STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The Pennsylvania attorney general, Linda Kelly, said in a news conference yesterday that Joe Paterno, Penn State’s legendary football coach, was not considered a target in the sexual abuse investigation that has resulted in the arrest of a former assistant coach and two prominent university officials.
Kelly, who made a plea for other potential victims to come forward, summarized the prosecutors’ case against Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator who faces a 40-count indictment for allegedly sexually abusing eight young boys. Through his lawyer, Sandusky has maintained his innocence.
She added that the roles played by Penn State administrators Tim Curley, the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, the vice president of business and finance who oversaw the university police, were “equally significant.’’ Curley and Schultz, who both stepped down late Sunday, were arraigned yesterday in Harrisburg, Pa., for charges that include providing false testimony to a grand jury and failing to report suspected child abuse.
Kelly chided them for not coming forth with the information about an alleged incident with Sandusky in the Penn State locker room showers in 2002.
“Those officials and administrators to whom it was reported did not report that incident to law enforcement or to any child protective agency,’’ she said. “Their inaction, likely, allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years.’’
Curley and Schultz have denied any wrongdoing.
Kelly said Paterno had cooperated with investigators and fulfilled his legal obligation to pass the information to a superior when, in 2002, a graduate assistant told him about an incident involving Sandusky that he had witnessed in the locker room showers.
According to prosecutors, the first serious chance Penn State had to halt the abuse came in 1998, when Sandusky was still an assistant for Paterno. The mother of an 11-year-old boy Sandusky had befriended at his charity reported to the Penn State campus police that her son had been touched and held by Sandusky in a shower inside the campus’s football facility.
Prosecutors said a “lengthy’’ investigation - one that grew to include allegations about a second young child being similarly touched by Sandusky in a shower - was carried out by the campus police. But the report offers few details about the nature of that investigation: who was interviewed, whether Paterno or other university officials were apprised of it.
When asked whether Paterno or the university president, Graham B. Spanier, was aware in 1998 of the investigation, Kelly said, “All I can say was that investigation was handled by Penn State University’s police department.’’
Paterno’s son Scott said in a telephone interview Sunday that Paterno had not been aware of the 1998 investigation.
Frank Noonan, the former chief of criminal investigations at the attorney general’s office and current commissioner of the state police, said the methods that Sandusky allegedly used were “very common’’ in these types of investigations. He said it was known as “grooming’’ victims and said the tactic involves someone identifying a child, becoming a mentor, giving the victim gifts and establishing trust.
He added that what was unusual about this investigation is that even after Sandusky “made admissions about inappropriate contact in the shower room’’ in 1998 to the Penn State police, “Nothing happened. Nothing stopped.’’
He said that janitors witnessed a sex act in 2000 and still “nothing changed, nothing stopped’’ as the janitors did not report it because they feared for their jobs. And finally in 2002 when another sex act was witnessed by a Penn State graduate assistant coach, who reported it to Paterno, the police still were not contacted.
Noonan said that the focus of the case should not be Penn State or football, but rather how Sandusky was not stopped from using the university to help groom young victims, according to the prosecutors’ report.