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Recapping the events that led up to, followed the arrest of Jerry Sandusky

sandusky timeline

The long and disconsolate story of Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse crimes can be traced back several decades, to as early as the 1970s.

Reports of chronic abuse raised questions about famed football head coach Joe Paterno’s and other Penn State faculty’s awareness of the situation, and put a national spotlight on Penn State.

Over the course of his career, the former defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions sexually abused several young boys he met through his charity The Second Mile. Jerry Sandusky was eventually found guilty of 45 out of 52 counts of child sexual abuse brought against him.

The following are charges resulting in a guilty verdict, and the number of counts:

  • Criminal attempt to commit indecent assault: 1
  • Endangering the welfare of children: 10
  • Corruption of minors: 10
  • Unlawful contact with minors: 9
  • Indecent assault: 6
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse: 9

The crimes Sandusky committed spanned several decades, and there were many victims — now known as survivors.

The story began just months after the first moon landing in 1969 when Sandusky was hired as an assistant football coach for Penn State.

Sandusky’s earliest known victim — referred to in court documents as “Victim A”— said in an interview he was raped in a Penn State bathroom in 1971 by Sandusky after the man picked him up while he was hitchhiking.

Victim A said he was attacked while standing at a urinal at a Penn State bathroom. He said he jerked his head back hitting Sandusky, which resulted in both falling to the floor and the boy's head bleeding when he stood up.

After his foster mom noticed a cut on his head, she called Penn State to figure out what happened. The survivors alleged two Penn State faculty members, “Jim” and “Joe,” spoke with him on the phone and threatened him not to report anything.

The boy said the two men accused him of making up the story.

“There was no question in my mind who Joe was,” he said. “I’ve heard that voice a million times. It was Joe Paterno.”

Victim A, who said he was molested during a church sleepover the year before, was 15 years old at the time of the alleged rape.

Six years following the incident, Sandusky founded The Second Mile charity to help underprivileged youth and their families in Pennsylvania. The charity served as many as 100,000 children annually.

Major companies including the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Highmark Foundation, The Hershey Company and State Farm Companies Foundation all gave $50,000 or more to the charity between 2008 and 2010.

A grand jury investigation said Sandusky found the survivors through The Second Mile’s charity programs. But, he wouldn’t face any consequences for his actions until after the turn of the century.

sandusky timeline

At around 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2001, a graduate assistant within the football program said he observed an incident of “sexual nature” between a young boy and Sandusky in the locker room of Penn State’s Lasch football building.

Michael McQueary said he saw Sandusky with his arms wrapped around a young boy in a way he described to be “way over the lines.” After what he witnessed, McQueary shut his locker and moved toward the shower that the two men were standing in.

He said he watched Sandusky and the boy separate from each other, and both looked directly at McQueary.

In the early morning after the incident, McQueary called Paterno and visited him in his home on McKee Street off East Park Avenue in State College to discuss the matter.

McQueary disclosed the details of what he observed to Paterno that morning.

“I said I heard slapping sounds,” McQueary said, recounting the interaction. “I described it was extremely sexual and that some kind of intercourse was going on.”

Paterno told McQueary he did the right thing by bringing the matter to his attention, but he would have to speak with others at Penn State before any disciplinary action or investigation can take place.

No evidence shows that either man tried to identify the young boy.

After discovering the situation was out of Paterno’s control, McQueary sat down with then-Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and university Vice President Gary Schultz, who said they would investigate his claims of child sex abuse.

The pair’s first course of action in response to the news was a conference call with Penn State’s outside legal counsel Wendell Courtney. Schultz allegedly urged Courtney to forward the incident to child welfare officials.

Courtney later concluded he didn’t have a “legal duty” to report the story he heard from Schultz, claiming Shultz’s description of the case was described to him as nothing more than “horseplay” between the 57-year-old man and the young boy.

“Gary at no time told me he thought this was child abuse,” Courtney said.

Courtney said after his initial research, however, he called Schultz back and urged him to send a report to the state Department of Public Welfare, although he holds that he didn’t press Schultz for more details about what McQueary had seen.

