HARRISBURG — One of two lawsuits still pending in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal is nearing trial, and lawyers for the alleged victims in both cases say they have evidence Penn State administrators were not the only people at the university who knew about sex abuse by the ex-coach years before his arrest.
Both men, represented by the same team of lawyers, allege they were fondled by Sandusky in his car during separate incidents in the mid-2000s. The first of the cases is set for trial in February.
Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, including one in a locker room shower at Penn State in 2001. A graduate assistant who witnessed the shower incident reported it to university administrators, but they failed to alert police. Sandusky was not arrested until 10 years later when an anonymous tip led to a new investigation and findings of a high-level cover-up.
As a result of the delay, Sandusky was able to go on to abuse more boys.
“I believe that our case, that we are going to present to a jury, will definitively show that individuals at the university — in addition to just the administrators — concretely knew there was abuse that Sandusky had committed prior to our client,” said Brian Kent, lead attorney for a man listed as John Doe in one of the cases. He declined to elaborate.
Sandusky, a onetime assistant to the late Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno, is serving 30 to 60 years in prison. Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other retired administrators, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, were convicted this year of child endangerment for failing to notify authorities in 2001 of the locker room complaint.
Penn State has already paid out $109 million to settle Sandusky abuse claims by at least 34 people. The university has not provided the amount of any individual settlement. To date, not one lawsuit over Sandusky abuse claims has gone to trial.
In the two pending cases, the university is accused of negligence and recklessness in its handling of complaints about Sandusky.
Penn State has declined comment. But in a court filing in the John Doe case, university lawyers argued Penn State “owes no legal duty to a young man it did not know, where the assault happened entirely off-campus” by a former employee not related to school business.
The school’s lawyers have also argued that despite claims the university knew about prior abuse by Sandusky, “that knowledge does not give rise to a duty to supervise Sandusky after he left the university’s employment or to warn all people who at some point in the future could come into contact with Sandusky, no matter when, where or how.”
Sandusky, now 73, has not responded to either lawsuit. He refused to leave his prison cell when attorneys in the John Doe case arrived to depose him in April.
“They wanted to take his deposition and Jerry didn’t want to be deposed,” said Al Lindsay, Sandusky’s appellate lawyer in the criminal case.
In June, the judge in the John Doe case granted a judgment against Sandusky, meaning he was deemed liable in the case. The trial will determine how much he might owe.
John Doe says he met Sandusky around 2005 through the Second Mile, a now-defunct charity for at-risk youths that Sandusky founded in 1977 and used to meet and groom many of the men he was convicted of molesting.
In early 2007, Sandusky took the boy to visit a football coach at Bucknell University. Sandusky began touching and rubbing the boy’s thigh on the way there, behavior that continued when they ate pizza together afterward, according to the suit. On the way home, Sandusky “slowly slid his hand up (the boy’s) thigh and began grabbing, squeezing, rubbing and fondling” his genitals.
The Jack Doe lawsuit says he was 16 or 17 in the summer of 2003 or 2004, attending an overnight summer ice hockey camp on university property, when other players soaked his clothing with water.
The suit alleges Sandusky retrieved some dry clothes for him, and the coach “insisted on staying in the room” while the boy changed, then offered to drive him to the nearby dorm.
Once inside Sandusky’s car, the suit alleges Sandusky put his hand “into plaintiff’s lap and onto his penis.” The teen “wrestled off Sandusky’s hand,” prompting Sandusky to then reach back into his lap with both hands.