There are many who would like to be able to know the absolute truth about Joe Paterno’s role in the Jerry Sandusky case — for some, to confirm that he avoided standing up to a child predator to save an institution’s reputation; for others, to absolve the coach of any culpability in abetting Sandusky’s abuse.
The Paterno family-commissioned report was released Sunday morning in response to former FBI director Louis Freeh’s findings on matters related to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case in July. The 238-page report blasted the Freeh Report, calling it factually inaccurate and speculative.
In July, Freeh concluded that former head football coach Joe Paterno was one of four top officials at Penn State who failed to stop former assistant football coach Sandusky from abusing children. Sandusky was recently found guilty on 45 counts of child sex abuse and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Like the Freeh Report, the Paterno family’s report fell short of providing a foolproof account of the coach’s response to allegations of abuse involving Sandusky.
The family-commissioned report outlined the opinions of four people – former United States Attorney General and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh, retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente, Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers and founder of Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic Dr. Fred Berlin. These four have impressive resumes, no doubt, but readers should still understand that they were hand-selected by the Paterno family to refute a report that tarnished Joe’s name.
Those involved with the situation can argue their side of the story indefinitely, but the facts may never be known with absolute certainty.
To its credit, Sunday’s report did include extensive background information on child sexual offenders and the reasons why it’s often difficult to detect predators like Sandusky.
But for the most part, the report did little to change any minds. The underlying arguments against Paterno’s guilt made by the four authors have been made countless times by the coach’s defenders since his death last January.
The Paterno family’s report was released seven months after Freeh’s findings were published. So is the next move for Freeh to release a 200-page report refuting the Paterno Report?
As the cries for an intangible justice continue, we have to wonder: When is it going to end?
Both of these reports were published without waiting for the resolution of a critical component to the story. Former Athletic Director Tim Curley, President Graham Spanier and Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz — three of the men Freeh said helped cover up child sexual abuse — are awaiting trial on charges related to their involvement in the Sandusky case.
While it is understandable that Paterno’s family and supporters want to defend his legacy, few are willing to accept the fact that Paterno’s day in court will never come.
And while Paterno might have reported what Mike McQueary told him to others — trusting that they “would know how to handle the situation and ‘get to the bottom of it’” — to many, that will never be enough. No report, statement or piece of testimony will do anything to change that.
Those truly interested in moving forward should accept that at some level mistakes were made, however harsh that reality is. It would be far more productive for our community to focus instead on the even harsher reality that child sex abuse remains an issue in dire need of our attention.
It’s time to put aside arguments over Paterno’s reputation. If you’re continuing to look for closure in a report, you’re looking in the wrong place.