Testimony: McQueary Did Not Tell Paterno Everything

by Kurt Schulzke

Was the Jerry Sandusky story just a convenient excuse to get rid of Joe Paterno?  It’s possible.  Last month, I suggested that Penn State’s firing of Joe Paterno was unjustified in part because whatever Mike McQueary saw in the shower back in 2002, he did not tell it all to Joe Paterno.

Today, despite contrary misleading headlines on Drudge and CBS websites, as in this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… McQueary has apparently confirmed under oath, in a preliminary hearing on perjury charges against two other Penn State officials, that he did not provide Joe Paterno a detailed account of what he then thought he had seen.  As I then surmised, McQueary deliberately withheld details — such as they were — and did not even mention the word “intercourse” to Paterno.

Just as importantly, according to PennLive.com’s “detailed summary” of today’s testimony, McQueary could not tell the court exactly what Coach Sandusky was doing in the shower except that he initially saw Sandusky “directly behind” and “in a very close position” in relation to a 10- or 11-year-old boy and whatever Sandusky was doing was “wrong:”

Jerry was directly behind him in a very close position. I stepped back and didn’t want to see it anymore, to be frank with you….

They both turned so their bodies were facing me. They were four or five feet apart. I know they saw me. They looked directly in my eyes…I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t even sure I was seeing what I was seeing.

I wasn’t even sure I was seeing what I was seeing.  Notably, despite his report of the position of their bodies, McQueary said, “No, I did not,” when asked whether he had seen Sandusky with an “erection”.

McQueary also told the court that following the incident in the shower:

I went to his [Paterno’s] house and sat at his kitchen table and told him I saw Jerry with a young boy in the shower. That it was way over the lines and extremely sexual in nature. … you don’t go to coach Paterno and go in great detail about sexual acts…The rough positioning I described but not in much detail. [Paterno said] “Sorry you had to see that. You did the right thing.”

The next day, Paterno reported his conversation with McQueary to the head of the campus police.

According to a Sports Illustrated report on today’s testimony:

He [McQueary] said he would not have used words like sodomy or intercourse with Paterno; he did not get into that much detail out of respect for the coach…

and

Paterno told the grand jury that McQueary said he saw Sandusky doing something of a “sexual nature” with the youngster but that he didn’t press for details.

In other words, McQueary thought he saw Sandusky doing something “wrong” and “sexual”.  But he was not sufficiently sure of what he saw to call it “rape” or “intercourse” when speaking with Paterno or, apparently, with anyone else at Penn State.  And on this scant justification — good enough for juicy headlines — Penn State fired Joe Paterno.

Whatever Penn State’s motives, the case illustrates the general principle that whistleblowers should get (and keep) their evidence in writing.  Here, Mike McQueary — if he is telling the truth today — could have saved himself, Penn State, and the community lots of grief simply by following up on his conversations and phone calls with a confirming email immediately after reporting to Paterno and others.  Even with such a confirming email, it is still possible for an official to claim “I did not receive” or “I did not read.” However, a contemporaneous written summary decreases the factual ambiguity and increases the likelihood that the whistleblower’s story will later be seen as credible.

Up-to-the-minute details at Pennlive.com.

 

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