Emails first reported by NBC and later by CNN reveal the Penn State University ex-president Graham Spanier agreed with a plan hatched by then athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz to sweep the Sandusky affair under the rug in the aftermath of Mike McQueary’s eyewitness account of Jerry Sandusky’s assault on a boy in the shower.
“I’m sure that Curley’s allusion to the discussion with Paterno the day before divulging a change of heart on the issue to Spanier will evoke plenty of strong opinions, including mine.”
This Turkey will examine the evidence and intersperse my take on the actions of the officials. Spanier’s involvement is a major disappointment to the Old Foul Fowl, but I can’t say I didn’t expect it.
First Curley and Schultz wanted to report the allegation, but then later reconsidered. They wanted to work with Sandusky, keep the University out of the headlines, and move on. Spanier’s email expressed support, but concern that not reporting the incident might leave the two administrators “vulnerable for not having reported it.”
All along, this Turkey has been saying that Spanier had to be the one who put his seal on the cover-up. Curley and Schultz would have been crazy to flout the law without the imprimatur of the president. As it stands, they face perjury charges for lying to a grand jury while Spanier is as free as a bird.
It is this Turkey’s opinion that Curley would have never taken full responsibility for such an onerous plan on his own shoulders alone. As it turns out, Gary Schultz seems to have been the mastermind behind the alternative path forward. “[Handling the matter strictly internally] is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,” wrote Schultz in a 2001 email. But a conversation between Curley and then head coach Joe Paterno might have influenced Curley to go along with it.
In an exchange of messages from February 26-28, 2001, Spanier allegedly acknowledges Penn State could be “vulnerable” for not reporting the incident, according to two sources with knowledge of the case.
“The only downside for us is if the message [to Sandusky] isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” Spanier purportedly writes.
Obviously, that hypothetical conjecture was true. However, the operative word now is “culpable”, not “vulnerable.”
In the spirit of Watergate and other cloak and dagger cover-ups, the three administrators used pseudonyms and euphemisms, lest some plucky computer science student might have hacked the email system and figured out what was going on.
The alleged e-mails among Spanier, Schultz, 62, and former Athletic Director Tim Curley, 57, never mention Sandusky by name, instead referring to him as “the subject” and “the person.” Children that Sandusky brought on campus –some of whom might have been victims — are referred to as “guests.”
McQueary reported the shower incident to his superior, head coach Joe Paterno on February 9, 2001. Paterno then called a meeting at his house the next day, a Sunday, where McQueary repeated his story to Tim Curley. Apparently, Curley and Schultz ruminated about the cover-up plan for 16 days.
In an alleged e-mail dated February 26, 2001, Schultz writes to Curley that he assumes Curley’s “got the ball” about a three-part plan to “talk with the subject asap regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility,” … “contacting the chair of the charitable organization” and “contacting the Department of Welfare,” according to a source with knowledge of the case.
Schultz refers to Sandusky as the “subject” and Sandusky’s Second Mile charity as the “charitable organization,” according to a source with knowledge of the e-mails.
Pennsylvania law requires suspected child abuse be reported to outside authorities, including the state’s child welfare agencies.
Suddenly, everything changed. Curley sent an email to Spanier referring to a meeting they were to have that day. Schultz was copied on the email but was out of his office. In that email, he referred to a conversation with Joe Paterno the previous day, which apparently swayed the athletic director, who has often been accused of having been under Paterno’s thumb. He wrote that he was uncomfortable with what he, Spanier, and Schultz had agreed would be the path forward.
So, in the great university tradition, Curley recommended keeping the thing under wraps, to be handled internally. He felt uncomfortable about discussing the matter with “everyone but [Sandusky]“.
Curley writes he’d be “more comfortable” meeting with Sandusky himself and telling him they know about the 2001 incident and — according to a source with knowledge of the case — refers to another shower incident with a boy in 1998 that was investigated by police, but never resulted in charges against Sandusky.
Curley writes to Penn State’s president Spanier that he wants to meet with Sandusky, tell him there’s “a problem,” and that “we want to assist the individual to get professional help.”
In the same purported e-mail provided to CNN, Curley goes on to suggest that if Sandusky “is cooperative,” Penn State “would work with him” to tell Second Mile. If not, Curley states, the university will inform both Second Mile and outside authorities.
Curley adds that he intends to inform Sandusky that his “guests” won’t be allowed to use Penn State facilities anymore.
Curley proposed the plan to Spanier, who agreed to it, albeit with reservations about whether it was the right thing to do. This is not what this Turkey calls leadership. In a university, however, it is par for the course, being referred to by the euphemism “collegiality.”
