Sex abuse claims rock US college

2011-11-07 09:31

State College - Criminal charges for sexually abusing boys filed against a longtime assistant to legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno jolted students, fans and alumni across Pennsylvania on Sunday.

Former defensive co-ordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, 67, of State College, where Penn State is located, faces an array of charges involving eight boys, assaulting at least one in the college team's facilities, according to state prosecutors.

When a witness to one of the alleged assaults reported it to Paterno, he alerted Athletic Director Timothy Curley, a grand jury statement said.

"As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility," Paterno said in a statement of his own on Sunday.

"It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report."

Paterno added, however, that "it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr Sandusky."

Failing to report crimes

The charges reach into the top echelons of the college's sports programme as Curley, 57, and Gary Schultz, 62, senior vice-president for finance and business, were charged with failing to report the alleged crimes, and with perjury.

No charges have been made against Paterno, 84, the top-winning coach in the top division of collegiate sports whose players have gone on to star in the National Football League.

Doug Gamber, 51, of Rossville, Pennsylvania, a 1982 Penn State graduate, said he was "shocked, appalled."

Asked if the charges would reverberate across the state, he told Reuters: "Without a doubt. Penn State has kind of a pristine reputation."

Gamber said of Paterno: "He's an impeccable sort of figure, a grandfather figure."

"People are definitely talking about it... it's totally gross. The university in general tries to cover up everything," said Marijane Mackey, the manager of the Jamaica Junction clothing store in downtown State College.

Likely successor

Sandusky, who was defensive co-ordinator for 23 years and was once considered a likely successor to Paterno, allegedly targeted boys from 1994 to 2009, a grand jury report said.

Paterno said the fact that someone he and his wife "thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things."

Sandusky's attorney Joe Amendola has said his client, who left Penn State coaching in 1999, was shaken by the charges but knew they were coming. "He's maintained his innocence," Amendola said.

Attorneys for Curley and Schultz issued statements on the college's website on Saturday saying the two men were innocent and would fight the charges.

Penn State President Graham Spanier also issued a statement on Saturday saying Curley and Schultz had his "unconditional support," and allegations against both would prove groundless.

Because the allegations relate to their responsibilities as university employees, Penn State is paying for the two men's legal counsel, said school spokesperson Lisa Powers.

Sexual predator

Tyler Barnard, a junior from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,, said he objected to that. "I want to start a protest movement saying I don't want my tuition to pay for their screw-ups."

Sandusky was arraigned on Saturday and released after posting $100 000 bail. A preliminary hearing is set November 9.

The charges include seven counts of first-degree involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $25 000 fine, according to Pennsylvania State Attorney General Linda Kelly.

One victim, a boy of about 11 years old when he met Sandusky in 2005 or 2006, testified that Sandusky performed oral sex on him more than 20 times through early 2008, and forced the victim to perform oral sex on him, the report said.

"This is a case about a sexual predator who used his position within the university and community to repeatedly prey on young boys," Kelly said.

About a half-dozen protesters gathered outside the college administration building on Sunday with signs including one reading, "Tonight I am ashamed of PSU."

Upset and angry

"I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold," Paterno said in his statement. "In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents..."

Richard Coleman, 23, a 2010 Penn State graduate and former columnist on the student paper, said he is expecting a clean sweep of the entire football staff, including Paterno.

"I will be surprised if this is not his last year," Coleman said. "Legally he is in the clear I guess. But morally, it's just awful." 

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