In what should come as no surprise to anyone, the first civil lawsuit has been filed against Penn State University subsequent to the guilty verdict against ex-football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual assault involving ten victims last month by a Pennsylvania jury. The lawsuit was also filed on the heels of a scathing 267 page report by ex-FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh, who conducted a eight month investigation during which he interviewed 430 current or former Penn State employees.
Mr. Freeh found that Penn State displayed a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State…the most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.” Freeh named Coach Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz as the facilitators of Sandusky’s egregious conduct in “failing to protect against a child sexual predator for over a decade.” He noted that the school officials continued to allow Sandusky to have unfettered access to school facilities and to continue his affiliation with the Penn State football program, and condemned them for failing to intervene after a reported shower incident in 1998, and the sexual assault in 2001 of Victim number 2, witnessed by then Paterno assistant Mike McQueary.
Victim number 2’s attorneys noted that their client was the victim of sexual abuse by Sandusky over several years, not solely the 2001 incident, and that top officials at Penn State facilitated and enabled Sandusky’s access to his victims. If the Sandusky victims were permitted to go to trial, (which would be shocking beyond belief if this happened) the civil attorneys can introduce evidence of Sandusky’s criminal conviction, obtained by a burden of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”, to prove cases in which the burden would be the much easier civil lawsuit standard of a preponderance of the evidence—meaning essentially by 50.1% of the credible evidence. Additionally, there is damning proof against Penn State, including Curley’s decision not to report Sandusky for Victim 2’s assault but rather recommending professional help and calling his decision “humane”. Curley also apparently sent an e-mail in which he admitted: “the only downside for us is if the message [to get professional help] isn’t heard and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it…” Thus, it is clear that all Penn State officials were concerned about in 2001 was protecting the University and its football program, not the innocent victims of Sandusky.
The sanctions by the NCAA for the Sandusky scandal, including a 60 million dollar fine, the inability to pay in bowl games for the next four years, and the wiping out of all football team victories from 1998 through 2012, seem insignificant in comparison to the damage that Sandusky has caused.
The Penn State Board of Trustees is already on record as stating that their goal is “to find solutions that rest on justice for the victims.” One question that naturally occurs is, does Penn State have enough money through its liability insurance and assets to pay out on all of the presently pending claims and absolutely inevitable claims coming in the future? What is the individual value of each of these cases, in which the victims have been permanently traumatized and as reflected in some of the anonymous statements during the three week trial, bitterly angry. That remains to be seen, and must be keeping the Board of Trustees from sleeping at night.
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