“The only downside for us is if the message [to Sandusky] isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” wrote Spanier. ”But that can be assessed down the down the road. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”
A dangerous plan, indeed. They knew Sandusky was a habitual offender and they expected him to be able to control his urges? They expected that even though he had the Second Mile boy selection program in his back pocket, he would suddenly stop bringing boys to campus? Only an idiot or an idealistic academician would believe that such a thing would be possible. Humane and reasonable? Did they really believe that they were being humane with absolutely no consideration given to the victims? What kind of inconsiderate, misguided assholes are these guys, anyhow?
Schultz apparently agreed to the plan the following day, approving not telling anyone outside the University.
“This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,’ Schultz purportedly wrote. But he made clear Penn State should inform Sandusky’s charity Second Mile “with or without [Sandusky's] cooperation.”
As for telling child welfare authorities, he added, “we can play it by ear.”
As we now know, it was never reported outside the University. Not to child welfare authorities, not to law enforcement, and not to the media. It was swept right under that great big rug in Old Main.
These emails have been part of the Louis Freeh investigation, and are now in the hands of state prosecutors.
According to Penn State’s board of trustees, Spanier was fired last year because “he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities.”
Shortly after his dismissal, Spanier issued a statement that said, in part, “I was stunned and outraged to learn that any predatory act might have occurred in a university facility or by someone associated with the university. … I would never hesitate to report a crime if I had any suspicion that one had been committed.”
And Nixon would have snitched on the Watergate burglars if he had any suspicion that they had broken into Democratic headquarters. Tell me another one, boys. “I am not a crook.”
Penn State is guilty of criminal negligence. Universities have to learn that they are not sacrosanct institutions that are above the law. This applies to all universities, not just to Penn State. I’ve seen firsthand how universities try to hide illegalities from the public. Wouldn’t be prudent. Hits them right in the wallet when scandals break.
However, when the cat gets out of the bag, as it inevitably will, they’re in a much deeper heap o’ shit than they would have been by being up front with it in the first place.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
I’m talking to you university presidents! All of you.
Let’s get back to Paterno, as I’m sure that Curley’s allusion to the discussion with the former head coach the day before divulging a change of heart on the issue to Spanier will evoke plenty of strong opinions, including mine.
It appears that Joe convinced Curley to keep Sandusky’s name clean on the outside. No one knows what actually happened during that conversation between the athletic director and his coach, and Paterno, being a technological dinosaur, did not use email. There is no record of the conversation.
Curley was Joe’s boss. Yeah, yeah, I know. The relationship was complicated. Whether Joe or Curley actually called the shots was often questionable. However, in a matter such as this, the chain of command applies. Curley should have exited his comfort zone with Paterno and not acceded to his wishes. Instead, he caved and just about told Spanier that Joe caused him to change his mind.
Why did Joe want to protect Sandusky? We’ll never know.
Did Joe do his job? Yes.
Should Joe have gone further on his own? Probably, but he was between a rock and a hard place. Everyone up to the president had agreed to put the quietus on the thing.
We can sit on the sidelines and call the plays, but down in the trenches things are different. “In retrospect, I should have done more,” uttered by Paterno after the scandal broke, will haunt us forever.
Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. It wasn’t enough. Kids were molested. Victims were ignored. Institutional smugness ran rampant, enabling a child molester. Perhaps between Curley and Paterno, they did convince Sandusky to curtail his appetite for boys on the campus after they threatened him as reported above. However, no one did anything for the victims. They were completely ignored. Worrying about being “humane” with Sandusky while not consider a myriad boys who would carry with them for life frightening and sordid scars was a complete breakdown of human decency. Humane, indeed! Not.
I doubt that Joe’s job would have been in jeopardy had he reported the incident. Random thoughts running through my mind on the subject even include his using the knowledge of the cover-up to extort keeping his job when Spanier and Curley tried to fire him in 2004.
So, although Paterno is hereby exonerated (by the Turkey) from failure to do his legal duty by virtue of reporting the incident in full to his superiors, and although he legally lacks any culpability for the cover-up because of a) a strictly hearsay conversation in which he purportedly persuaded Curley to keep the matter internal, b) compliance with Pennsylvania state law by fully disclosing the truth about the incident to his superiors, and c) because he’s dead, Joe, as a decent family man and role model, damn well should have let his conscience tell him that he should consider the past, present, and future victims. Screw Sandusky! Screw the University!
In retrospect, he damn well should have done more, to say the least!
Back to Spanier. In May, he filed a civil suit against the university to release emails relating to the Sandusky scandal to him and his attorneys. He claims that he originally was told that emails before 2004 were not available. (Many organizations have a short-term retention policy on email just to avoid later surprises.) However, as we now know, someone lied, because Freeh and the state prosecutors, not to mention NBC and CNN, obtained the old emails.
The plot thickens. Meanwhile, Sandusky awaits sentencing, having been convicted on 45 of 48 counts of crimes against boys.
More information from MSNBC and CNN can be found at links below: