Penn State child sex abuse scandal

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal was an incident in which Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, was charged and convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. Sandusky had located and groomed victims through his charity organization, The Second Mile. Also implicated were the alleged actions of several Penn State University officials in terms of whether they met ethical, moral, and legal obligations in reporting any suspected abuse. The scandal broke in early November 2011 when Sandusky was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation. Although Sandusky’s abuse may have begun in the 1970s; he was charged for abuse that occurred between 1994 and 2009.

Additionally, three school officials were charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, failure to report suspected child abuse, and related charges: school president, Graham Spanier, and athletic director, Tim Curley. Shortly after the scandal broke, Spanier resigned. The Penn State Board of Trustees fired Curley. The Board of Trustees also fired longtime head football coach, Joe Paterno.

Jerry Sandusky’s criminal trial began on June 11, 2012, at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.  He maintained his innocence.  Of the 52 charges, 4 charges were initially dropped, leaving 48. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse.  Sandusky was sentenced on October 9, 2012 to a minimum of 30 years and maximum of 60 years in prison.

The Board of Trustees commissioned an independent investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm. The Freeh Report stated that Spanier and Paterno, along with Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz, had known about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky’s part as early as 1998, and were complicit in failing to disclose them. In so doing, Freeh stated that the most senior leaders at Penn State showed a “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims” for 14 years and “empowered” Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse.

The Freeh Report had far-reaching outcomes for Penn State. The NCAA used the Freeh Report in lieu of its own investigation to impose sanctions on the Penn State football program. On July 23, 2012, the NCAA imposed a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, and vacated all victories from 1998–2011.  These sanctions were considered to be among the most severe ever imposed on an NCAA member school. NCAA President Mark Emmert stated that the sanctions were levied “not to be just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people.” The Big Ten Conference subsequently imposed an additional $13 million fine.[12] In 2014, the NCAA reversed course. It rescinded the post-season ban, restored scholarships, and re-credited Penn State and Joe Paterno with their victories from 1998–2011.

As of November 2012, two other investigations are ongoing: a federal criminal probe by the local United States Attorney launched shortly after the discovery of Sandusky’s crimes, and a separate probe from the Department of Education into whether Penn State responded to the incident properly and reported it in accordance with federal law. On July 30, 2013, Spanier, Schultz, and Curley were ordered by Judge William Wenner to stand trial.


Not to be confused with Baltimore sportscaster Gerry Sandusky.

In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving Pennsylvania underprivileged and at-risk youth.[3] After Sandusky retired as assistant coach at Penn State, he continued working with The Second Mile at Penn State, maintaining an office at Penn State until 2011.Gerald Arthur “Jerry” Sandusky (born January 26, 1944) is a retired American football coach and convicted serialchild molester. Sandusky served as an assistant coach for his entire career, mostly at Pennsylvania State Universityunder Joe Paterno (from 1969 to 1999). He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999.[2]Sandusky authored several books related to his football coaching experiences.

In 2011, following a two-year grand jury investigation, Sandusky was arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period from 1994 to 2009.[4] He met his molestation victims through The Second Mile, who were children participating in the organization, and several of them testified against Sandusky in his sexual abuse trial. Four of the charges were subsequently dropped. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 remaining charges.[5][6] Sandusky was sentenced on October 9, 2012 to 30 to 60 years in prison—at his age, effectively a life sentence.[7] On October 18, 2012, Sandusky’s lawyers appealed his conviction in Centre County Court in Pennsylvania. They claim that they did not have enough time to prepare for their client’s case.[8] On October 31, 2012, Sandusky was moved to Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene “supermax” prison to serve his sentence.[9] On January 30, 2013, Pennsylvania Judge John Cleland denied Sandusky’s request for a new trial.[10]


