"The Betrayal of Joe Paterno" Chapter Two: The McQueary Episode
CHAPTER TWO: THE MCQUEARY EPISODE
Of course, unknown at the time of Paterno’s firing (among a multitude of other vitally important facts) is that just five weeks after almost being hired as the head football coach at Virginia, Jerry Sandusky was witnessed by Mike McQueary acting, at the very least, “inappropriately” with a boy, later to be known as Victim 2, in a Penn State shower.
In November of 2011 it was wrongly thought that the McQueary episode took place in March of 2002. One of the many problems that this error caused was that it prevented the Virginia job situation to be put into its proper context with regard to the shower incident.
After all, while hardly impossible, does it not at least cast some doubt on the plausibility of Sandusky deciding to recklessly “rape” a boy in a shower (to which dozens of other people had access) just five weeks after he was a whisker from accepting what was by far the biggest coaching job he had ever been offered? (It should also be noted that the Virginia job situation allegedly happened about a month after the highly suspect “janitor” episode which does not currently have an actual witness, victim, specific date, or contemporaneous report attached to it).
Obviously Sandusky still thought of himself as being in the “coaching game” at this time and with a lot left to lose. While I realize that pedophiles obviously don’t always think logically, it just seems rather unlikely that Sandusky would take such an incredible chance like that. Perhaps more convincingly, if Sandusky really was willing to act so astonishingly out of control, it makes you seriously question if it would really be possible for him to get away with this kind of behavior for such an extraordinarily long time (it should be noted that McQueary was the first and is still the only witness to ever contemporaneously report seeing Sandusky acting inappropriately with a child, and the only person to ever go on the record with such an account, which is pretty stunning when you think about it).
Of course, the most controversial incident within the entire Sandusky scandal was the one Mike McQueary witnessed, apparently on February 9th 2001. Consistent with the limitations of memory, this is a date which no one involved with the story actually fingered as accurate and was a revision from the prosecution’s original March 1st 2002 date. The new date was later pieced together through documentary evidence which came to light well after Paterno’s firing (While the paper trail seems to make it clear this has to be the right date, Sandusky, who always knew that the original 2002 date was wrong, is still uncertain about the February 9th date and appears to possibly be conflating two different times that he was with Victim 2 on campus. Meanwhile, on McQueary’s end the new date still doesn’t make perfect sense because he claimed to be watching the movie Rudy on television and then got inspired to go over to the locker room, but the movie would have only just started at the time he would have left his residence that evening.)
The mystery surrounding the events of that fateful night has birthed numerous widely divergent theories about what really did and not occur. While, much like with the 1998 episode, the evidence is extremely contradictory at times, I believe that it is indeed possible to construct a scenario which both makes sense and which is consistent with everything we know to be true.
There is little doubt that McQueary saw Sandusky in a Penn State shower with a boy and that what he witnessed was upsetting to him. However, the nature of McQueary’s account is far more ambiguous than the grand jury presentment infamously indicated. The 23- page document brazenly claimed that McQueary had “very credibly” witnessed an act of “anal intercourse.” This was not just incredibly inflammatory; it was also false on two fronts.
First, McQueary has never testified, or even told anyone, that he definitely saw a “rape.” In fact, he has even been quoted as having said he never claimed that he witnessed such an act in the incredibly short time frame in which he says he saw something.
Secondly, the specific grand jury (the “33rd” version) which indicted Sandusky was not even the same panel which heard McQueary testify (the “30th” version), so they could not possibly have found him to be “very credible,” which would have been a highly unusual description to begin with. I spoke to a member of the 30th grand jury who was flabbergasted when he saw that portion of the grand jury presentment, partly because he did not find McQueary to be particularly credible at all and even referred to him as a “liar” (it should also be pointed out that the grand jury which indicted Curley and Schultz did not even witness their testimony either).
Contrary to public and media perception, by McQueary’s own account, he only ever saw Sandusky and the boy for about two or three seconds, and that was through a mirror. It is obvious from his testimony that how McQueary interpreted what he now says he saw in those couple of seconds was profoundly impacted by the “slapping sounds” he heard before seeing Sandusky and the boy (he admitted that, based on those sounds, he expected to see a man and a woman having sex). If McQueary is accurate in describing where he was when he witnessed Sandusky engaging in some sort of “sexual act,” photographs taken from that spot prove that it would have been extremely difficult for McQueary to have seen much, if anything, at all.
Thanks to my interview with Sandusky and the detailed statement from the boy who was with him that night, I do not believe, as McQueary’s testimony eventually evolved to claim, that Mike made any real effort (other than slamming a locker door) to stop whatever he was witnessing. Nor do I think he ever made eye contact with Sandusky and boy. I am also completely convinced that Sandusky never knew McQueary was even there and didn’t know he was the witness until ten years later when it finally became public knowledge.
Still, we know from McQueary’s actions after this event that he was clearly distressed by whatever he did (or at least thought he did) see. He immediately spoke to his father and his father’s boss, Dr. Jonathan Dranov and told them some version of what had happened. Tellingly, neither one of them testified that McQueary told them he saw a sex act and Dr. Dranov (who thought he was legally required to report such an allegation to authorities and did not do so, though for some “strange” reason he is left out of the grand jury presentment) testified that Mike refused to claim having seen a sex act when he asked him if he saw that at least three separate times that night.
Importantly, neither McQueary’s father nor Dr. Dranov told him to report what he witnessed to the police. Instead, they instructed him to speak to Joe Paterno, who would be an odd first person to go to if you thought that an obvious crime had been committed, especially since Sandusky was no longer an employee of Penn State. The next morning McQueary called Paterno and then went over to his home for a brief meeting at the kitchen table of the Paterno family home.
I strongly believe that the media obsession about what transpired during that discussion is, at best, misplaced. One of the major “revelations” I came to after speaking with Sandusky in prison and seeing first-hand how remarkably convincing he can be, is that the McQueary/Paterno conversation was by far the most overrated in the entire chain of events. While it has gotten the most attention, in many ways (which I will fully explain later) it may have actually been the least relevant to occur in the aftermath of the episode.
To me, the most pertinent element of the McQueary/Paterno discussion was not what Mike did or didn’t tell Joe about what he heard/saw, but rather how to interpret two statements McQueary made years later about the general circumstances of that conversation. I have two, at least partly competing, theories of Mike McQueary (those close to this story seem to break down into very different camps regarding what to make of him, with almost no one in the “middle”) based on very different understandings of these comments.
The first theory is what might be called “McQueary is a Manipulator.”
One of the strangest moments of my few hours with Sue Paterno and her family (spent while sitting at the very same table where the McQueary/Paterno conversation took place) was when I rather casually referenced Mike having said that, when he called Joe and asked to come over, the head coach had told him “if this is about a job, don’t bother, I don’t have one for you.”
I had never thought much about the statement, other than that it seemed like a peculiar detail for McQueary to have remembered ten years later. But I was literally stunned when, from the other side of the kitchen, Sue Paterno responded to my matter-of-fact reference of that testimony by reflexively blurting out, “THAT never happened!!”
I had never met Sue Paterno before, but such a passionate outburst seemed very strange given the context of the conversation. I also know enough about women who have been married for as long as she was to Joe Paterno to pay close attention when they make such a declaration about their husbands. I got the very strong sense that there had to be a very good reason she reacted that way and that it probably meant that she was right about Joe never having said that.
