The inevitable conclusion of the Jerry Sandusky-child sex abuse trial came and went with sighs of relief, hardened hearts and a consensus that there’s no such thing as a pedophiliac tickle monster. 45 of 48 counts read guilty and the difficult, graphic testimony of the young men assaulted confirmed the obvious: he was deranged at best, evil at worst. Sandusky will remain in prison until his sentencing, likely within the next three months, and then his story fades until his death, almost certainly behind bars. He’s already on suicide watch and solitary confinement leaves him the possibility of being alone with his disgusting thoughts and little else.
In Happy Valley, where Penn State endured the nation’s wrath pointed directly at their idyllic city, the process begins anew. Jerry Sandusky’s crimes have been answered for but those that protected him, those that hid him, those that allowed him access to Nittany Lions facilities up to a week before his arrest step to the spotlight.
Former FBI director, Louis J. Freeh was tasked with an investigation by Penn State’s board of trustees and his findings should shed more light on how many others face legal consequences for their actions or inaction.
Former athletic director Tim Curley has perjury charges looming. Former president Graham Spanier had better hope the emails alluded to that show his awareness of Sandusky’s behavior long before his arrest aren’t as damning as they sound.
If a systematic cover-up, spearheaded by the Penn State administration in an effort to be more “humane” to Jerry Sandusky happened, this story’s climax figures to edge closer to uncomfortably ludicrous.
There are civil suits and plenty of them to be filed in short order. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports made mention that legal experts indicated the cost to the university could approach $200 million in damages.
And at the root of the issue, the underlying topic that’s occasionally broached but with much less vigor, is Joe Paterno. The legendary Nittany Lions coach passed away as his legacy was being rewritten. Generations of State College residents and Penn State fans worship and adore the man who brought stability, national renown and a perceived influence of doing things the right way.
Thousands of Penn State alums will remember him for those characteristics, for everything he meant to their sheltered community. But as his health failed him, Paterno’s own words altered that notion for the millions who have never cheered for the blue and white.
“I wish I had done more.”
We all do. As he noted, the benefit of hindsight makes revisionist history easy. Courts and the letter of the law don’t deal in that sort of fantasy though. Curley and Spanier face investigative questions that may lead to charges. Paterno’s judgment is solely based in that of public opinion, of how he’s remembered.
The victims and their families are now able to move on knowing Jerry Sandusky won’t walk a free man ever again. But the microscope at Penn State only widens now. It found the monster and the system erased him. Those that aided, helped or knew?
Their time is coming.