The case is highly emotional, with accusations delving deep back in time and numerous alleged victims.
But for all its breadth, one chapter in the Penn State abuse saga outpaces the others: the alleged sexual assault in a team shower by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky of a boy known only as Victim 2.
It’s the allegation that Penn State acknowledges ended Joe Paterno’s distinguished football coaching career and spawned criminal charges against two school officials.
But the only person who says he saw it happen is another assistant. Prosecutors don’t know who the boy is, while Sandusky says he believes he does know, and that the now-grown man, referred to in court papers only as Victim 2, could exonerate him.
Even the timing of the allegation is in question, as is the age of the boy a decade ago.
“I’m not trying to make light of the situation, but how can you say it’s murder if there’s no body?” said 1982 Penn State alumna Wendy Silverwood, a saleswoman from West Chester, Pa., who said she believes Paterno was not given a fair shake. “If you don’t know who the victim is, and you can’t identify and speak with them, how can you bring charges?”
Sandusky’s lawyer argued in court filings that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the charges relating to Victim 2. Sandusky, 68, faces 52 criminal counts involving 10 boys dating to the late 1990s and denies all the allegations.
The lawyer, Joe Amendola, told The Associated Press that a young man contacted him after Sandusky’s November arrest to say he believed he might be the person referred to as Victim 2. After meeting with him, along with his mother and adult brother, Amendola was left with doubts.
“I wasn’t sure he was,” Amendola said. “I’m still not sure. I haven’t been able to verify it. Jerry’s very sure.”
Amendola said that the young man told him Sandusky had not abused him, but that he later obtained a lawyer and cut off contact. Amendola does not plan to subpoena the young man and declined to identify him or his lawyer, lest he say something different.
Records supplied by prosecutors indicate some purported victims have changed their stories, the lawyer said.
Mike McQueary, who in 2002 was a graduate assistant for the football team, testified at the December preliminary hearing that he saw Sandusky and the boy, both naked, after hearing skin-on-skin slapping sounds. He called it “extremely sexual” and “some kind of intercourse.”
McQueary said he reported what he saw in the locker room shower to Paterno and Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. Exactly what he saw and what he told them are both certain to be hotly contested at Sandusky’s trial, as well as at the pending trials of Curley and Schultz on charges they failed to properly report suspected abuse.
Penn State trustees have said Paterno’s lack of follow-up after McQueary’s report was behind their decision to summarily fire him in November, before the end of the football season. The dismissal of Paterno, who died in January of lung cancer, has rankled alumni and other supporters.
State prosecutors, who need to be able to prove the ages of victims, declined to discuss the issue.