Pennsylvania State University was sued by one of the victims of sex abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and accused of hiding what it knew about the threat he posed to children.
The plaintiff, known as “Victim 6,” filed the lawsuit yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia against the university, Sandusky and the youth charity he founded. The victim, who was 11 years old when the abuse took place in May 1998, accused the school and charity of negligence, conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotion distress.
“Sandusky’s sexual misconduct was ratified” by Penn State, lawyers for the victim said in the complaint. “Penn State actually concealed Sandusky’s pattern of inappropriate contact with minor boys, misrepresented the degree of danger he posed and affirmatively held him out to the public as a dependable and respected member of the Penn State faculty.”
Sandusky, who will turn 69 on Jan. 26, was found guilty in June by a jury of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period and convicted on 45 counts. He was sentenced in October and will serve at least three decades in prison before he’s considered for parole.
In 1998, Sandusky was questioned by police after the mother of Victim 6 complained about a shower incident in a university locker room. The police departments of Penn State and the town of State College, Pennsylvania, investigated.
“We are aware of the case brought today by Victim 6 against the university, and it has been referred to legal counsel,” Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman for Penn State, said yesterday in an e-mail. “As this is an ongoing piece of litigation, we can’t comment further at this time.”
A grand jury report released at the time of Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011 describes how Ronald Schreffler, a university detective, and Ralph Ralston, a State College detective, were allowed by the mother to eavesdrop on two conversations she had with Sandusky in May 1998.
She asked Sandusky whether his “private parts” touched her son during a hug and Sandusky replied, “I don’t think so ... maybe,” according to the report.
“I was wrong,” Sandusky told the mother, according to the report. “I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
The investigation was closed after Ray Gricar, the Centre County district attorney at the time, decided there would be no criminal charges, according to the grand jury report. Gricar disappeared on April 15, 2005. His laptop computer’s hard drive was found in the Susquehanna River and, at the request of his daughter, a judge declared him to be dead in 2011.
The suit is the sixth against Penn State over Sandusky’s abuse, Powers said. The university said in September it plans to compensate Sandusky’s victims with money from insurance policies and funds set aside from interest on internal loans. It hired Kenneth Feinberg, with the law firm of Feinberg Rozen LLP, to help facilitate negotiations.
Feinberg is best-known for serving as a mediator who oversaw claims by victims of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He also served as administrator of the $20 billion BP Plc fund to pay victims of the 2010 oil spill.
University President Rodney Erikson said Dec. 21 that he’s hopeful the process would result in the settlement of many civil cases. Negotiations continue, Feinberg said today in an e-mail.
“The facilitators are cautiously optimistic that progress will be made within the next few weeks,” Feinberg said in the e-mail.
Victim 6 seeks economic and non-economic damages, in addition to damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages, according to the complaint. The damages sought exceed $75,000, according to the filing.
The case is John Doe 6 v. The Pennsylvania State University, 13-00336, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)