At the time, I simply filed the scene away under “odd things to remember” because I couldn’t see the relevance in whether Paterno had really told McQueary not to come over if it was about a job. But then I soon learned that at least a couple members of the Paterno family (including Jay) had come to suspect that maybe Mike coming to Joe really was, indirectly at least, about a job.
It turns out that Penn State wide receivers coach Kenny Jackson had left for a position with the Pittsburgh Steelers just two days before McQueary witnessed the scene in the shower (again, this was not known at the time of Paterno’s firing because everyone wrongly thought that the date was thirteen months later). Tellingly, especially for those trying to somehow explain the nonsensical “cover up” theory of this case, McQueary would eventually get the wide receivers coaching position that Jackson left, but not until three seasons later, a fact which, in itself, goes a long way in destroying the cover-up theory.
It never made perfect sense to me, but Jay seemed very convinced that it was more than possible that McQueary’s father, given what Jay saw as his questionable persona, could have suggested that Mike go to Joe (rather than, say, the police if he had really witnessed a rape) with the possibility that Mike, who was still just a graduate assistant at the time, might be able to somehow leverage a job out of the situation.
I must admit that this theory, if not for Sue’s dramatic reaction in the kitchen, may seem rather far-fetched (I have no way of knowing if Sue ever believed in, or even knew about, the “job” theory of why McQueary came to Joe). But I can’t get over the powerful feeling that there had to be a good reason for Sue to be so sure that a seemingly innocuous ten-year-old comment didn’t really happen (it is important to note that she was there that day when McQueary called).
If you accept the premise that Sue is correct, then the next question is: so why did Mike McQueary maintain Paterno said that to him?
Well, to me it is possible that McQueary didn’t just saying something that is untrue, but he actually claimed something that is the opposite of true. Perhaps, even subconsciously, he was trying to hide the fact that, at least at some level, his decison to go to Joe Paterno (when his eventual trial testimony would have indicated that he should have gone directly to the police) may have been at least partially about trying to get a full-time job working for his alma mater and one of the teams for which he grew up rooting.
If this was the only such example of McQueary possibly testifying in this manner, I would likely discount it as nothing more than the paranoid fantasies of a heartbroken, grieving, and angry son desperate for a way to exonerate his dead father. However, I don’t think that is necessarily the case (even though publicly Jay and the rest of the Paternos have recently taken a very “politically correct” stance on all of this and would never openly support such a theory today).
As I have already stated here, I do believe McQueary has shifted his story to make it sound like he did more to “break up” the episode than he actually did and it also appears as if he “misled” the court about having not played in multiple Sandusky-sponsored Second Mile golf events after it occurred (I have spoken to a person who worked the tournament who says there is new documentary evidence that will prove this at the next criminal trial).
With regard to their conversation about Sandusky, McQueary also famously said on multiple occasions that he toned down his account of what he saw when he spoke to Paterno out of respect for the old coach. At first glance this would seem to make perfect sense. After all, Paterno was a 74-year-old legend who was a famously prudish Catholic. Meanwhile, McQueary was a lowly graduate assistant hoping to eventually (if not immediately) be made a permanent part of the staff at the school for which he once prominently played.
However, McQueary had played quarterback for Paterno and had been around the program for years. They knew each other very well and football locker rooms and coach’s meetings, even under someone as old-fashioned as Paterno, are hardly like attending morning mass at a convent. I don’t think it is illogical to think that, even if he really did see some sort of actual sexual assault, McQueary could have easily been very clear about that reality without disrespecting Paterno (though Dick Anderson, who coached with Paterno for decades and knew McQueary well, told me that he does think Mike would have indeed had a difficult time telling Joe the specifics if he had seen a sexual assault).
But using the same reverse logic of the “job” story McQueary told, I actually think it is possible that the “I toned it down for coach” premise is also not only not true, but actually the opposite of true. In other words, under the “McQueary is a Manipulator” theory, Mike actually ended up (if only through non-verbal communication) purposely giving Paterno the most dramatic initial version of what he witnessed.
Part of why I think this theory is plausible is that it is remarkable how much other evidence is consistent with it and how, if it were to be true, it would explain so many other aspects of the story.
For instance, if Paterno got the “worst” version of events (and that description was not a “rape” but something of a “sexual nature”), then it explains the “horseplay” testimony of Curley, Schultz and Spanier because McQueary may have toned it down later for different reasons which I will soon detail. It also clarifies why Paterno’s testimony is more closely aligned with McQueary’s than any of the other three Penn State administrators.
This interpretation would also make it easier to understand how McQueary could end up playing in two Sandusky sponsored golf tournaments and joking around with him at a charity football game in the years after the shower episode. And, yes, it would also be consistent with the theory that McQueary was trying use the episode to perhaps help get Kenny Jackson’s open job because once he realized that wasn’t going to work he then softened the story.
The biggest problem with this theory is that it seems to makes it more difficult to understand what happened ten years later when McQueary decided to testify in a way that allowed prosecutors (who were clearly desperate for a legitimate witness of Sandusky’s crimes) to falsely claim that he witnessed a “rape.” While the theory obviously accepts the notion that “McQueary is a Manipulator” is capable of telling such a lie, it is harder to understand what his motivation to do that might have been.
However, there is a plausible theory to cover that possibility as well. Both Jay Paterno and someone else very close to the case told me independently that they were very sure that at the time investigators finally approached McQueary in 2010 (to ask him about Internet rumors that he may have once seen Sandusky in a shower with a boy, supposedly thanks to an “anonymous” e-mail tip) that he was understandably concerned that there may have been another reason why they were contacting him.
Both Jay Paterno and my other source, as well as some others not as close to the case, told me that McQueary had recently used a Penn State phone to send naked photos of his penis to a Penn State co-ed (though Jay added the extra “color” that the photos of the red haired McQueary could have also theoretically been of “Ronald McDonald”). They both theorized that this may have made McQueary (who is now apparently in the process of a divorce from his wife) far more willing to give investigators everything they so badly wanted and needed to build a viable case against Sandusky. I have also been told by multiple sources that that there is remarkable documentary evidence, which was discovered by accident via a major figure in this story in a truly extraordinary fashion, that the attorney general’s office knew that Mike McQueary had “gambling debts,” and that there is some indication these may have been accumulated from betting on college football (there are so many “rumors” when it comes to McQueary that it is quite difficult to separate fact from pure fiction, but these particular stories appear to be far more than idle/hopeful gossip).
The theory here is that McQueary may have had many reasons to be particularly vulnerable to investigators who would have been rather eager to “help” him remember what happened ten years earlier in a particular way.
