Although HBO’s newly released “Paterno” movie takes a look back at the events that transpired after the child sex abuse charges were announced against former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the story surrounding the case and its fallout continues to evolve.
Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 of 48 child sex abuse charges following the 2011 revelations that led to Joe Paterno’s ouster as Penn State’s head football coach, maintains his innocence.
Here’s a look at some of the ongoing litigation and effects of the sex abuse scandal and coverup allegations that rocked Penn State.
Will there be a new trial?
While serving his 30- to 60-year state prison sentence, Sandusky has held out hope for a new trail.
Sandusky filed a Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act petition in 2015, arguing the need for a new trial based on the “ineffectiveness” of trial counsel. In June 2016, McKean County Senior Judge John Cleland signed an order OK’ing an evidentiary hearing in the PCRA.
The hearing examined whether Sandusky’s counsel — specifically Joe Amendola and Karl Rominger — made any “mistakes” that would have otherwise turned the verdict. Allowing Sandusky to give the ill-fated Bob Costas interview was one of the Sandusky team’s prime examples.
The hearing, which brought Sandusky back to the Centre County Courthouse for the first time since his conviction — featured something that was missing from the first trail, testimony from Sandusky himself.
“I didn’t understand enough of what was happening, what was transpiring, what was going on,” Sandusky said during his animated testimony, according to ESPN.
The hearing ended with questions over possible grand jury leaks and Cleland saying more evidentiary hearings could be called. A new hearing was then scheduled for Sandusky in November, which included testimony by the man identified as Victim 2.
The prosecution, however, declined to put Victim 2 on the stand, going so far as counsel Joseph McGettigan saying his identity was “known only to God,” during his closing arguments. That would become contested by the defense as a lie during the PCRA.
Shortly after the end of the second evidentiary hearing, Cleland recused himself from Sandusky’s case, after saying the defense had “impugned the competence and integrity” of everyone involved from the grand jury to the post-conviction proceedings.
A new judge, President Judge John Foradora, of Jefferson County, took over as hearings seeking a new trial continued in March 2017.
Sandusky’s lawyers Al Lindsay and Andrew Salemme continued throughout the spring to amass enough evidence to win their client a new trial. Strategies included questioning the idea of witness-repressed memories in court, subpoenaing an NBC employee over the Costas interview, and continuing their attempt to prove grand jury leaks.
In May 2017, Foradora canceled additional scheduled hearings, saying “all witnesses and testimony regarding the issues raised has been presented.”
Sandusky and his lawyers and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, in a rare moment of agreement, said they weren’t quite done arguing as the two sides, as they jointly filed a request in Centre County for another moment in court. That request was ultimately denied.
Foradora ruled on Oct. 17 that Sandusky would not get a new trial, dismissing all claims of grand jury leaks and incompetent trial counsel.
Despite that ruling, Sandusky has not stopped trying to get a new trial.
Sandusky’s wife, Dottie Sandusky, still supports her husband and believes in his innocence. She told the Centre Daily Times in May that she visits her husband in prison every week.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania in December received record of a newly filed PCRA for Sandusky, but has yet to take action.
Lawyers under fire
Although the court dismissed the claims of incompetence against Sandusky’s former trial lawyers, two other counsels connected to the case have come under fire.
The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel has lodged petitions for discipline against Cynthia Baldwin, a former state Supreme Court justice who was the university’s general counsel when the scandal broke, and Frank Fina, who helped direct the investigation and lead the prosecution of Sandusky by the attorney general’s office, The Associated Press reported.
Fina is accused of turning Baldwin “into a witness for the prosecution” when Baldwin testified in secret in October 2012 about former Penn State president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley.
The hearing for Baldwin, who has been charged with professional misconduct in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, has been scheduled for May 22-23.
Fina will have his day in court on June 1.
Freeh Report fallout
Ever since former FBI director Louis Freeh’s 2012 Penn State-commissioned report into institutional coverup allegations concluded that Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno had known about the allegations against Sandusky as early as 1998 and were complicit in failing to disclose them, the former administrators and Paterno’s family have been trying to clear their names.
The Paternos went so far as to commission their own report by FBI profiler Jim Clemente, a former employee of Freeh’s during his tenure at the FBI.
Clemente’s report, among other things, claimed that because of Sandusky’s “nice guy” persona and the altruistic work he seemingly did in the community and with the Second Mile, it was particularity difficult for people such as doctors, law enforcement, Penn State and Second Mile administrators and those who claim to have caught him in the act, to believe the allegations after Sandusky denied them.
