A filmmaker whose mission is the exoneration of Joe Paterno released on Wednesday a transcript of an interview the coach had with investigators just two weeks before Jerry Sandusky was charged in 2011.
According to the transcript on the website framingpaterno.com, Paterno talked to a state police investigator at his McKee Street home on Oct. 24, 2011, about the 2001 locker room incident in which Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky in a shower with a young boy. Paterno said it was inappropriate but never heard specifics from McQueary about the encounter.
The filmmaker, John Ziegler, also released a transcript of the full 31/2-hour prison phone interview with Sandusky. At one point, Sandusky refuses to talk about the results of a lie detector test he took.
But the transcript doesn’t deliver a bombshell or shed brand-new information on the controversy that caused Paterno to lose his job, which happened just a few weeks after the interview with investigators. However, those on both sides of the Paterno debate might find nuggets to support their conclusions.
The members of the Paterno family have distanced themselves from Ziegler, and the family’s spokesman, Dan McGinn, declined to comment Wednesday. Paterno’s son Scott criticized an online news report previewing Ziegler’s release of the transcript.
For those who condemn the late head coach, the transcript reinforces the notion that Paterno got at least some sense from McQueary that something was amiss.
According to the transcript, Paterno told investigator Anthony Sassano that the incident involved “some inappropriate sexual activity going on.” But the coach and McQueary didn’t get into what exactly was happening, Paterno told the investigator.
But for those who believe Paterno did his part, they’d find satisfaction in reading that Paterno says he thinks he fulfill his obligation by reporting the incident to his boss, athletic director Tim Curley, because Sandusky was retired and not someone Paterno still supervised.
Paterno told Sassano that he wanted Curley to get other people involved because Paterno did not have “authority over Jerry.”
“Jerry had retired from the coaching staff two or three years earlier. So I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to make any kind of a decision as to what to do with him,” Paterno said.
Sassano asked if Curley got back to Paterno on what to do about the report, and Paterno said he never heard from Curley again about it. Nor anyone from the university’s police department.
“No, no, I didn’t,” Paterno said. “I had other things to do, we had … As I said, Jerry was not working for me.”
The interview does not address — and Ziegler, the filmmaker, said it contradicts — an email conversation among senior university leaders in 2001. The emails were turned up during Louis Freeh’s investigation, and in the email chain, Curley wrote that he had talked to “Joe” and it had been decided he would talk with Sandusky and not report it to authorities.
Months before the October 2011 police interview, Paterno had been subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury that was investigating Sandusky. According to the grand jury transcript, Paterno testified for seven minutes and said the incident McQueary described to him was of “a sexual nature.”
Paterno died in January 2012, and his family has been on a crusade to restore his reputation.
The family commissioned its own counter-report to the Freeh report, the document released a year ago this week that blamed Paterno and three other Penn State senior leaders for concealing Sandusky’s molestation allegations from years ago. The family as well as other supporters, such as former coaches and players, sued the NCAA to reverse the sanctions it imposed on Penn State because of the accusations in the Freeh report.
Ziegler has gone on his own crusade to restore the Paterno reputation, even without the blessing of the Paterno family. Ziegler released snippets of the prison phone interviews with Sandusky a few months ago, and he’s appeared at panel discussions around the state, including in State College, in attempts to redirect the Paterno and Freeh report narrative.
In the second interview transcript Ziegler released, Sandusky continued to maintain his innocence, saying that he felt betrayed by the young men who told authorities they’d been molested and later testified at trial against him. Sandusky said he felt terrible about what happened to Paterno but didn’t feel responsible for Paterno’s death.
Sandusky said he talked to his dog Bo the most about his predicament.
Ziegler also asked Sandusky if he’d taken a lie detector test, and Sandusky confirmed he did but refused on several occasions to discuss it, according to the transcript.
“Did I ever take a lie detector test?” Sandusky said, repeating the question posed to him. “Yes. But that can’t be submitted in court and things like that so I’m not going to talk about it.”
After Ziegler asked the question again, Sandusky said, “I don’t really want to get into that.”
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after his conviction last summer.
Curley, former Penn State President Graham Spanier and retired administrator Gary Schultz are facing obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges that stem from the grand jury investigation. State prosecutors accused the men of hiding abuse allegations against Sandusky. They will head to court later this month for a long-delayed preliminary hearing pertaining to most of the charges.
McQueary is suing the university for lost wages after claims he was let go because he was cooperative with investigators.
And Penn State is trying to settle claims with 30 men who say they were abused by Sandusky.