It should be noted that there are numerous credible allegations of investigators in this case being overly “aggressive” in trying to get witnesses to say what they wanted. Among them, there is a tape of police interviewing Victim 4 conspiring (they thought they had turned the recorder off) with his own attorney to lie to him in an effort to get him add sex acts to his allegation against Sandusky. Victim 2 (the McQueary “victim”) said that he felt strongly that the police were trying to get him to lie about Sandusky. According to evidence stipulated to by both sides at Sandusky’s trial, the mother of Victim 6 even claimed that, apparently at the behest of prosecutors, reporter Sara Ganim urged her to find more victims (and according to the mom, may have even implied in a text message that Ganim could get her a book agent if she came through, or was offering to put her in touch with an "agent" of the attorney general's office). A former Second Mile kid named David Hilton testified at Sandusky’s trial that he slept at Sandusky's house "over 50 times," and that when he was interviewed by police after charges were brought against Sandusky he told authorities that nothing inappropriate ever happened between them, but, he testified, "I felt like they wanted me to say something that wasn't true,"
Under this way of looking at the evidence, Mike McQueary, the only witness who causes any real problems for Joe Paterno and Penn State is simply lying (eventually with the help of overly “enthusiastic” investigators) at every stage of the story in order to fit what he thinks is his self interest at that particular moment. It simply can’t be overstated just how completely the entire case against Paterno and Penn State falls apart if this view of events is accurate (when I asked Jay Paterno why he or others didn’t “rain hellfire” down on Mike McQueary at the time the story broke, he told me that Joe indicated that he thought Mike had already suffered enough and that they should lay off of him, but Joe of course had no idea of the catastrophic consequences which were still to come after his death because of McQueary’s testimony).
But with all of that said, even though this hypothesis is compelling and creates the scenario which would most easily completely exonerate Paterno and Penn State, my gut tells me that the “McQueary is a Manipulator” theory is NOT the primary explanation for what actually happened here.
It just doesn’t make sense that McQueary could be so evil and would allow all of this to happen, even when it started to get out of control, in a way that would so clearly end up working against his own self-interest and that of the school he apparently loved (to me the clincher is that, if he was capable of acting this way, he would have also falsely claimed to have been forced to be part of a cover-up in his lawsuit against Penn State, which, quite importantly, he has not done).
Instead, I think a theory that might be called “McQueary Changes His Mind,” which includes several elements of the previous hypothesis, may be much closer to explaining the real truth here.
This theory starts with the premise that I do not believe that Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted Victim 2 that night McQueary saw them in the shower.
There are so many persuasive reasons that the evidence points in this direction that, when measured against the only indication that there was indeed a sexual assault (McQueary’s and Paterno’s testimony ten years after the fact), it is almost unbelievable that most people, especially in the media, just blindly accept that this is what transpired.
Heck, even looking at McQueary’s actions alone seems to indicate that the preponderance of proof sides with the idea of no assault having taken place. On the one hand there is his compelling testimony backed up marginally by an elderly Paterno ten years later, but on the other hand are the following facts:
- McQueary, by his own admission, did nothing to physically stop what he saw, or identify (or even speak to) the boy.
- McQueary, according to each of their testimonies as well as his own, never directly told his father, Dr. Dranov, Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, or Gary Schultz that he witnessed a sexual assault.
- McQueary apparently played in two Second Mile golf tournaments and joked around with Sandusky at a charity football game in the years immediately after the incident and, by all accounts, maintained a cordial relationship with him up until around the time of his grand jury testimony almost ten years later.
- McQueary eventually told Joe Paterno later in 2001 (who, contrary to popular media belief did in fact “follow up”) that he was fine with how the situation had been ultimately handled.
- McQueary misremembered the date, month, and year of the episode.
In a rational world, how is any of that consistent with having seen a local legend sexually assaulting a “ten-year-old boy” (or, as the grand jury presentment would misstate it, forcing “anal intercourse”)?
But the most dramatic evidence we currently have that no assault took place that night comes not from McQueary, but from the “ten-year-old boy” himself.
Thanks to my interview with Sandusky (as well as a lot of research and a little bit of good fortune), we now know far more about this person than we ever did before. I strongly maintain that if we had known all of the following facts on November 9th, 2011, Joe Paterno would never have been fired and all of this would have turned out very differently for Penn State.
Other than his name which I am currently withholding, here are the incredibly relevant facts I uncovered about the “ten-year-old boy in the shower,” otherwise known as Victim 2:
Contrary to what McQueary thought, Victim 2 was not ten years old at the time, but almost 14 and just over two years away from earning a varsity letter in high school football (meaning that McQueary didn’t get a very good look, the boy presumably knew something about what “sex” was, and he could have at least theoretically defended himself against an old man).
Victim 2 told Sandusky not long after the episode that he would speak on his behalf to Penn State about what happened if they asked him.
Victim 2 maintained an extremely close relationship with Sandusky for the next ten years. Jerry attended his wedding (the photo of the two of them together at that event was used prominently in the web version of Sandusky’s retirement letter from the Second Mile) and stood in as his father at his senior football game four years after the incident. The man later drove over ten hours from his military base to make it to the funeral of Jerry’s mother.
In May of 2011, after the allegations against Sandusky first surfaced in the local paper, Victim 2 wrote a letter to the editor and to the attorney general of the state saying that the accusers were not to be believed and that Jerry was the greatest thing that ever happened to him. He wrote that letter as a 24-year-old, married, Sergeant in the Marine Corps, and it was published by multiple papers in his own name.
In September of 2011 he called Jerry and asked him if he should go ahead and do a police interview as requested of him. Jerry called him back and left a message telling him he should do so since, “there is nothing really to hide” (I will admit that Victim 2 saving this voice message for at least a couple of months for no apparent reason, does give me some pause that perhaps there is more going on here than meets the eye, but there is a mountain of evidence which goes in the other direction). Victim 2 did the interview, told the police nothing sexual ever happened with Jerry, and would later complain that the investigators tried to get him to lie about his experiences with Sandusky.
On November 9th, 2011, the day Joe Paterno was fired, Victim 2 told an FBI-trained investigator and former police officer, on the record, that he was the boy in the shower, that nothing happened that night, and that Mike McQueary is not telling the truth. He also backed up Sandusky’s version of events almost 100 percent (information which was not public at that time and would have required Sandusky and the Victim 2 to concoct an extensive and highly dangerous cover story in less than a day after it was revealed that McQueary was the witness), including the fact that neither of them saw McQueary that fateful evening.
At some point soon after that, Victim 2 retained counsel and eventually went after Penn State as a victim, although, tellingly, the two statements his legal team have put out (one in “response” to my Today Show appearance) “oddly” never specifically claim that he was sexually assaulted in the shower that night. He also never testified at Sandusky’s trial, presumably because neither side saw it in their best interests to call him to the stand. Sandusky’s attorney Joe Amendola told me he thought long and hard about still calling Victim 2 to testify despite his “flip,” and I sense he regrets not doing so (you have to remember that his goal was to defend Sandusky in totality and not Penn State or Joe Paterno in that one incident).
There are many sex abuse experts who will assert, correctly I am sure, that it is perfectly normal for a victim to keep quiet and/or deny being abused at first before eventually telling the real story of what happened (though I do find it very interesting that the accuser in the 1998 episode set off alarm bells to his mother immediately after just one situation that did not include “sex”). However, that sort of cookie-cutter approach to human psychology seems to ignore just how different from “normal” the behavior of Victim 2 is here and how truly unique the situation surrounding Sandusky really is.
First of all, Victim 2 did not just deny being abused when someone came to him by surprise. He was extremely proactive about it, even using his own name in published letters. He also came into the office of Sandusky’s attorney unannounced, with his mother, in the middle of a giant firestorm after Jerry’s very public arrest. And he was unambiguous about what he said, even expressing outrage at the police and Mike McQueary. Again, he did all of this ten years later as an adult, married, Marine.