Investigation and charges

An investigation was initiated by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office into sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky in 2008. The charges were initiated atCentral Mountain High School, where a student made allegations of abuse against Sandusky.[35] The investigation reached a new level of urgency when it became apparent that the allegations were not an isolated set of incidents, but that Sandusky had a strategy to abuse vulnerable boys. Through his Second Mile organization Sandusky would first approach potential victims, typically boys without a father living at home, when they were 8–12 years-old. Subsequently, Sandusky employed classic child grooming strategies such as offering trips to football games or bestowing gifts, which would leading to incremental touching. This form of manipulation is generally the modus operandi of pedophiles as a ploy to build trust while invading personal boundaries — all part of instilling confusion, leading up to and part of the sexual abuse. Eventually, Sandusky often initiated overtly sexual behavior in the locker room showers. “The testimony of one victim who said he was forced to put his hand on Sandusky’s erection when he was 8 to 10 years old particularly outraged investigators. ‘The poor kid was too young to even understand what an erection was,’ one said.”[36][37]

On November 4, 2011, a grand jury[38] that had been convened in September 2009, or earlier,[25] indicted Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. The indictment came after a three-year investigation that explored allegations of Sandusky having inappropriate contact with an underage boy over the course of four years, beginning when the boy was ten years old. The boy’s parents reported the incident to police in 2009.[39] The grand jury identified eight boys who had been singled out for sexual advances or sexual assaults by Sandusky, taking place from 1994 through 2009.[4] At least 20 of the incidents allegedly took place while Sandusky was still employed at Penn State.[40]

According to the first indictment, in 2002 assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant,[41] said he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year-old boy. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Joe Paterno. (Later while testifying during the Sandusky trial, McQueary spoke about what he had relayed to Paterno: “I told him and I want to make sure I’m clear. I made sure he knew it was sexual and wrong. There was no doubt.”)[42] Paterno told McQueary at the time, “You did what you had to do. It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”[43] At the Preliminary Hearing for Tim Curley and Gary Shultz, McQueary testified that Paterno was “shocked and saddened, kind of slumped back on his chair.” He said that Paterno told him: “I’m sorry you had to see that. It’s terrible. And he said, I need to think and tell some people about what you saw and I’ll let you know what…what we’ll do next.”[44] Paterno then informed Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. At the Preliminary Hearing, McQueary also testified that he “believed” Sandusky was having “some type of intercourse” with the boy. He said that this was based on “the positioning” of Sandusky and the boy, but that he never saw “insertion” or “penetration” and is not “100 percent sure” that intercourse was occurring.[45]

Curley and senior vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz (who oversaw the Penn State police department) called McQueary to a meeting a week and a half later.[46] During the meeting McQueary said that he relayed in “graphic detail” what he had witnessed in the locker-room showers at the Lasch Building. At the Preliminary Hearing of Curley and Shultz, McQueary testified that he would have given Curley and Shultz a “rough idea” of the body positions of the individuals in the shower, and would have described the activity as “extremely sexual and I thought some kind of intercourse was going on.”[47]

The indictment accused Curley and Schultz not only of failing to tell the police, but also of falsely telling the grand jury that McQueary never informed them of the alleged sexual activity.[48]

On November 5, 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault, and other offenses.[49]

The prosecution charged Curley and Schultz with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse by Sandusky.[50][51]

On November 6, 2011, Penn State banned Sandusky from campus.[52] His bail conditions did not include restrictions on his travel.[53][54]

In December 2011, Sandusky was charged with an additional 12 counts of sexual crimes against children.[55][56] The grand jury’s second presentment charged Sandusky with an additional count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and two additional counts of unlawful contact with a minor. The additional victims, known only as “Victim 9″ and “Victim 10,” were participants in Sandusky’s youth program and were between the ages of 10 and 12 at the time of the sexual assaults.[56]

On December 7, 2011, Sandusky was arrested for a second time based on the additional sexual abuse charges. Sandusky was released on $250,000 bail and placed on monitored house arrest while he awaited trial.[57] Sandusky chose to waive his preliminary hearing that took place in mid December.[58]

§Pre-trial interviews

On November 14, in a televised phone interview on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams, Sandusky admitted to correspondent Bob Costas to having showered with underage boys and touching their bodies, as he described it “without intent of sexual contact.” Sandusky denied being a pedophile.[59] The interview received substantial coverage in the media, particularly regarding the manner in which Sandusky answered Costas when asked if he is sexually attracted to young boys:[60][61][62]

COSTAS: “Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?”
SANDUSKY: “Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?”
COSTAS: “Yes.”
SANDUSKY: “Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.”

