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HARRISBURG — State prosecutors on Monday left open the possibility of filing additional charges and discovering other victims in the still unfolding Pennsylvania State University child sex-abuse scandal.
Those officials indicated that head football coach Joe Paterno may be clear of legal consequences, but they declined to similarly absolve university President Graham Spanier of wrongdoing.
State Attorney General Linda Kelly, in her first news conference since taking over that office, repeatedly said work continues on the investigation that resulted in criminal sexual charges against Jerry Sandusky, the university’s former football defensive coordinator.
“I don’t think it would be beyond the realm of possibility that there are other victims that exist here,” Ms. Kelly said.
While she and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan shied away from saying the explosion of media coverage since Saturday’s announcement of charges has led to new leads, they both urged any other possible victims or those with additional information to contact state investigators.
“At least now there’s not this cover of secrecy that I think is so oppressive to the children victims,” said Mr. Noonan, who worked in the attorney general’s office on the case prior to his current role.
“That’s what is oppressive — who is going to believe them? Nobody. That’s the way they feel.”
Mr. Sandusky, 67, is charged with sexually assaulting at least eight boys who participated in The Second Mile, a youth organization that he founded. The incidents span from 1994, when he was still coaching at Penn State, through 2008, after Mr. Sandusky had retired and continued to use the school’s facilities.
Also facing charges are two top university officials, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. Prosecutors said they failed to report a 2002 incident involving one of the children and later provided false information to a grand jury.
Mr. Curley, 57, and Mr. Schultz, 62, were released Monday following an arraignment hearing in Dauphin County. As with Mr. Sandusky’s counsel, their attorneys maintained that the men are innocent.
“The evidence will show that he reported what he knew up the chain of command,” to Mr. Spanier and to the nonprofit’s director, said Caroline Roberto, Mr. Curley’s lawyer.
The questions of who knew which details when and what their responsibility was to report those specifics to law enforcement will be pivotal as the case heads to trial.
Both Mr. Spanier and Mr. Paterno were made aware of the 2002 incident in which a graduate student said he saw Mr. Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in a locker room shower.
The assistant, now identified as Mike McQuery, told Mr. Paterno, who in turn told Mr. Curley that the former coach was seen “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy,” according to the grand jury presentment.
After the assistant related the incident to Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz, the athletic director later told Mr. Spanier about their decision to not allow Mr. Sandusky to bring children to the school.
Ms. Kelly described Mr. Paterno as being “cooperative” with prosecutors. He is not viewed as a target, she said.
“We believe that under the statute he had a responsibility to report it to school administrators, and he did that,” she said.
Under state’s Child Protective Services Law, certain medical officials, school administrators, clergy, child-care workers and others are required to report anything that creates a suspicion of child abuse.
Those figures are required to report details to the person in charge at their institution, who is then responsible to call state welfare officials.
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“I don’t think I’ve ever been associated with a case with this type of eyewitness identification of sex acts taking place where the police weren’t called,” said Mr. Noonan, later adding that all citizens have a “moral responsibility” to act.
Others, including a victim advocate, echoed that view of a broader responsibility.
“I firmly believe that Penn State officials—including Coach Paterno and President Graham Spanier – failed in their duties to report these heinous crimes to authorities,” said Jennifer Storm, of a nearby county’s victim and witness program. “They had clear knowledge of Sandusky’s behavior since 1998, and never did one thing to protect the victims. Instead, they protected themselves and their institution.”
Ms. Kelly said law enforcement does distinguish between moral and legal guilt, but declined to draw any conclusions on the current case: “I’m not going to comment on morality,” Ms. Kelly said.
She also wouldn’t rule out Mr. Spanier as someone who still might be under the investigation’s spotlight.
‘‘All I can say is again, I’m limited to what’s contained in the presentment, and that this is an ongoing investigation,” Ms. Kelly said.
Mr. Spanier released a statement on Saturday calling the allegations “troubling,” but that he has confidence in his administrators’ actions.
Meanwhile, Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz arrived Monday for arraignment at a district justice’s office in suburban Harrisburg.
Warning, file contains graphic content.
The two men face two counts each of perjury and failure to report a child endangerment. Each was released on $75,000 bail.
Neither man entered a formal plea Monday. A preliminary hearing will be held later this month.
Afterward, however, both defense lawyers blasted the attorney general, and argued that their clients acted appropriately upon what they were told.
“It’s unconscionable that the attorney general would level such a weak case against a man of integrity like Tim Curley,” said Ms. Roberto. “A perjury charge is a red flag that the charges against him are weak. It’s a distraction. After 18 months of investigation, if this is all the attorney general could bring, we are ready to fight this case and win.”
Mr. Schultz’s attorney, Thomas Farrell, called the charges against his client “a disappointment. Rather than following the law, the attorney general is creating a fiction. This child [endangerment] law doesn’t apply in this case.”
He also said his client reported the 2002 locker room shower incident to higher ups.
“He did exactly what Mr. McQueary and Mr. Paterno did,” Mr. Farrell said, which was to report the graduate assistant’s allegation to superiors. Yet those two men weren’t charged, he said, adding, “There is no reason why he should be charged with this summary offense” of failure to report.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Laura Olson and Tom Barnes are reporters for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Laura Olson at: email@example.com, or 717-787-4254.