Despite Courtney’s efforts, Penn State officials never reported the February 2001 incident, which eventually resulted in failure to report charges against Schultz, Curley and former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Around 2:30 p.m. the next day, Spanier said he met with Schultz and Curley so they could give him a “heads up” that McQueary reported what he saw to Paterno.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that — in a meeting between Spanier, Curley and Schultz — the three men finally decided to alert the chair of The Second Mile, report the situation to the Department of Public Welfare and told Sandusky to “avoid bringing children alone into the Lasch Building.”

McQueary has since sued Penn State for more than $4 million in damages for alleged defamation of his personal life and career, and claims the university misled him to think the case would be handled “properly.”

The three men continued to correspond via email, but sensitive topics were “in code” because the Athletic Department was “notorious for leaks.”

Executive director of The Second Mile Jack Raykovitz met with Curley the following month to discuss Sandusky’s actions in order to “avoid publicity issues,” according to the charity’s council.

After his meeting with Curley, Raykovitz met with Sandusky who admitted to showering with boys but did not confess to anything further. Sandusky noted in the meeting he was no longer allowed to bring children on campus.

Sandusky didn’t follow these orders however, and he assaulted the fifth survivor in the Lasch Building in August of the same year.

The abuse would continue for years, with most Penn State students and faculty unaware.

Sandusky maintained a positive reputation for nearly a decade after these first reported incidents of assault. On Nov. 14, 2003, The Daily Collegian published an article titled “Coach still teaches in game of life,” in which several volunteers and directors of The Second Mile praised Sandusky’s dedication to helping children.

“I am just overwhelmed at how hands-on Jerry is,” Leslie Wilson, assistant director for programs at Second Mile told the Collegian. “It’s like he was put on this earth to work with kids.”

The article, which remains archived on the Collegian’s website, reads, “When a child at an event appears to be shy or uninvolved in the activity, Sandusky devotes one-on-one time with the youngster.”

On March 31, 2011, Harrisburg daily newspaper The Patriot-News published an investigation that would reveal the details of Sandusky’s crimes to the public. The story sent a shockwave through the Penn State community when the accusations were brought to light on a large platform.

Penn State class of 2008 graduate and reporter Sara Ganim had been researching the case for years after suspicions rose surrounding Sandusky’s misconduct.

sandusky timeline

Although Sandusky retired from the Nittany Lions coaching staff in 1999, rumors had been spread around the Penn State community about the man’s foul play and mistreatment of young boys he met through The Second Mile.

Ganim — who won a George Polk Award in Journalism, Sidney Award and Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the story — began research on the case when she received a tip about a grand jury investigation on Sandusky’s alleged crimes.

An article by Ganim published on Nov. 5, 2011 — only six days after what would be Paterno’s last game as head coach for the Nittany Lions — revealed the state attorney general’s indictments against Sandusky that occurred following a nearly three years investigation.

Sandusky was released on $100,000 bond and ordered to have no contact with children. Additionally, Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and failure to report abuse and stepped down from their university positions the next day.

Curley and Schultz were arraigned in court, and their bail was set at $75,000 each.

Shortly after, Paterno issued a statement acknowledging McQueary’s 2001 report of abuse, saying, “While I did what I was supposed to with one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved, I can’t help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.”

Four days after the news broke of Sandusky’s indictments, Paterno announced he will retire following the conclusion of the 2011 football season.

Later that night, in an impromptu meeting, the Penn State Board of Trustees fired both Paterno and former president Spanier, effective immediately.

Defensive coordinator at the time Tom Bradley was named interim head coach of the football team, and academic administrator Rodney Erickson was named interim university president.

The immediate removal of college football’s winningest coach sparked an immediate response from the student population, who were outraged to see an esteemed member of the football program leave so suddenly.

That night, there were large scale civil disturbances throughout downtown State College.

In the largest riot the city has seen to date, students in support of Paterno brought their anger and frustration to the streets resulting in widespread damage, including completely uprooting streetlights and flipping a WTAJ News van on its side on College Avenue.

