hopes on finding that truth through pending legal proceedings and other methods, such as Right-to-Know Law requests.

There’s no shortage of those.

The Paternos and a group of supporters have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA to reverse the sanctions imposed on Penn State, and a judge is considering arguments over whether it should be dismissed.

Former Penn State administrators Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are awaiting trial in Dauphin County, and their defense lawyers have vowed to fight the perjury, obstruction of justice and related charges that stem from the Sandusky scandal.

Former Paterno assistant Mike McQueary is suing Penn State for lost wages, claiming the university didn’t renew his contract because he cooperated with state authorities investigating Sandusky. And a Penn State alumnus, Ryan Bagwell, is fighting the state Department of Education to get email correspondence that its former secretary and ex-Penn State trustee, Ron Tomalis, had with Louis Freeh.

“We have tremendous respect for the courts and are confident the judicial process will impartially and transparently find answers, especially through testimony from critical witness under oath,” Sue Paterno said.

The alumni anger set off by the Penn State board’s firing of Paterno two years hasn’t subsided, and in some instances, it was aggravated as the scandal wore on. Alumni were already outraged after Paterno’s firing, and their blood boiled when the university didn’t stand up against the Freeh report or the NCAA sanctions.

The alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship has blasted the Penn State trustees’ decisions and are not satisfied with the answers that have come out of Freeh’s report.

“Blaming the dead guy and accepting capricious sanctions from the NCAA that harm today’s student athletes do nothing to uncover the genesis of this disaster,” said group spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidt. “We simply want the truth for the ultimate protection of the children.”

It’s non-negotiable, they say, that all the trustees who were at the table when Paterno was fired must be unseated. They also want a formal condemnation of the controversial Freeh report and the restoring of the Paterno statue.

“The record must finally be corrected, and Joe Paterno must be formally and widely celebrated for the incomparable educator, humanitarian, philanthropist and coach that he was,” she said.

The group wants a public apology to the Paternos, the football program and the university community.

Another faction of alumni and fans gathered Saturday night to discuss the two years of the Sandusky scandal. The group, which includes alumni Ray Blehar and Eileen Morgan as co-organizers and Nittany Lion and NFL great Franco Harris as its public face, say they, too, want the truth and don’t believe they have it.

Sue Paterno seemed to separate her family from those who’ve pledged to fight her family’s battle, saying public discussions about the matter should be conducted “with civility.”

“I know that many people have strong opinions and feelings about this tragedy,” she said. “Discussion is important, and we expect that the facts we learn in the coming months will lead to many more.

“We must look at these events with patient, respectful discourse in pursuit of the truth,” she said. “Furthermore, while we respect and appreciate the passion of people who are pursuing a public discussion, we feel it is important that to note that the views and statements expressed are those of the participants of those events alone.”

On the campaign trail before she was elected last year, Attorney General Kathleen Kane vowed to review the original Sandusky investigation by her predecessor, Tom Corbett, who’s now the governor. “People deserve the truth,” she said at a stop in State College last year.

The review began when she took office, and it’s still ongoing. She’s said she won’t release anything about it until it’s finished.

Civil lawyer Justine Andronici, who represented several of the young men who testified against Sandusky, is curious about what the internal investigation will find.

“There are still many unanswered questions,” she said. “I hope anyone who knew Sandusky was abusing children and chose to let him continue will be held accountable.”

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