Secondly, the extraordinary circumstances of the Sandusky case are particularly well suited for non-accusers to suddenly become accusers. As shown by the insane rush to judgment of those who had nothing directly to do with his crimes, there was a presumption of guilt in this case which possessed an intensity and unanimity the likes of which even O.J. Simpson wasn’t forced to endure. The pressure for someone like Victim 2 to reevaluate his support for Sandusky after the events of November 9th, 2011 must have been astounding (This is especially true since he was helped along by a State College attorney named Andrew Shubin who was overtly advertising for Sandusky victims and for whom Victim 2’s mother used to work. Shubin represents several of the victims, all of whom followed the exact same pattern of saying nothing happened followed by claiming “lesser” allegations after agreeing to have him be their representative. I stopped by his office in State College, but shockingly he never returned my message.)
Finally, never before has there been a similar situation where an institution like Penn State, with deep pockets, made it so very clear, so soon, that anyone with any claim of abuse was not only to be treated with kid gloves, but would likely be handed a check with few, if any, questions asked. The experts say that men don’t claim sexual abuse for money, and I would absolutely tend to agree, but there has never been a case such as this one where the risk in doing so was so low and the reward/pressure to do so was this high (and where all of the victims were disadvantaged financially).
For the record, it is very important to note that I do not believe that Victim 2 is now lying when he claims, through his lawyers, that he was a Sandusky “victim.”
Having read his on-the-record statement on the matter (which I publicly revealed exclusively on our website) I actually think that he has simply altered his perception of events. It seems to me that, amidst the avalanche of evidence against his “friend” Jerry, he simply reevaluated, with some guidance from his lawyer, everything which occurred in their relationship. A close reading of the statement even provides enough evidence for an abuse claim once his experiences are seen through the much darker prism that the new knowledge of Sandusky’s intent must have created for him. (Importantly, this follows the exact same path as Victim 6, with whom, unbelievably, Victim 2 and Sandusky had dinner in 2011. Victim 6 testified that he was never upset with Sandusky until 2011 when, presumably, he realized that he was not alone in being targeted by Jerry.)
That being said, I do not believe that Sandusky ever explicitly sexually assaulted Victim 2 the night McQueary saw them together. He was old enough to know what sex was and is not gay. When he gave his statement he was strong enough as a Marine to come forward as a victim or at least break off the very close relationship with Sandusky, and was so empathic in his denial that any sex occurred (especially in the McQueary episode) that I just can’t see how that happened, especially with such incredibly weak evidence to suggest that it did.
Keep in mind, and this can’t be emphasized enough, even the “hanging jury” at Sandusky’s trial unanimously declared him to be “not guilty” of the rape allegation on Victim 2 (who again, was not asked to testify by the prosecution for reasons which I believe to be rather obvious and telling). Contrary to media/public perception, there was also shockingly little credible evidence at Sandusky’s trial to suggest that such an act was even within his modus operandi when it came to criminal behaviors. (Remarkably, almost every person close to this case I have spoken to, including some of the primary figures, has said privately that still don’t believe Sandusky overtly sexually “raped” any of the victims, but no one will say this publicly because it is considered to be such a toxic concept. Even I was successfully dissuaded from saying exactly this on the Today Show and CNN, though since then I have started to try to outline how that theory makes some sense and will delve into it in detail later in this work.)
The bottom line here is that I am quite confident that Mike McQueary did not see a “rape” (intercourse) or even an overt sexual assault of any kind. So, what did he see?
I am someone who tends to believe that the simplest explanation consistent with all the known evidence is what is most likely to have actually happened in any situation. Here, there appears to be little doubt that applying that principle means that McQueary got a very quick glimpse of Sandusky and the boy goofing around naked in the shower (as both of them have reported separately was indeed the case) at a particularly inopportune moment. This quirk of fate was exacerbated by the fact that the sounds McQueary heard before he saw anything (Victim 2 says that it could have been from towel slapping but Sandusky thinks it might have been “slap boxing,” which his former colleague Gary Gray tells me Jerry did often) so prejudiced his perception of what he saw that he interpreted it in the worst possible way. If you give Sandusky zero benefit of the doubt here, I also think it is possible that Sandusky was engaged in what might be called “fantasy” or “faux” sex acts with the teenager, meaning that there was no actual sex but that, unbeknownst to the boy, Sandusky was essentially pretending that there was.
There is also another element here which may have dramatically influenced McQueary’s perception of what he witnessed. Two of his wide receivers (McQueary was the Penn State wide receiver’s coach when Sandusky was arrested) told me that about a year before the scandal broke McQueary told his squad, rather casually, that he had been “abused” as a child. Now neither knew whether this meant “sexually abused,” but several members of the squad instantly remembered the comment once it was revealed (after Sandusky’s arrest) that McQueary was the witness. Several of the wide receivers even speculated among themselves, without any evidence, that perhaps it was Sandusky who had abused a young McQueary as he grew up in State College.
This tidbit is not intended to create some sort of wild conspiracy theory, but rather to add a potentially significant context to why McQueary may have initially reacted so emotionally to what he saw in the shower.
Regardless, I do think that, contrary to popular perception, Joe Paterno actually ended up hearing the worst contemporary version of the story McQueary told about what he saw. For many (especially those in the media), including Paterno’s son Scott, this would be very bad news for the chances of Joe’s exoneration. Their thinking goes, it is not what actually happened in the shower that matters, rather it is what McQueary said happened that is significant (Scott Paterno said those very words to me on the phone in a profanity-laced tirade after he found out that I had interviewed Jerry Sandusky from prison, the details of which I will get to later).
At first I shared this view, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that this conclusion is specious. First of all, while human beings are innately horrible reporters of events they witness, I refuse to accept that there is zero connection at all between what actually happened, what McQueary thought he saw, and what he then told his superiors. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, what McQueary told Paterno was simply the very beginning of the investigation and there are very solid reasons for why things changed significantly after more information was obtained.
In my view, by that next day when McQueary went to visit Paterno he was still “charged up” about what he saw. For some reason, the media has accepted the prosecution’s version of what McQueary says he saw as “gospel,” but effectively, he is providing the equivalent to a highly unreliable news report in the immediate aftermath of a breaking story (which, we are learning with each new huge “live news” crisis, are almost always extremely flawed).
As for what McQueary actually said in that meeting, we simply don’t know for sure. Paterno’s grand jury testimony and the transcript of his last police interview, though not as clear-cut as the media has made his statements out to be, indicate that he thought he remembered (ten years later, when everyone got the month and year of the incident wrong) that Mike told him something of a “sexual nature.”
Interestingly, while much has been made of Paterno’s grand jury testimony of January 2011 which uses that phrase, that testimony is hardly definitive on its own. In fact, that version of Paterno’s account is actually remarkably vague. It is obvious he is not sure exactly what McQueary told him ten years earlier and he uses numerous qualifiers in his testimony, which reads, in part, like this:
Well, I don’t know what you would call it. Obviously, he was doing something with the youngster. It was a sexual nature. I’m not sure exactly what it was. I didn’t push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset. Obviously, I was in a little bit of a dilemma since Mr. Sandusky was not working for me anymore.
It is important to point out that this is a transcript of an event without a recording. Real time transcripts are hardly perfect and sometimes flat-out flawed. For instance, imagine for a moment how differently the key part of Paterno’s testimony would have been perceived if the transcriptionist had simply put a question mark after “sexual nature” (or, for that matter, juxtaposed the words “was” and “it” at the start of that key sentence), which, given the context, wouldn’t have been at all out of place. I submit that if either of those things had happened that this entire story would likely have played out very differently.