In the days following the interview, several potential victims contacted State College lawyer Andy Shubin to tell their stories, with one claiming Sandusky had abused him in the 1970s.[65]

In an interview with Jo Becker of The New York Times on December 3, 2011, Sandusky responded to the initial 40 charges of sexual crimes against children:[66][67]

BECKER: “You must have some theory, without getting into individual cases or naming names.”
SANDUSKY: “You would have to, to have my understanding of that. What I think? I mean, What I think are that these are individual matters. These kids, some of them, I know them. Some of them. I don’t know all of them. [lawyer Amendola interjects 'we're assuming']. We’re assuming we know them. Two of the kids. My gut feeling would be that they got pulled into this.”


The trial, for 52 charges of sexual crimes against children, started on June 11, 2012, at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.[68][69] State Deputy Attorney General, and former homicide prosecutor, Joseph E. McGettigan III, led the prosecution team for the commonwealth; defense attorney Joseph Amendola was Sandusky’s lead attorney for the defense team; and Senior Judge John Cleland presided.

Over the course of the trial that lasted eight days, jurors heard from eight witnesses who testified that Sandusky sexually abused them.[70] Jurors also heard testimony about assaults on two other victims who were never identified.[70] Of the eight males who gave testimony, each explained that they met Sandusky throughThe Second Mile organization; their individual accounts spanned from the mid-1990s until 2009.[71][72] The witnesses testified of similar stories of being abused in the football locker room showers or in the basement of Sandusky’s home[71] Sandusky’s defense attorneys argued that the accusers were driven by financial motives.[73]

The first prosecution witness, identified in media reports as “Victim 4,” described detailed accounts of many instances of sexual abuse, including unwanted oral andanal sex, by Sandusky while the witness was a participant in Sandusky’s Second Mile charitable organization.[68] According to “Victim 4,” he was sexually abused by Sandusky as many as three times a week for three years, beginning when he was 13 years old.[69] The witness further testified that when he attempted to distance himself from Sandusky, Sandusky offered the boy a contract for money to continue spending time with him.[69]

On the second day of trial, “Victim 1″, the youngest of Sandusky’s alleged victims, testified to over 20 incidents of abuse, including unwanted and forced oral sex, by Sandusky during 2007 and 2008 while the boy was a participant in Sandusky’s Second Mile program. The boy was 11 or 12 years old when the sexual abuse started.[74][75] Mike McQueary, former Penn State graduate assistant football coach, testified that in 2001 in a Penn State locker room, he heard “skin on skin” slapping sounds coming from the showers. McQueary testified that he then saw Sandusky naked behind a 10- to 12-year-old boy propped against a shower wall, with “Sandusky’s arms wrapped around the boy’s midsection in the closest proximity that I think you could be in.”[42][76]

On June 18, 2012, it was reported that during the full-day court recess the previous Friday, prosecutors had contacted NBC “asking the network to re-authenticate a full unedited transcript” of the Bob Costas interview from November.[77] An unaired portion of the Costas interview featured Sandusky saying, “I didn’t go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I’ve helped”.[64][78] Legal analysts explained that this could be used by the prosecution to cross examineSandusky if he were to take the stand.[77]

On June 21, 2012, after the case had gone to the jury, Matt Sandusky, one of Sandusky’s six adopted children, stated through his attorney that he was also a victim of the former coach’s sexual abuse. He had been ready to testify for the prosecution, but did not do so.[79] Later, Amendola said that Jerry Sandusky had every intention of testifying in his own defense, but decided against it because he claimed that the prosecution would have called Matt Sandusky to the stand.[6]

Subsequently, sources close to the investigation conducted by the Office of the State Attorney General have stated that the prosecutor never threatened to have Matt Sandusky testify at trial, and that “prosecutor Joseph McGettigan relished the opportunity of taking-on Jerry Sandusky in cross examination and had promised Amendola early on that they would not call any additional rebuttal witnesses”.[80]

