Ex-Penn State Football Coach Seeks Criminal Counsel

Following his very public ousting, ex-Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, has sought criminal council. Although not charged with a crime, Paterno, and Penn State, could face legal difficulties. According to a source speaking to NBC, Paterno’s advisors contacted J. Sedgwick Sollers, a criminal defense attorney best known for representing President George H.W. Bush, said CBS/AP. NBC said its source said Paterno and Sollers have not met and a retainer agreement has not been settled. Sollers did not comment and Paterno’s spokesman and son have denied the rumors.

Considered the nation’s most successful college football coach, Paterno was fired following a unanimous Penn State trustee board vote. He and now-former university president, Graham B. Spanier, were fired in the wake of an ongoing sexual abuse scandal involving former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, once considered heir apparent to Paterno. Described by prosecutors as a serial pedophile and charged with victimizing eight boys over 15 years, Sandusky had unfettered access to young boys, coming into contact with children through his Second Mile Foundation charity, created to help troubled boys, and through his assistant coaching responsibilities.

Paterno received a graphic description of sexual abuse Sandusky allegedly committed against a young boy in the shower in the Penn State football building from then-graduate assistant coach, Mike McQueary. Paterno reported the accusation to the school’s athletic director, but apparently did little else. The Pennsylvania grand jury report stated that former Athletic Director, Tim Curley, testified that after being informed of the allegation, he met with Sandusky and told him he was banned from bringing youth on to the Penn State campus.

In truth, even that slap on the wrist was ill respected. Sandusky, who left his position after the 1999 season, was permitted use of school facilities, maintaining an office there until 2007. Despite the ban at the main campus, Sandusky was allowed to operate a summer football camp for boys on a Penn State satellite campus for six years. Clearly, Sandusky was given free reign to the boys under his care because his employer either could not, or would not, stop his nefarious behaviors, and his peers never advised the police. The 2002 allegation was never brought to the police.

Curley, athletic director, and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business at Penn, were arrested this week, charged with perjury and failing to report to authorities what they were aware of regarding allegations against Sandusky, a mandate under Pennsylvania state law. Both have resigned.

Paterno and Spanier, who was informed by Curley of the allegation and the ban, have faced scathing criticism for their handling of the incident. Pennsylvania state law enforcement officials said that while Paterno met his legal obligation in alerting his superiors, he failed, on a moral level, by not doing more. The same officials also charged that inaction on the part of Penn State University allowed more children to become victims of abuse at the hands of Sandusky. And, now, according to CBS News legal analyst, Andrew Cohen, “All of the officials involved in the scandal, including Paterno, could be sued in a civil case by the alleged victims and their families.”

At this point, Paterno may lose any chance for the esteemed Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Pennsylvania senators Pat Toomey (Republican) and Bob Casey (Democrat) announced their revocation of support for the nomination, said CBS/AP. The two, with Republican Representative Glenn Thompson nominated Paterno based on his vast contributions to athletics and academia; Thompson has not said how he will proceed.

Meanwhile, the scandal is only expected to grow. Penn State’s presence at the 1999 Alamo Bowl in Texas has sparked the interest of San Antonio police Sergeant Chris Benavides, who said his department is “looking into the possibility that an offense may have happened” when Penn State’s team was there, said CBS/AP. That game was Sandusky’s last at Penn State and, according to a grand jury report, Sandusky took a boy he allegedly molested to the game, threatening to send him home when the boy fought against Sandusky’s advances, CBS/AP explained.

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