Julie DiCaro: Paterno's troubles may be just beginning

November 09, 2011|By Julie DiCaro | For RedEye

If Chicagoans weren't already sickened by the allegations in the Penn State child abuse scandal, they will be after they hear Mike Ditka's defense of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

"I think it's very unfair, but that's the media," Ditka said in an interview with Action News in Philadelphia. "He did what he was supposed to do and unfortunately, great people get dragged down when stupid people do bad things."

Alas, it looks as if Joe Paterno, who was fired by university trustees Wednesday, did some bad things himself.

While Paterno did the bare minimum required by Pennsylvania law in reporting the possible "fondling" of an 11-year-old boy, a perusal of the grand jury report paints a far more damning picture of Paterno's actions than Ditka may realize. At best, Paterno negligently minimized an eyewitness account of a child being raped by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, At worst, Paterno intentionally covered up allegations of child rape to protect his program. Sandusky since has been charged with sexually assaulting seven boys.

There are many questions surrounding events in Happy Valley, but the biggest may be why Paterno has escaped criminal charges, unlike Penn State officials Tim Curley and Gary Schulz. According to Penn State receivers coach Mike McQueary, he and his father went to Paterno's home and reported that McQueary witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in Penn State's locker room. However, Curley and Schulz both testified that Paterno reported to them only that Sandusky may have "fondled" a child.

If you're keeping score, that's four men whose sworn testimony contradicts Paterno's. While Paterno may be in the legal clear when it comes to his failure to report the alleged rape of a child to law enforcement, the veracity of his grand jury testimony is far more suspect.

Given the testimony of McQueary and his father, perjury charges against Paterno wouldn't be much of a stretch. Whether prosecutors have the courage to do the right thing is another matter.

In addition to being a sports blogger, Julie DiCaro practices criminal and family law in the western suburbs. Follow her on Twitter @JulieDiCaro.

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