Pennsylvania State Police were called onto the scene to disperse the crowd of disgruntled college students by force.

It was not until the end of June 2012 when Sandusky was convicted for his crimes.

In a trial that lasted two days, eight men took the stand to testify, detailing the alleged assaults Sandusky committed over the course of decades. Sandusky chose not to testify.

Defense attorney Joseph Amendola said outside the courtroom he believed the verdict came too quickly and adhered to Sandusky’s innocence.

Following the court’s decision, Sandusky would face a potential 442 years in prison and is set to serve 30 to 60 years while he fights to appeal his conviction.

Shortly after his conviction, on July 12, 2012, a 267-page comprehensive special investigation report was published by former FBI Director Louis Freeh and his special counsel.

The controversially pervasive “Freeh report” detailed the actions of the university in relation to Sandusky’s sex abuse crimes. Details revealed in the Freeh report brought to light the extent of university administration’s neglect to report and mishandling of the Sandusky case.

The report called attention to several administrative bodies, including the office of the president, University Police and the office of human relations.

From the day the Freeh report was published until now, Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Sandusky have had their lives enveloped in ongoing legal battles.

Paterno died of lung cancer two months after Sandusky’s conviction.

In March 2017, former Penn State President Spanier filed a lawsuit against Freeh, accusing the investigator of using a nationally televised press conference for defamatory statements against him.

Court documents claimed Freeh made statements regarding Spanier during his press conference, “intentfully, willfully, maliciously and in conscious disregard of Dr. Spanier’s right and reputation.”

The suit — which occurred shortly before Spanier was convicted for one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child under his supervision — was eventually dismissed.

As a result of his conviction, Spanier was sentenced to two months in the Centre County Correctional Facility followed by at least two months house arrest, $7,500 fines and 200 hours of community service.

sandusky timeline

“Nothing short of a sentence that slides a period of jail time would be an appropriate sentence for Graham Spanier,” prosecutors wrote in the court filing.

Spanier’s request for a retrial was denied.

Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to child endangerment before trial, and reported to county jail on July 15. Curly served three months and Schultz was sentenced to two months. Both men were also struck with a $5,000 fine and were required to complete 200 hours of community service.

The pair also attempted to reduce their sentences following conviction.

Curley submitted court documents detailing his lung cancer and liver damage, with a doctor stating prison could deter his health and lead to further complications.

A motion was filed for Schultz, stating prison time could interfere with his ability to take care of his wife who suffers from multiple sclerosis, according to court documents.

Both men were granted work release from Judge John Bocabella, meaning they could leave prison to work at a place of employment “if the proposed employment meets the requirements of the institution and supervising authority.”

Bocabella’s order did not address the requested sentence modifications.

In an attempt to gain exemption from his prison sentence, Sandusky pursued relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act, but was swiftly denied.

The Office of the Attorney General has “zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of children,” accoring to a press statement, and is committed to “pursue anyone who preys on children.”

Sandusky would continue efforts to have his sentence reduced.

In an October 2019 attempt, he filed for writ of habeas corpus. The application was denied and the former assistant coach was never brought before a judge.

Sandusky’s most notable attempt to gain freedom was on Nov. 22, 2019 when he returned to the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, for a resentencing trial.

Despite defense attorney Al Lindsay’s attempts, however, the sentence of 30 to 60 years in prison and the 45 aforementioned charges — originally granted by Judge John Cleveland in 2012 — were upheld by Judge Maureen Skerda.

Lindsay described the sentencing as “the most important sentence hearing” he’s ever attended, and said he could not claim the now 75-year-old Sandusky was a “changed man” for actions he never did.

“No matter what, nobody or nothing will ever be able to take away what is in my heart,” Sandusky said as he maintained his innocence in court.

Questions about Spanier and Paterno’s involvement in the case remain unanswered today. The legacy of Penn State’s most successful football coach is filled with controversy.

Spanier denied a request for comment on the case. The attorneys for Curley and Schultz did not respond for comment.

Sandusky’s earliest possible release date will be Oct. 9, 2042 — 30 years after his sentencing.

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