It is also astonishing to me that no one ever points out what the media narrative about Paterno was just a couple of weeks before he provided this, at times, convoluted testimony. Paterno was being roundly mocked for being out of it mentally. He had tried to give an ill-fated radio interview which went viral on the Internet because it was so embarrassingly horrible. I spoke on-camera to one long-time Penn State reporter who was at his press conference for the Outback Bowl in December of 2010 and was so concerned that he actually thought that Paterno may have had a stroke and may be in need of immediate medical attention.
And yet, four words he said a couple of weeks later are used to destroy his entire life? Seriously?!
Regardless, very few people are even aware that Paterno, in addition to his grand jury testimony, did at least two police interviews on this subject as well. The first, which was conducted just before his grand jury appearance, has an official summary which does not mention anything about Paterno being told about sex (importantly, several people who asked Paterno about the conversation after it all became public say that Joe never indicated he was told it was “sexual”). I have often wondered why the Paterno forces did not try to use that interview in its “defense.” When I asked Scott Paterno, who was present that day acting as Joe’s attorney (to this day he very strangely refers to his deceased father as his “client”), he gave me an answer which was so cryptic that it immediately set off warning signals in my mind.
Based on my conversations with Scott, I had always presumed that the actual transcript (assuming it exists) of that interview must hold some sort of problem for Paterno, at least as far as Scott was concerned. It turns out that my instincts were apparently in the right church, but just the wrong pew.
Recently, I, apparently exclusively, obtained the transcript of Paterno’s second (or at least last) interview with an agent from the attorney general's office, which took place just two weeks before the media firestorm devastated State College and the Paterno legacy. Frankly, I can understand why, until now, it has never been made public because, at least on the surface, it makes just about everyone involved look bad in some way.
Here, made public for the first time exclusively on this website, is that transcript:
INTERVIEW: JOSEPH V. PATERNO
The date is 10/24/11; time 12:17 p.m., interview of coach Joseph Vincent Paterno, 830 North McKee Street, State College, PA. Scott Paterno is here representing his father. Randy Feathers is also present.
SASSANO: Coach are you aware that this statement is being taped and do you give me permission to tape this statement?
J. PATERNO: Yes.
SASSANO: Did Mike McQueary, some years ago, come to you, report to you an incident that he observed in the shower between Jerry Sandusky and another individual most likely a young boy.
J. PATERNO: Yes he did.
SASSANO: Okay, and can you tell me what Mike McQueary told you please.
J. PATERNO: Mike McQueary came and said he was in the shower and that Jerry Sandusky was in the shower with another person, a younger, how young I don’t know and Mike never mentioned it, that there was some inappropriate sexual activity going on. We didn’t get in to what the inappropriate action was, but it was inappropriate. And that’s how I knew about it.
SASSANO: So he did not elaborate to you what this sexual activity was, only that he witnessed some sexual activity between Sandusky and a young boy?
J. PATERNO: Well he, well he, to be frank with you it was a long time ago, but I think as I recall he said something about touching.
J. PATERNO: Touching.. whatever you want to call them, privates, whatever it is.
SASSANO: Okay, could he have said there was something more? An actual sex act?
J. PATERNO: He never said that.
SASSANO: Okay. Subsequent to that conversation with Mike, you took some appropriate action, correct?
J. PATERNO: Yea, I did because I felt, again, at that time Jerry Sandusky was not working for me.
J. PATERNO: Jerry had retired from the coaching staff two or three years earlier. So I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to make any kind of a decision as to what to do with him, so I called our athletic director, I told him that Mike McQueary had something that he probably ought to share with him.
SASSANO: Okay, did you tell him that over the phone or did you have a meeting in person here at your house?
J. PATERNO: No, I told him over the phone.
SASSANO: Did you have a subsequent meeting at your house?
J. PATERNO: Oh gez, I don’t know, we.. he’s been over here, he comes over here for a lot of different reasons and something may have come up during our, he may have come over about a football schedule, he may have come over about something else and in the process we may have gotten in to it, I can’t say absolutely no and I can’t tell you I remember doing it.
SASSANO: Okay, the key element is, do you remember if you told Mr. Curley whether in person or over the phone, that McQueary witnessed a sexual incident between Sandusky and a boy?
J. PATERNO: To my knowledge yes I think Tim was aware of the fact that Mike had been a.. had seen this inappropriate action.
SASSANO: Sexual action?
J. PATERNO: Well yea, I guess you’d call it sexual. I don’t .. he had a, yea.
SASSANO: Okay, so now it’s quite clear to Mike so, oh I’m sorry, to Mr. Curley. So if Mr. Curley would have told us some…
J. PATERNO: Now I can’t, I can’t tell you it was exactly clear to Mr. Curley you’d have to ask him. I can only tell that he was.. it was transmitted to him that there was inappropriate action. To what degree I didn’t, I never asked Mike. All I know was that it was basic.. it was something we would probably take, uh, probably call sexual. What Tim got out of it I have no way of knowing. But Tim was aware of the fact that we felt we had a problem.
SASSANO: And do you know what happened after that with regards to Mr. McQueary and/or Mr. Curley?
J. PATERNO: Nope.
SASSANO: Did Mr. Curley get back to you at some point in time after that to advise you what actions were taken…
J. PATERNO: No, no, I didn’t, I had other things to do, we had… As I said, Jerry was not working for me.
J. PATERNO: So I felt that I had done, I’ve asked Mike to, Mike had come to me not knowing what to do. He explained what his, what his dilemma was. I said okay. I said we got to go up the ladder. I made sure Curley knew that there was a problem and then that was it. Until all of the sudden ten years later or eight years later people are asking me what happened. But prior to that you know that was…. Jerry was not part of our activities. He wasn’t, there was no need for me to go around in any way.
SASSANO: Subsequent to Mr. McQueary coming to you and you advising Mr. Curley of this inappropriate sexual action, whatever that maybe..
J. PATERNO: Mr. Curley did not come to me, I went to Mr. Curley, I got in touch..
S. PATERNO: You misheard what he said, he said Mr. McQueary came to you.
J. PATERNO: Who?
S. PATERNO: He said Mr. McQueary came to you.
S. PATERNO: You misheard him
J. PATERNO: He did not come to me.
S. PATERNO: Mike McQueary.
J. PATERNO: Ohhh, McQueary, I thought you said Curley.
S. PATERNO: Not Curley. He’s not used to hearing Mike called Mr. McQueary.
J. PATERNO: No no no. Mike McQueary. Mike McQueary saw it on a Friday, came over here and sat at the very table we’re doing this interview, alright, and was very upset. I said what’s your problem and he said I saw something yesterday, I was in the shower, I was in the locker room, Jerry Sandusky was taking a shower with a person. And he said they were doing things that, ya know, and I never got in to know hey what did he do, did he do this, did he do that, but obviously there was a sexual kind of activity. I said hey Tim we got to let the other people know because I have no responsi… I have no authority over Jerry.
SASSANO: Subsequent, to that you’re saying Mr. Curley never got back to you, correct, to advise you?
J. PATTERNO: There was no need to get back.
SASSANO: Did any police department ever get ahold of you about this?
J. PATTERNO: Nope.
SASSANO: Did anybody from the University, well, anybody from the University Police Department contact you?
