July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Ex-Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Mike McQueary testified that late former head coach Joe Paterno criticized the school’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, including McQueary’s eyewitness account of a 2001 assault.
McQueary testified today in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, state court that he told school officials he saw Sandusky, a former football coach, abusing a boy in a locker room shower. Paterno faulted the school’s response in later years saying “Old Main screwed up,” referring to the school’s administrative hub, McQueary testified. Paterno cautioned him to seek legal counsel as the university sought to deflect blame, McQueary said.
“The university can come down hard on you,” McQueary testified he recalled Paterno saying in November 2011. “They’re going to try to scapegoat you. Make sure you have your lawyers.”
McQueary testified in a hearing over charges against ex-university President Graham Spanier, former athletic director Timothy Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz for their alleged roles in covering up Sandusky’s crimes.
The hearing comes more than a year after Sandusky, a former football defensive coordinator, was convicted of 45 criminal counts tied to the sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years. He was sentenced in October to a minimum of 30 years in prison.
The charges against the school officials followed a July 2012 report commissioned by the university and prepared by Louis Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigators concluded that Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz hid critical facts about Sandusky’s abuse. Paterno, who died in January 2012, was never charged with a crime.
Spanier was charged in November 2012. Curley and Schultz were initially charged a year earlier. Additional charges were added last year. All three men have denied the claims.
McQueary, who was terminated from Penn State in July 2012, is suing the university over claims his cooperation in the case against Sandusky led to his firing. He testified in December 2011 during an initial preliminary hearing for Curley and Schultz and testified in Sandusky’s criminal case in June 2012.
McQueary, who at times sparred with defense attorneys, testified that he went to Paterno’s home in State College on a Saturday in February 2001 after witnessing Sandusky in the shower. McQueary, a graduate assistant at the time of the incident, said he made it clear to Paterno that what he saw was sexual in nature.
“I had told him that I went to the locker room the night before and that I had seen coach Sandusky engaged in a very bad sexual act, molestation act with a minor,” McQueary said.
Paterno was “significantly saddened” and said he would “talk to some people,” McQueary said.
Curley contacted McQueary more than a week later and the two met with Schultz in a campus conference room for about 15 minutes, McQueary said. He told them the contact he witnessed was sexual and he described “rough positioning,” McQueary testified.
“I told them I had seen Jerry Sandusky involved in a sexual situation, molestation incident, in the Penn State football locker room,” McQueary said.
McQueary’s recounting today wasn’t as graphic as his previous testimony in December 2011, when he said he heard “rhythmic slapping sounds” before seeing Sandusky naked in the shower with his arms around the boy at about waist level. This time, McQueary detailed conversations with Paterno in the years following the incident.
Paterno would speak to him in passing asking how he was doing, McQueary said. The conversations were initially very short and became more specific after the state began investigating Sandusky in late 2009, McQueary said.
“I was upset about what I saw and coach Paterno was, to be frank with you, great about the whole thing,” McQueary said. “I would not complain to coach Paterno.”
On the night Paterno was terminated in November 2011, the coach warned McQueary about hiring lawyers, he said. It was their last conversation, McQueary said.
“Don’t trust Old Main,” McQueary said Paterno told him.
Unlike Curley and Schultz’s December 2011 hearing, during which prosecutors focused on McQueary’s eyewitness account and precisely what he told school officials, much of today’s testimony centered on e-mails dating back to 1998. The e-mails were among a cache of evidence uncovered by prosecutors last year linking Spanier, Curley and Schultz to an alleged cover-up.
The documents recovered included e-mails detailing Schultz’s conversations with former Penn State Chief of Police Tom Harmon in May 1998 after Sandusky was accused of touching an 11-year-old boy in a school shower. In notes on the incident, Schultz wrote that Sandusky’s behavior was at best inappropriate and at worst “sexual improprieties,” according to a grand jury report.
Harmon today testified that a school investigation was halted after the local district attorney decided not to pursue criminal charges in the case. Harmon, who retired in 2005, said he had no notes of his own from that period and didn’t save e-mails.
Schultz kept notes and documents about the abuse incidents in 1998 and 2001 in his campus office, according to prosecutors.
Joan Coble, who served as Schultz’s secretary for 14 years until her retirement in 2005, testified the former vice president kept a secret file on Sandusky in a locked three-drawer cabinet in his office. Schultz barred her from access to a confidential manila folder marked “Sandusky, Jerry” some time before the former coach’s retirement in 1999, Coble said.
The existence of the file wasn’t disclosed by Penn State and the material wasn’t turned over to prosecutors until April 2012, the state said last year.
Kimberly Belcher, another Schultz assistant, testified that she retrieved the file and gave it to Schultz after he was charged in the case in November 2011 and didn’t return to the office. Schultz didn’t ask for the file, Belcher said.
“I wanted to be helpful,” she testified.
The hearing continues tomorrow.
The cases are Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Spanier, MJ-12303-CR-0000419-2012, Magisterial District Judge 12-3-03; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Curley, CP-22-MD-1385-2012, Common Pleas Court of Dauphin County; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Schultz, CP-22-MD-1386-2012, Common Pleas Court of Dauphin County (Harrisburg).
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