Special Reports

The Breaking of Icons

            There is a word in English, borrowed from Greek:  iconoclast.  It originally meant one who breaks icons, religious images of saints or of Christ.  It was issue, primarily in 7th and 8th Century Byzantium, on if churches should contain these images and if these images should be venerated.  Eventually, at least within the Byzantine Empire, the iconoclasts lost.  The word survived and today means one “who attacks settled beliefs or institutions,” but I prefer the original meaning, one who breaks icons.

            On November 5, 2011, icons in Happy Valley, and beyond, began shattering on the ground.

            The first icon was, of course, Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach at Penn State and founder of the Second Mile charity for young children.  For Penn State football fans (and admittedly I’m not), he was creator of the legendary “Linebacker U.”  On 11/5/11, Mr. Sandusky was charged by a grand jury with 40 counts involving sexual abuse of young boys, with possibly numerous other incidents yet to be reported.  Two other Penn State officials were also charged with, failing to report the incidents and perjury.

            The second icon was Graham Spanier, the President of Penn State University.  He had held the position for 16 years, longer than anyone since prior to World War II.  Dr. Spanier’s tenure was marked with expansion and even the affiliation of the Dickinson Law School.  He was fired over the Sandusky scandal, and may yet be charged with a crime.  Though it is unclear if he had a legal requirement to do so, or if he was fully informed by his underlings, Dr. Spanier never reported what he knew to the police.  The State Attorney General will not rule him out as a target.

            The third icon, and certainly the most iconic, was the legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.  Mr. Paterno, or “JoPa,” was synonymous with Penn State.  He became the head coach in 1966, a year before I entered kindergarten.  He is the most wins of any coach in his division, built a football program known for academic excellence and is known for his charitable work. 

            Mr. Paterno was never charge with a crime and is not the target of any further investigation.  He never directly witnessed Mr. Sandusky molesting a child.  When a graduate assistant reported a rather horrific incident that the assistant had witnessed, Mr. Paterno reported it his superior (who never informed the police).  Mr. Paterno never pressed his superior to follow through.  It was his judgment, his lack of follow through, that shattered this icon.

            The fourth icon is the missing former Centre County District Attorney, Ray Gricar.  Prior to his vanishing, Mr. Gricar was the District Attorney for almost 20 years, he was an assistant prosecutor in Centre county for about five years before that, and in Cleveland for 12 years before that.  He was a good administrator and would, admirably, personally argue tough cases, even suspecting that he would lose.  He was also an innovator.1  Mr. Gricar was declared dead, though no body was ever found, last July.  It is impossible to charge a legally dead person with a crime, but nothing in the grand jury presentment suggested that he would be.

What Mr. Gricar did, when presented evidence of two allegations, and not the most horrific ones, was to decline to prosecute Mr. Sandusky in 1998.  Prosecutors do have that discretion, and a prosecutor must make judgment calls on if the case is strong enough. 

            Mr. Gricar chose not to prosecute the case against Mr. Sandusky for the person known as Victim 6, but the grand jury did.  That grand jury chose differently.  It is Mr. Gricar’s judgment in not prosecuting, where he had evidence at least as strong as the evidence that the grand jury had, that now shatters this icon. 

I’ll cover Victim 6, and another possible victim, in a future blog.

            A few people on message boards, the “chattering class,” like to criticize some of what I write, because they think it damages Mr. Gricar’s “legacy.”  Well, they don’t have to worry that anymore.  Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Gricar’s legacy will forever be tired to the failure to prosecute Mr. Sandusky in 1998.

End Note

1 http://www.centredaily.com/2010/08/27/2397563/the-legacy-of-district-attorney.html



Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section:  http://www.centredaily.com/138/

Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar:  http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html

E-mail J. J. in Phila at scorg@live.com