Thursday, November 10, 2011

Railroading Joe Paterno

Penn State coach Joe Paterno was just fired in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. I am surprised by the rush to judgment. Doesn't anyone believe in "innocent until proven guilty"?

The main accusation against Paterno is that in 2002, a graduate assistant told him that he saw Sandusky abuse a 10-year-old boy in a campus shower the previous day. Sandusky was an assistant coach who retired in 1999. Paterno reported the accusation to higher university officials. The content of those 2002 discussions is hotly disputed. Sandusky was banned from taking children to the facility, but no criminal action was taken. No one knows the identity of the boy, and he is not complaining.

It sounds as if Paterno could have done more, but if the graduate assistant really saw severe abuse, then why didn't he intervene directly? He was a record setting former quarterback, and could have easily subdued the elderly Sandusky. Why didn't he call the police? The grand jury treats him as some sort of hero, but he seems to be the second most culpable person involved. Apparently he made some sort of deal with the DA, trading his testimony against his superiors in exchange for not being prosecuted. Why is this only becoming an issue after 9 years, when even honest witnesses could have forgotten details?

College students are almost all over 18, and hence adults under USA law. Colleges are not really equipped to babysit 10-year-olds. Where are the parents of that boy? Why is Paterno responsible for people who don't even belong on campus?

It took a 3-year investigation by the state attorney general to decide that there was some wrongdoing here, and she had access to all sorts of info that Paterno did not. So how was Paterno supposed to figure out that something was wrong if it took the Penn AG 3 years?

An SF CA columnist writes:
It was the women's basketball coach, Rene Portland, who kept her job for 27 years despite a well-established hostility to lesbian players. Joe Paterno, then serving as both football coach and athletic director, hired Portland in 1980 and said on more than one occasion that he considered her the best coach he had brought to the school.
I guess Paterno did not show the right amount of tolerance for homosexual activity. Too much or too little can make enemies.

This seems political to me. Like the attacks on Herman Cain, it is an attempt to destroy a man who stands for what he believes in, based on vague accusations of inappropriate behavior many years ago. The accusations depend on the impossibility of learning the truth.

You could say that Sandusky's perversions should have been obvious to Paterno, but why weren't they obvious to anyone else? No one tolerates child rape. All it took was for one person to report it promptly to the police or to the father, and that would be the end of it.

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