Penn State’s top stories of 2016 had a lot to do with football, no matter how you sliced it.
There was the Nittany Lion football season. There were its spin-off riots.
And then there was carryover from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Five years after retired defensive coordinator Sandusky’s arrest, the case and its offshoots continue to show up among the most-read stories of the year.
Sandusky is appealing his 2012 conviction on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse crimes. In 2016, that meant several appearances in court in Bellefonte as McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland granted arguments for an evidentiary hearing in the case, allowing testimony from witnesses including former defense attorneys and prosecutors alike. Even then-attorney general Kathleen Kane was pulled into the case.
The last significant development in the case was Cleland’s order in November recusing himself after saying the defense had “impugned the competence and integrity” of everyone involved from the grand jury to the post-conviction proceedings.
But the Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act petition wasn’t the only related case.
In May, Penn State’s breach of contract case with liability insurer Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association attracted attention with one line from Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer. It wasn’t about the payouts. It was a suggestion that late longtime Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno might have known about other alleged victims as much as 40 years before Sandusky’s arrest.
That line ignited new interest in the case, and rippled through other related civil cases.
Penn State and PMA reached a settlement in September.
The terms of that settlement are not public. The money in another top case is.
Mike McQueary was known to Nittany Lions fans as the redheaded coach on the sidelines with Paterno. He became known to those following the scandal as a central figure, the witness in the alleged shower incident, the story that came to symbolize the case.
McQueary was taken off the field when Paterno was fired, with the university expressing concern for his safety. He was let go when new coach Bill O’Brien came in and cleaned house of most staff. He didn’t work for another team, and after Sandusky’s conviction, he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university that dragged out for years.
It finally saw a courtroom in 2016, and in October, a jury returned a verdict and an award of $7.3 million.
In November, the judge decided that wasn’t enough, tacking on an additional $5 million.