§Verdict and sentencing

The jury, consisting of seven women and five men, many with direct ties to Penn State,[81] deliberated for 21 hours over two days.[71] On the evening of June 22, 2012, the jury reached its verdict, finding Sandusky guilty on 45 of the 48 counts against him.[5][82] Specifically, Sandusky was convicted of the following charges and counts: eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, seven counts of indecent assault, one count of criminal intent to commit indecent assault, nine counts of unlawful contact with minors, 10 counts of corruption of minors and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children. Cleland immediately revoked Sandusky’s bail and remanded him to the Centre County Correctional Facility to await sentencing.[73]

Sandusky faced a maximum sentence of 442 years in prison.[83] According to NBC News‘ Michael Isikoff, Sandusky faced a minimum sentence of 60 years under Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines — at his age, effectively a life sentence.[84] A sentencing hearing was expected 90 days from the date of conviction.[70][82] On September 17, it was announced that Sandusky would be sentenced on October 9.[85]

On the evening before his sentencing hearing, Sandusky released an audio statement maintaining his innocence.[86] The next day, Cleland sentenced Sandusky to 60 years in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least 30 years. His earliest possible release date will be October 9, 2042; when he will be 98 years old—all but assuring he will die in prison. In pronouncing the sentence, Cleland said that Sandusky was a particularly dangerous breed of child molester because he masked his manipulation and abuse of children behind a respectable facade. “It is the remarkable ability to conceal that makes these crimes so heinous,” he said. While acknowledging Sandusky’s “positive work,” Cleland called him a “dangerous” child molester who should never be allowed to be free again.[87] At the same hearing, Cleland granted prosecutors’ request to have Sandusky declared a “sexually violent predator” under Pennsylvania’s version ofMegan’s Law. This would subject him to stringent reporting requirements if he is released. Sandusky would not only have to report his address to police every three months for the rest of his life, but would also have to participate in a court-approved counseling program. However, this designation will likely be academic since as mentioned above, Sandusky will almost certainly die in prison.[85][88] Earlier, on August 30, the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board recommended that Sandusky be declared a sexually violent predator.[89][90]

Sandusky could also potentially face federal charges for molesting boys at both the 1999 Outback Bowl in Tampa and his final game as a collegiate coach, the 1999 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Although these were spelled out in the state indictment, federal authorities have jurisdiction over any crime that crosses a state line.[91]Although federal investigators appear to be focusing their probe on a possible cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes by officials at Penn State, it would not be double jeopardy to bring charges against Sandusky himself.[92] Officials in San Antonio are conducting a probe of the 1999 Alamo Bowl case, and Sandusky could potentially face charges there; again, it would not be double jeopardy for him to be charged in Texas.[93]


Penn State has been the subject of significant media inquiry in terms of whether several University employees had met ethical, moral, and legal obligations in reporting suspected abuse. In June 2012, Penn State University implemented a policy to require mandatory reporting of child abuse by any Penn State employee working with children. The policy also requires all Penn State employees working with children to go through a background check and training related to child abuse and reporting requirements.[94]

§Freeh report

The report by a special investigative group headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh had been commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees. After interviewing over 400 people and reviewing over 3.5 million documents, the crux of the report’s findings, which were released July 12, 2012, state:

Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, the Special Investigative Counsel finds that it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.[95]

The Freeh Report states that although the “avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity” was the main driver in failing to protect child abuse victims and report to authorities, the report outlines other causes as well, among which were: “A striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University”; a failure of oversight by the Board of Trustees; a University President “who discouraged discussion and dissent”; “a lack of awareness of child abuse issues”; and “a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community”.[96]

The report outlines how all four men were aware of the 1998 abuse incident in the locker-room shower, and had followed its investigation at the time.[97] Freeh’s investigation uncovered a file kept by Schultz in which he wrote notes about Sandusky’s 1998 incident. For instance, Schultz wrote: “Is this opening of Pandora’s box?” He also wondered, “other children?”[98] Freeh stated that Schultz had “actively sought to conceal those records”.[99][100]