J. PATTERNO: Well, not till ten years later.
J. PATTERNO: All of the sudden this thing was…I got a telephone call saying hey you’re going to get subpoenaed. I said about what.
SASSANO: Okay, and just so, I don’t think I asked you this, the alleged inappropriate sexual behavior that occurred, where did Mike tell you, and you’re saying in the shower or locker room, what building?
J. PATERNO: The Lasch Building where we are.
SASSANO: The Lasch, basically the complex, the football complex, basically,
J. PATERNO: The football complex.
SASSANO: Where all the brain trust, the offices are, the work-out room and stuff like that.
J. PATERNO: The weight room is and our academic support center is and all that.
SASSANO: Coach, how long have you known Mike McQueary?
J. PATERNO: Since he was a high school kid.
SASSANO: And you’ve known him for a long number of years now, correct?
J. PATERNO: I would, he played for me, played for Penn State is what I should say, he.. when he graduated from high school he came here, what year he got out of high school I can’t say..
SASSANO: Okay, but you’ve known him for quite a number of years.
J. PATERNO: Oh, yea,
SASSANO: He’s been on your staff for a long period of time.
J. PATERNO: Twelve, fifteen years probably.
SASSANO: Do you know him to be a trustworthy individual?
J. PATERNO: Absolutely.
SASSANO: If he came and told you something
J. PATERNO: Absolutely..
SASSANO: Would you automatically believe it?
J. PATERNO: Absolutely. He was very upset when I…
SASSANO: Knowing him as you know him, and dealing with stress and pressure like he does in his system, do you know him to be one that over-reacts or does he appropriately handle that and report the same thing?
J. PATERNO: Well, he’s a competitor, a fiery guy in that sense. But I can’t, in his relationship with people I don’t remember him over-reacting. Once in a while with one of his players he’ll foul up and he’ll, and I’ll have to say, you know, are you sure he’s the guy, and you know that kind of thing. But in something like that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him over-react.
SASSANO: In your appraisal of him then if he was upset about something it would be for an appropriate reason, correct?
J. PATERNO: It was legitimate. It was legitimate.
SASSANO: It was what?
J. PATERNO: He would have been legitimately upset.
SASSANO: Okay. Do you have anything you wish to add to this statement?
J. PATERNO: (laughing) I hope it’s the last one.
SASSANO: Okay, Scott Paterno, Attorney Scott Paterno, do you have anything you wish to add to this statement?
S. PATERNO: No, No.
Several important items should be highlighted from that transcription (which interestingly, while seemingly more detailed than that of his grand jury testimony, contains some noticeable errors, including the misspelling of Paterno’s name on a couple of occasions).
Obviously, based on how light-hearted he was at the end of the interview, Joe Paterno had no idea that he was two weeks from having his entire career destroyed largely because of what he had just said (of course having his son Scott, rather than hiring an experienced lawyer to represent him for this entire process also indicates he never felt he was in any jeopardy). It should also be pointed out that the entire reason for the interview seems to be to make sure that Paterno is totally locked into his version of events so that two weeks later they could safely go ahead with indictments without fear of a living legend claiming his rather vague grand jury testimony was taken out of context.
Most importantly, Paterno completely contradicts a key Freeh Report email from 2001 in which Tim Curley says that “after speaking with Joe,” he has decided to alter the plan with regard to how to handle Sandusky. Paterno clearly says here, multiple times, that Curley never had any significant conversation with him after their initial contact about McQueary. This means that either Paterno’s memory recall of the entire episode was far worse in 2011 than ever realized, or that Curley really did have a habit of telling “white lies” when it came to name-dropping Paterno in emails to help get something done (it makes no sense that Paterno is lying here because at this point he has obviously has absolutely no idea what is about to happen two weeks later, or that he would ever be accused by Louis Freeh of running a cover-up because of an email he obviously had no idea existed).
Why this evidence was never brought up by the Paterno forces at the time of the Freeh Report (especially since that particular email was leaked about a week before the report came out) is a complete mystery to me and my repeated attempts to get an answer have failed. I have been told that it is possible that the Paternos may not have a transcript of the interview, though I have indirectly made sure that they do now.
It is also extremely important to note that, given the remarkably cozy relationship between the attorney general’s office and the Freeh team, it is nearly impossible that Freeh was not made aware of this interview and yet he apparently, purposefully, withheld exculpatory evidence, seemingly because it would have shattered a huge portion of his theory.
It is also very apparent that Paterno believed pretty firmly at that time that what Mike McQueary told him ten years earlier was indeed “sexual” (it is also clear just how dead set investigators were on doing everything they could to make sure Paterno said something to that effect, apparently so that they could buttress their case on several fronts). In the media’s world of extreme bias and limited imagination, this is essentially “checkmate” for the defense of Joe Paterno.
This is likely a large part of why Scott Paterno hasn’t tried to argue more strongly that Mike didn’t tell Joe something specific or serious. It may also be why he told me that the family position is now to never publicly criticize McQueary.
However, there are two very good reasons why this limited view of the totality of the evidence and circumstances should not carry the day.
The first is that, at 84 years old and just months from his eventual death, it is obvious (as seen in the transcript when Joe can’t tell the difference between “Curley” and “McQueary”) that Paterno is not fully in control of all of his senses. He is being asked about a short conversation that occurred over ten years before. It is more than logical that he would have asked McQueary, whom he clearly trusted and saw almost every day, to refresh his recollection about the nature of the ten-year-old conversation (notice that Paterno didn’t even remotely know in what year the discussion took place).
Assuming that happened (I have been told by numerous people close to the case that there is some evidence that such a meeting took place, but it appears to me as if that is going to be extremely difficult to prove that thanks to Paterno’s death) McQueary would have had a powerful incentive at that point to make sure that Paterno said something along the lines of “sexual.” If Paterno didn’t do that, McQueary would essentially be alone on an island and his testimony would be brought into great question.
You could even make a strong argument that, under those circumstances, prosecutors may not have even decided to bring charges against Sandusky because it would have been politically very problematic to have McQueary, their only witness, essentially contradicted by the most respected person in the state (which is one of the many reasons why I have always been baffled by why so many, especially in the media, have claimed to be outraged by Paterno’s testimony, when it was so instrumental to obtaining the indictment of Sandusky, as well as Curley and Schultz).
While nearly impossible to prove at this point, it certainly seems more than plausible that McQueary, without any inherently ill intent, simply told Joe a slightly different story in 2011 than he did in 2001. Interestingly, this would explain why, according to Sandusky, Paterno came over to him and then Juniata College coach Carmen Felus at a Penn State practice in 2009 and Paterno put in a good word for Sandusky who was thinking of coaching there. Obviously, such an act would be completely inconsistent with Paterno thinking of Sandusky as a pedophile and would certainly be in line with the concept that something happened between then and his testimony to alter his perspective. (Unfortunately, thanks to the toxic nature of this case, Felus got in trouble for later having Sandusky volunteer coach at Juniata after he had been under investigation at Central Mountain High School and therefore there is no way that he would be willing to publicly address this potentially vital story now. He never answered my attempts via email and phone to verify this account, though, significantly, he didn’t contradict it either.)
Regardless, while it may require far more thought than the media is capable of, McQueary refreshing Paterno’s recollection as an explanation for Paterno’s testimony is in no way required for him to completely escape culpability for Sandusky’s crimes.
