HARRISBURG — Longtime Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said the university mishandled its response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, a former assistant coach testified yesterday during a hearing for three top school officials accused of covering up an allegation against the imprisoned ex-coach.
The star witness, Mike McQueary, appeared in a courtroom for the third time since Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest and told the court that top school officials knew he had seen Sandusky molesting a boy in a locker room shower.
But the former Penn State assistant coach and quarterback also delivered some unexpected testimony: that the late Hall of Fame coach had told him over the years that “Old Main screwed up” — referring to university administrators — in how it responded to McQueary’s allegation against Sandusky.
Pressed by defense lawyers on his discussions of the subject, McQueary brought up a specific exchange at football practice in the hours before Paterno’s firing on Nov. 9, 2011 — four days after Sandusky’s arrest.
He recalled the head coach saying the school would come down hard on McQueary and try to make him a scapegoat. Paterno also advised McQueary not to trust the administration or then-university counsel Cynthia Baldwin, the former assistant testified.
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, retired university vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley are accused of failing to tell police about a sexual abuse allegation involving Sandusky, then trying to cover up what they knew. The men say they are innocent.
Paterno died in January 2012. He has never been charged, though former FBI Director Louis Freeh said in a university-sanctioned report that Paterno conspired with the three school officials to conceal accusations against Sandusky.
Paterno’s family has vehemently denied those allegations. The former coach was “respectful of the process ... and wanted to know the truth from the beginning,” and the latest testimony raised more questions about the credibility of Freeh’s report, Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn said.