The evidentiary weight of Freeh’s report draws heavily upon retrieved emails from 1998 and 2001, which Freeh referred to as “the most important evidence” in the report.[100] The report asserts that these emails demonstrate that in 1998 Paterno knew of the investigation of Sandusky, and followed it closely;[101] and suggest that it was Paterno, “long regarded as the single most powerful official at the university,” who persuaded Spanier, Curley, and Schultz not to formally report Sandusky to law enforcement or child welfare authorities. According to The New York Times, the university’s handling of the 2001 report of Sandusky raping a young boy is “one of the most damning episodes laid out by Mr. Freeh’s investigation…”[102]

The report states that nobody took any “responsible action after February 2001 other than Curley informing the Second Mile that Mr. Sandusky had showered with a boy”[103] and then telling Sandusky not to bring his “guests” into the Penn State facilities; but the topic of sexual abuse was not broached with Sandusky.[104][105]

The report criticizes Paterno for his failure to “alert the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building”.[106]

According to details in the report, despite being aware of Sandusky’s sexual misconduct with young boys in the locker-room showers in the Lasch Building in 1998, and 2001, Spanier, Paterno, Curley, and Schultz never restricted Sandusky’s access to Penn State facilities. The report states that Sandusky had access to the Lasch Building until November 2011. Over the next ten-year period, Sandusky “was frequently at the Lasch Building working out, showing up at campus events that Penn State supported…He was showering with young boys, staying in dormitories…There are more red flags than you could count, over a long period of time.”[98]Consequently, out of the 10 young boys that Sandusky would be convicted of sexually assaulting, most of them were abused after he was investigated in 1998[107]— at least five of them were assaulted “at Penn State’s football facilities and other places on campus after May 1998″.[108] After his retirement in 1999, the report notes that Sandusky continued to have “unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University’s facilities and affiliation with the university’s prominent football program. Indeed, the continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims”.[106][109]

Beyond the question of building access, the report details that as part of Sandusky’s retirement agreement he could “continue to work with young people through Penn State” for more than a decade, including Second Mile events on campus, youth football camps, etc.[110]

Sandusky’s access to Lasch was rescinded in November 2011. In the years previous to that, out of the 10 young boys that Sandusky was convicted of sexually assaulting, most of them were abused after he was investigated in 1998 — with the abuse of at least five of them occurring on the Penn State campus.[107][108]

At the July 12 press conference announcing the report’s findings, Freeh stated in his prepared remarks: “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children Sandusky victimized.” He said they “never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims” until after he was arrested in 2011.[111]

§Further allegations and investigations

Three men came forward and told police that they were abused in the 1970s or 1980s by Sandusky. They are the first men to allege abuse before the 1990s.[112]CBS News also reported that the United States Postal Service is leading an investigation to see whether Sandusky sent child pornography through the mail across state lines.[113] According to one source, child pornography was found on at least one of Sandusky’s computers.[114] Other reports indicated that individuals had come forward claiming that Sandusky had assaulted them during the 1960s, while he was living at the Brownson House in Washington, Pennsylvania.[115]

On August 24, 2012, as reported by the Associated Press, the individual known as “Victim 1″ who testified at the trial of Sandusky brought suit against Pennsylvania State University. They reported that the suit charged the University’s conduct with regard to the complaints that Sandusky had acted towards boys with sexual impropriety was “deliberate and shameful”, saying that Penn State engaged in “purposeful, deliberate and shameful subordination of the safety of children to its economic self-interests, and to its interest in maintaining and perpetuating its reputation.”[116]

In September 2012, former Philadelphia child prostitute Greg Bucceroni alleges that in 1979 & 1980 Philadelphia philanthropist Ed Savitz brought him from his New Jersey residence to State College Second Mile fund raiser for the purpose of child prostitution trafficking.[117]


On October 23, 2012, Sandusky was transferred to Camp Hill state prison in Harrisburg for pre-imprisonment evaluation.[118] He was then moved to Greene state prison in Franklin Township, where most of the state’s life and capital inmates are housed, on October 31, 2012, to serve his sentence. He will be housed inprotective custody.[9]

On December 3, 2014, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh reported that Sandusky received a letter from Penn State asking to renew his season ticket plan for the football team and attend a “recruiting” trip to a Penn State basketball game. The letter was reportedly sent out in error