A line in a court order of an insurance case involving Penn State alleges that in 1976, a child approached former football coach Joe Paterno and informed him of molestation by then-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
The order continues to describe an incident in 1987 in which “a PSU Assistant Coach is alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a child at a PSU facility; in 1988, another PSU Assistant Coach reportedly witnessed sexual contact between Sandusky and a child; and also in 1988 a child’s report of his molestation by Sandusky was allegedly referred to PSU’s Athletic Director.
“There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU,” the documents, written by Judge Gary S. Glazer, state.
The order stems from a case filed by Penn State’s liability insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Co., which denied coverage on litigation in the case, prompting the university to file a breach of contract suit.
Documents: Penn State University v. PMA Insurance Co.
According to Glazer, “the court must examine the policies for the years 1976, 1987, 1988, 1998 and 2001, when PSU agents allegedly learned of Sandusky’s abusive acts.”
Actions filed against Penn State by Sandusky’s victims use the policy term “bodily injuries” to discuss whether the university was “more than negligent,” meaning, according to Glazer, “did (Penn State) expect or intend such bodily injuries to occur.”
The documents said that “PSU is defined to include only its officers, trustees and stockholders” and that the Penn State employees with alleged knowledge of the abuse — “Paterno, the Assistant Coaches, and the Athletic Director,” according to the documents — were none of those.
Therefore, wrote Glazer, the university cannot claim coverage for the Sandusky settlements for the abuses that started between 1992-99. Glazer also wrote that he would not bar the claims issued prior to May of 1998 and that “the failure to disclose defense does not apply with respect to any policy issued prior to May 1998.”
However, the line in the documents about Paterno’s knowledge of the situation directly stirs a national debate that has raged since the original allegations surfaced: Did Paterno know, and did he cover anything up?
A statement obtained by PennLive Thursday night from Wick Sollers, the Paterno family attorney, says no.
“Over the past four-and-a-half years Joe Paterno’s conduct has been scrutinized by an endless list of investigators and attorneys,” said Sollers.
“Through all of this review there has never been any evidence of inappropriate conduct by Coach Paterno. To the contrary, the evidence clearly shows he shared information with his superiors as appropriate.
“An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky.”
PennLive also reached out to Penn State spokesman Lawrence Lokman about the matter and, according to the outlet, “he did not say whether the 1976 incident raised in (this) case was one of the 30 or so that have resulted in monetary settlements.”
Paterno was removed from his position at Penn State in 2011 and passed away shortly after. He was not charged with any crimes.
Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse crimes in 2012. He is in the middle of a Post Conviction Relief Act petition seeking a new trial, but until that time, he is still subject to his 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
Sandusky was an assistant coach at Penn State from 1969 until his retirement in 1999.