As already stated, the vast preponderance of the evidence indicates that there was no overt crime committed in the McQueary episode and the boy in the shower actually spent the next ten years thinking that Sandusky was the greatest thing that ever happened to him. Unfortunately, most people seem to discount that reality because they are now sure, with the benefit of “hindsight,” that Sandusky is a pedophile and that the McQueary allegation should have been the point at which he was stopped. Since the morally superior Joe Paterno didn’t do anything extraordinary to make sure that happened, he is now, bizarrely, held responsible (while others in similar situations, like the brothers/neighbors of a man in Cleveland who held three women captive for numerous years, or even the New England Patriots who didn’t realize Aaron Hernandez may have committed multiple murders, are not considered worthy of blame at all).
But, much like the “unfounded” 1998 incident, what exactly was Paterno or Penn State supposed to do differently at that point? They had a two-second eyewitness with a vague allegation against the denial of a local legend who was apparently backed up in his story of innocence by the very boy involved. They had no complaining victim, or even a parent, which is much less than what the “unfounded” 1998 episode had. It is pretty obvious that, even if McQueary was clear he thought what he witnessed was “sexual,” the case would have gone no where without the victim’s help.
It is very important that people put Paterno’s role in its proper context here. He is simply the intermediary for an initial report. This is not the victim he is speaking to. He didn’t see the incident himself. He is not Sandusky’s boss. And he is also limited in what he can do because, as the perceived “God” of State College, if he acts too strongly he would surely prejudice the case in an extremely debilitating and unjust manner. While his many critics have said constantly that Paterno “failed,” they never seem to want to say exactly what he should have done differently. To this day, even in hindsight, I am honestly not exactly sure what the answer to that question would even theoretically be. (For those who now, in 20/20 hindsight, say “go to the police,” I ask, what if McQueary was, as I believe him to have been, wrong? What then? The amount of unjust damage under that scenario would have also been catastrophic).
After all, it was only Tim Curley who spoke to Paterno, McQueary, Schultz, Sandusky, and the head of the Second Mile charity. He had far more information about what likely happened than either Paterno or, frankly, McQueary. However, I am not convinced that Curley got the same story from McQueary as Paterno did.
Notably, for whatever reason (given the immediate flurry of activity which took place after Paterno contacted Curley, it doesn’t make a lot of sense), McQueary apparently didn’t speak to Curley or Gary Schultz for almost two weeks. In the meantime, numerous people above Paterno in the chain of command for such an incident were brought instantly into the loop by the head coach (contrary to his own self deprecating memory of what occurred, he did not wait several days to inform anyone else for fear of “ruining their weekend”) including the Penn State counsel Wendell Courtney.
By the time McQueary spoke to Curley and Schultz, human nature being what it is, he was probably not nearly as agitated by what he thought he may have seen. After all, not only had significant time passed, but importantly there had been no report of a child or a parent coming forward with an allegation of something horrible having happened with Sandusky. Even if McQueary originally thought he might have seen something horrific in those two seconds, any rational person would have likely had serious doubts by this point and may have even changed his mind (only to change it back many years later when presented with evidence that made him confident that Sandusky was indeed a pedophile).
McQueary then found himself in front of the athletic director and the person (Schultz) who, among other things, oversaw the campus police force. This was now a very serious matter (and, for the record, it was probably clear to him at this point that he was not going to get Kenny Jackson’s open job). It would have been quite natural if at this juncture McQueary, if only subconsciously, didn’t convey the story quite as dramatically to Curley and Schultz as he may have to Paterno.
This scenario not only makes sense from McQueary’s perspective, but it is also extremely consistent with the testimony of Curley, Schultz and then President Graham Spanier, who each indicated that they were never informed of anything explicitly sexual by the then graduate assistant (the “grabbing of testicles” testimony of Schultz has been, I believe, grossly mischaracterized as somewhat “sexual” because he naively described on the stand a scenario he imagined in his head based on what he remembered McQueary told him ten years earlier and not what Mike actually said, which among other things, is exceedingly stupid if you are at the center of a cover-up).
Then came what I believe to be the key moment in this entire saga and what is undoubtedly its most underrated event.
After speaking to Paterno and then McQueary, Curley decided that he would speak to the person obviously at the center of the entire affair, Jerry Sandusky.
After speaking with Sandusky myself for three hours in prison, a half an hour on the phone, and having received over a dozen letters from him, it was extremely easy for me to see how convincing he would have been in that conversation with Curley. After all, I spoke to him after he had already been convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing children and while he was handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit. And yet, despite my extreme cynicism, Sandusky was rather easily able to persuade me that nothing sexual occurred in the shower the night that McQueary witnessed him there. (One of the many hurdles to the truth here is that people don’t seem to be able to make the vital distinction between claiming Sandusky is somehow innocent in general, and the notion that he could easily be a pedophile and yet still be “innocent” of some specific allegations. While obviously not the moral equivalent, this would be akin to a chronic speeder being pulled over during an instance when he wasn’t actually driving over the speed limit.)
This is not just because of the compelling way that Sandusky tells his version of events. It is also due to the fact that he was, with good reason as shown by Victim 2’s later behavior, very confident that the boy would back up his account of what happened (it should be noted that, as yet another part of the “Perfect Storm” here, because neither of them knew McQueary was the witness or that the episode was part of the grand jury proceedings, Sandusky and Victim 2 could not possibly have been properly prepared for a public response in the couple of crazy days between Sandusky’s arrest and Paterno’s firing).
Once I saw Victim 2’s very strong on-the-record statement to an FBI-trained investigator, it was not difficult at all for me to understand how and why Tim Curley would have been convinced enough by an extremely confident Sandusky that nothing criminal actually happened. Once Curley made that determination, the actions he decided to take make perfect sense.
I am even of the belief that Curley probably thought that by taking away his keys, banning him from bringing kids in the facilities, and informing his employer, the Second Mile charity, of the episode, he was actually coming down rather hard on Sandusky. (While, partly because of my interview with Sandusky, I don’t personally believe this to be true, it should be noted that Ray Blehar is convinced that CYS was indeed informed of the episode, just as Schultz thought was the case. However, the records of such a report would have been destroyed well before the grand jury investigation began because no charges were filed.)
This interpretation of events is very consistent with the email Curley wrote before taking this action, which Louis Freeh used to try and build a “cover up” narrative involving Joe Paterno. In that email Curley says that “after speaking with Joe,” that he (signified by the use of the word “I” to begin the next five statements after that phrase) had decided that the better course of action here was not to report the incident directly to law enforcement.
Freeh claimed that this meant that Paterno (supposedly, and at least somewhat irrationally, afraid of “bad publicity” for the first time in his life and less than a year after having endured huge media blowback for sticking by an ultimately innocent quarterback named Rashard Casey who was falsely accused of beating a police officer) had changed Curley’s mind, but this assertion flies directly in the face of an enormous amount of evidence and logic, including Paterno’s final interview with the attorney general's office, which we revealed earlier.
First, it was Paterno who immediately reported the incident to Curley. Why would he then decide to “overrule” his technical superior on this matter to insure less punishment for an ex-coach he didn’t even like (and who made it very clear to me, even after all the damage he had created for Paterno, had open disdain for his former boss)? If he wanted to “cover it up,” because of the fear of “bad publicity,” why wouldn’t he have just told Mike, a lowly graduate assistant desperate for a job, to keep it between them (or, for that matter, why wouldn’t he have just hired McQueary for Kenny Jackson’s open job to make sure he stayed quiet?).