Sex offenders like Sandusky, who are especially skilled at deception and have a good reputation to back them up, are particularly difficult to identify, according to Clemente. For that reason, Clemente concluded it’d be reasonable to assume that Paterno and others really did not believe the allegations to be true.
No charges were ever filed against Paterno, who died of lung cancer in 2012.
Aside from the Paternos, the administrator fighting the hardest against the Freeh Report’s findings has been Spanier.
In 2013, Spanier filed a defamation lawsuit against Freeh, seeking monetary damages and a jury trial.
After many back and forths between Spanier and Freeh, a judge granted Freeh’s request for a judgment in the proceedings and dismissed Spanier’s lawsuit.
“I’m not surprised that this frivolous and malicious claim has finally been dismissed,” Freeh said.
Spanier’s attorney Andy Philips, however, is confident the case is not over.
The judge in the case, Robert Eby of Lebanon County, said his judgment could be overturned if Spanier were to successfully appeal his March 2017 conviction of one misdemeanor count of child endangerment.
And should Spanier win that appeal, Philips said Spanier will continue to pursue his case against Freeh.
Schultz and Curley were both also convicted on the same misdemeanor count, and were sentenced in July to a mix of prison time, house arrest and probation.
Spanier, whose sentence has been delayed pending his appeal, was seen playing the washboard at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts the same week the other two former administrators began their jail time.
Endowments to fight child abuse
By naming Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno as responsible for allowing Sandusky’s prolonged abuse to continue at Penn State and beyond, the Freeh Report also prompted the NCAA and Big Ten conference to take drastic actions against the university’s football program.
On July 23, 2012, NCAA President Mark Emmert levied sanctions against the football program, including five years of probation, a four-year postseason ban, the loss of 40 scholarships from 2013-2017, the vacating of 112 of Paterno’s wins, and a $60 million fine, the proceeds of which were to go toward an endowment for preventing child abuse.
On Jan. 16, 2015, the consent decree that established the NCAA’s punishment of the university in the wake of the scandal crumbled with the settlement of state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s lawsuit against the college sports oversight organization.
“The NCAA has surrendered,” Corman said during a news conference in Harrisburg announcing that the consent decree — the acceptance by Penn State of unprecedented sanctions handed down by the NCAA in July 2012 — has been repealed.
“Today is a victory for due process, which was not afforded in this case,” Corman said.
At the heart of Corman’s suit was the Endowment Act, legislation introduced by Corman, which mandated that “and institution of higher learning” in the state that was required by a governing body to pay a monetary penalty of $10 million over the course of multiple years into a state-administered trust fund.
The ruling, in addition to the restoration of Paterno’s wins, full scholarships and postseason play, meant that Penn State would commit $60 million to activities and programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse and the treatment of victims of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.
Of the $60 million, $48 million was to go to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, while the other $12 million was to stay at Penn State with the mission “to create an endowment that will be a long-term investment in expanding our research, education and public service programs to help eradicate child sexual abuse,” according to the university’s press release.
In December 2016, then-PCCD chairman and now-state Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced more than $1.7 million in funding from the endowment to go toward 36 state groups, including 21 child advocacy centers that work with young victims.
As for Penn State, the endowment money is going toward the Network for Child Protection and Well-Being, which was established after the Sandusky scandal broke, committing in 2013 to hiring a dozen new faculty.
“As a university, we determined early on to make a positive difference by using our resources of teaching, research and service to raise awareness around childhood maltreatment,” said Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers in January, 2017.
Although Penn State is set to pay $60 million toward preventing child sex abuse crimes, it’s also paid more than $100 million to those with claims they were sexually assaulted by Sandusky.
The latest $16 million payments, which Penn State disclosed in November, brought the university’s overall Sandusky-related costs to more than a quarter-billion dollars, according to The Associated Press.
The overall costs also included the $12 million settlement in former assistant coach Mike McQueary’s whistleblower claim.
A audit report from 2015 revealed 32 sex abuse claims had been paid out by the university to the tune of $92.8 million.
Penn State settled with its insurance company, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Co., in September 2016 over how much of the liability coverage in the victims’ claims would have to be covered by the university. The terms of the agreement and amount of payment have not been disclosed.
A board of trustees member found himself in hot water in March 2017 when he said he was “running out of sympathy” for the “so-called victims” of Sandusky while speaking to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Al Lord, who was up for re-election as an alumni-elected trustee, consequently pulled out of the race after his remarks sparked outrage.