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Focus Now Shifts to Penn State after Sandusky Verdict

Source: USA Today

Posted on 25 Jun 2012 by Neilson

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Penn StateThe Friday verdicts in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky represent the conclusion of only one chapter in a scandal that has shadowed Pennsylvania's largest university and much of central Pennsylvania for the past seven months.

At least six of the eight known victims of the former Penn State University assistant football coach have private attorneys who will soon decide whether to file civil lawsuits against Sandusky and the university.

A separate criminal trial looms for Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, who are accused of related perjury charges, alleging they lied to a state grand jury investigating the abuse charges.

Penn State administration officials also are bracing for the results of an internal investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by the university to review whether the university ignored or failed to act appropriately on early allegations leveled against the former coach.

At the same time, a state grand jury continues its wide-ranging criminal inquiry, including a review of the university's dealings with the former coach.

"The moment the verdict was announced against Sandusky, the landscape of this scandal shifted toward a new focus on Penn State,'' said attorney Tom Kline, who represents one of Sandusky's victims.

"There is no doubt that we are going to file a claim against Penn State,'' Kline said. "Jerry Sandusky may have been the perpetrator, but Penn State was his enabler.''

Penn State, meanwhile, moved quickly to avert a wave of civil lawsuits, announcing right after the verdicts were announced its intention to "compensate'' victims of Sandusky's abuse.

"Now that the jury has spoken, the university wants to continue that dialogue and do its part to help victims continue their path forward," the university said in a statement.

"To that end, the university plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky's abuse to facilitate the resolution of claims against the university arising out of Mr. Sandusky's conduct."

Wes Oliver, a Widener University law professor who has been closely monitoring the case, said it is in Penn State's "best interest to attempt to resolve the lingering matters quickly.''

"The verdicts were so overwhelming against Sandusky,'' Oliver said, "that it suggests there shouldn't have been any doubt early on'' that Sandusky represented a threat to children.

"It could take years to resolve these claims, but it is in everyone's best interest to settle these differences quickly.''

Yet one major part of the scandal the perjury cases against Curley and Schultz is no longer in the university's control.

Specifically, the two administrators are charged with telling a state grand jury that assistant football coach Michael McQueary never told them in 2001 that he saw Sandusky engaged in sexual activity with a young boy in a university shower room.

Like Sandusky's attorney, lawyers for Curley and Schultz have assailed McQueary's credibility, saying that the Penn State assistant coach has given conflicting accounts of what he saw. Those conflicts include a decision to change the date of the incident, initially listed as taking place in March 2002, to February 2001.

McQueary was questioned closely in the Sandusky trial, where he testified that he saw his former coaching colleague with a young boy engaged in what he believed was sodomy.

While McQueary said he could not be "1,000 percent certain'' that the coach was raping the boy, he described the activity as "extremely sexual.''

In its verdict Friday, the Sandusky jury found the former coach not guilty of sodomy, but convicted him on four other sex abuse charges involving the victim, based on McQueary's testimony.

Oliver said the jury's verdict appeared to bolster at least the core of McQueary's account: that he saw Sandusky engaged in some kind of sexual activity.

Lawyers for Curley and Schultz could not be immediately reached through their spokeswoman for comment. And a trial date has not been set.

Meanwhile, Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, said that his client's case is not completely settled even though the 68-year-old former coach sits in a Centre County jail cell under suicide watch awaiting his formal sentencing.

"We think we have a few avenues of appeal and we will be pursuing them," Amendola said.

Among the possible appeals Sandusky will likely pursue is a claim that the defense was rushed to trial. Repeated requests for delays were denied by Judge John Cleland.

Amendola said that he was so concerned about the pace of the case that he sought to withdraw as Sandusky's lawyer on the eve of the trial.

"The judge said, 'Thank you, but you can't,'" Amendola said, recounting the exchange with Cleland.

Since Friday's verdicts, Amendola said he hasn't spoken to Sandusky, who sits in isolation on suicide watch at the Centre County, Pa., jail, awaiting formal sentencing within the next 90 days.

Amendola, who has served as a spokesman for the Sandusky family, said that he spoke to Sandusky's wife, Dottie, and she is "distraught," but the verdicts have not shaken her belief in her husband.

"She believes that what has happened is a tragedy," Amendola said. "She's trying to pick up the pieces."

He said it is unlikely he'll represent the former coach on appeal.

"In any appeal, I'll probably be a witness," he said. "It's probably best that somebody else handle that.'"