Secondly, Curley not only had more natural jurisdiction over the matter, but he also had far more information than Paterno did about what actually happened. After all, Paterno only had the initial report from a witness who had only caught a two-second glimpse through a mirror. Curley had spoken to Paterno, Schultz, McQueary and Sandusky, knew something about the 1998 investigation, and had been offered by Sandusky the name of the boy involved (though, regrettably, he did not take Sandusky up on his offer to identify the boy, perhaps because he thought that would be better done by the Second Mile which was extremely well-acquainted with Victim 2). Curley and Schultz had also already contemplated taking the exact actions they did before Curley supposedly spoke to Joe about the issue.
Finally, while Paterno is portrayed by Freeh as the all-knowing, all-powerful God of Penn State (an assertion which, in itself, is not fully accurate), he ignores the reality that having great power sometimes allows a person to not have to deal with a problem that they would rather not have to handle. It is not hard to imagine Paterno, an elderly, prudish, Catholic, who didn’t really like Sandusky, and who didn’t think of himself as having any real reason to be involved in a unfamiliar situation regarding an ex-employee, being relieved to have someone else make such a decision. Spanier told me that he thinks that Curley’s conversation with the coach, like most people who spoke to Paterno about such matters, was probably extremely brief/forgettable and that Paterno probably just told him to go ahead and do what he thought was right.
So it seems pretty clear that the judgment on how to handle the McQueary episode was mostly, if not entirely, Tim Curley’s. Again, while that seems like a poor decision in retrospect (I don’t even think it would be remotely fair to call it a choice consistent with a “cover up” since going to the head of the Second Mile, a mandated reporter for child sex abuse, would be insane if that was your intention), I strongly object to that simplistic conclusion.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, about the only things I think Curley did wrong in this situation (based on what he knew at the time) was not speaking to, or at least identifying Victim 2 when Sandusky proposed that option, and apparently not following through on the suggestion that Jerry be forced to get some sort of therapy treatment for his obvious boundary issues.
But again, it is important to point out that the factual record strongly indicates that nothing overtly criminal took place that night (inherent in the “flipping” of Victim 2 is the legal conundrum that if Sandusky is a goofball, then “horsing around” in the shower, while inappropriate, is not necessarily illegal, but if he is a “pedophile” with ill intent, then it is illegal/actionable). Therefore, it is very hard to understand how anyone at Penn State, especially Joe Paterno, should get crucified for not having done more in response to it, especially when so many others who were specifically trained in this area arguably did far less to stop Sandusky .
At this point, thanks to Curley informing his boss, Sandusky was indeed spoken to about the incident by Jack Raykovitz, the head of the Second Mile. According to both Sandusky and his wife Dottie, neither of whom has a reason to lie in this situation, Jerry informed Raykovitz of both the 1998 incident (how Second Mile didn’t already know about that is quite amazing and frankly, highly suspect) as well as the identity of Victim 2. To be fair, long-time Second Mile board member Bruce Heim said to me that Raykovitz did not tell him who the boy was (ironically Heim would unknowingly host Victim 2 and Sandusky for a golf outing just months before the indictments) when informed of the conversation with Sandusky, but that could have easily been due to confidentiality concerns.
Raykovitz, very much in keeping with his self-interest, has denied this, though it would seem rather natural that Sandusky would have told him who Victim 2 was because the boy was incredibly well known at the Second Mile (the then 14-year-old boy even spoke prominently at a major Second Mile event the next year).
Regardless, there is no evidence that the Second Mile took any action whatsoever in response to being informed about the McQueary episode. Meanwhile, Joe Paterno followed up with Mike and asked him whether he was okay with how things were handled and McQueary, by his own admission, told him that he was (though, admittedly, as a graduate assistant McQueary could have felt there was no other answer that he could give in that situation).
For at least the next nine years, McQueary and Sandusky continued to have a cordial relationship. They were never “friends” (Sandusky says that Mike may have been upset with him because when he recruited McQueary out of high school he was more interested in Notre Dame-bound quarterback Ron Powlus, and because McQueary was very close with current defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who was supposedly jealous of Jerry’s coaching legacy) and, contrary to media perception, Sandusky was not around the program all that much.
But then, according to Sandusky (who, again, importantly did not know at this time that McQueary had ever witnessed him doing anything inappropriate with a boy) there was a significant cooling/avoiding of the relationship by Mike sometime in “2010 or 2011.” This would have been around the exact time that McQueary had been approached by investigators and then testified against Sandusky in the grand jury.
The only reason I have to not believe Sandusky on this potentially extremely important piece of information is that, I have to admit, I want it to be true because it helps so much else in this perplexing story suddenly make nearly perfect sense.
After all, if McQueary really had no problem with Sandusky for all of those years, it means that he did not originally interpret what he saw as something criminal or horrific (or, if he did, he had very soon changed his mind). However, it does make sense that, when given the new information (which, by the way, further destroys the “cover up” theory because it would show that no one at Penn State had any idea that Sandusky was a pedophile until well into the grand jury proceedings) that authorities were investigating Sandusky and had numerous victims who had already testified against him, it is very easy to see why McQueary would suddenly reinterpret what he saw ten years earlier in the worst possible light, especially when he is being helped to do so by extremely eager investigators.
This theory is really very similar to what likely happened to the perceptions of Victim 2. Before he had strong reasons to believe that Sandusky was a “pedophile,” inappropriate “horse play” can be seen as just inappropriate “horse play” (later to be seen as Sandusky riding the line of plausible deniability with “grooming” behavior and, thus, “abuse”).
But when you are later told by authority figures that Sandusky is indeed a “pedophile” and that there are numerous victims out there who need your help in obtaining justice, it is perfectly rational that the figurative “one-alarm fire” that McQueary told people about in 2001 suddenly seems like it was at least a “three-alarm fire” (later to be written by prosecutors in the grand jury presentment as a “five-alarm fire”).
I have often thought of Mike McQueary acting here as almost a “Jack Ruby” character who was thinking he was going to be a hero by taking out “Lee Harvey Oswald.” He was likely very well-intentioned and confident that he was indeed doing the “right” thing, but somewhat like Ruby, he never thought it through to realize the profound implications which would transpire because of his actions and, in this case, what his altered testimony would mean for interpreting the past actions of Penn State.
This analysis, while seemingly grandiose, is actually consistent with what McQueary’s wide receivers told me about how adamant he was that he had done the “right’ thing. (As for McQueary’s lack of ability to understand the “reverse” repercussions of his actions, Jay Paterno, who coached with Mike for years, tells me that he is not a very smart person who only gained admittance to Penn State via a program for “special case” students lacking the academic credentials to normally qualify).
In my view, Mike McQueary probably didn’t knowingly “lie,” at any point in this story. Instead he simply shaded the truth based what he thought the reality was at any given moment and just didn’t realize the incredible ramifications that this course of action would cause until it was basically too late to shift his story one more time.
In short, I believe the only scenario consistent with all the known evidence is: McQueary thought he saw something sexual, changed his mind when no parent/child came forward, and then changed it back (with amplification) ten years later when enticed by investigators to do so.
CHAPTER THREE: THE LULL BEFORE THE STORM