Lawyer: Ex-coach ‘walked away’ from child abuse

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Mark Scol­foro

BELLE­FONTE >> A Penn State lawyer on Mon­day turned claims in a civil law­suit against a for­mer coach who of­fered key tes­ti­mony against Jerry San­dusky, say­ing it’s not the school’s fault he can’t find a coach­ing po­si­tion but rather a re­sponse to the man’s own fail­ure to stop the child sex­ual abuse he wit­nessed.

At­tor­ney Nancy Con­rad cited Mike McQueary’s own words from an email as the defama­tion and whistle­blower law­suit be­gan, say­ing the na­tional me­dia and public ru­ined him — not Penn State.

“He should not be per­mit­ted to ex­ploit the tragedy that was caused by Jerry San­dusky for his own per­sonal fi­nan­cial gain,” she said. McQueary is seek­ing at least $4 mil­lion in lost wages and other dam­ages.

Con­rad said com­ments that flooded in to the univer­sity after San­dusky was first charged in 2011 with child mo­lesta­tion were deeply crit­i­cal of McQueary for not act­ing to stop an al­leged child rape.

“Yet he walked away,” Con­rad told ju­rors, say­ing any harm to McQueary is “a re­sult of his own de­ci­sions and ac­tions.”

McQueary has said he hap­pened to go to a team shower late on a Fri­day night in Fe­bru­ary 2001 and saw San­dusky en­gag­ing in what he con­cluded was a sex­ual act with a boy about 10 to 12 years old. He slammed his locker shut and saw they had sep­a­rated, but did not say any­thing to San­dusky, a re­tired as­sis­tant coach, nor did he re­port the mat­ter to po­lice.

In­stead, he met about the in­ci­dent the next day with then-head coach Joe Paterno, and more than a week later with two high-rank­ing school of­fi­cials.

Noth­ing hap­pened un­til nearly a decade later, when po­lice in­ves­ti­gat­ing other com­plaints about San­dusky got a tip to con­tact McQueary. His tes­ti­mony helped con­vict San­dusky of be­ing a sex­u­ally vi­o­lent preda­tor, and San­dusky is now serv­ing a lengthy prison sen­tence while ap­peal­ing a 45-count con­vic­tion.

McQueary says he was put on leave, and then his ex­pired con­tract was not re­newed as re­tal­i­a­tion for his help in the crim­i­nal case. He also says he was de­famed by a state­ment is­sued by then-univer­sity pres­i­dent Gra­ham Spanier when San­dusky was ar­rested, and that he was mis­led by two of Spanier’s lieu­tenants into think­ing they took his re­port se­ri­ously and would re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately.

“Their in­ten­tion,” McQueary lawyer El­liot Strokoff told ju­rors, “was to sweep this in­ci­dent un­der the rug.”

Other coaches who might hire him are con­clud­ing, based on how Penn State treated McQueary, that he must have done some­thing wrong, Strokoff said.

“This is a cloud that hangs over his head to­day,” he said.

Wit­ness Jonelle Harter Esh­bach, a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor who had a lead­ing role in the San­dusky in­ves­ti­ga­tion, de­scribed email ex­changes shortly after charges were filed and McQueary’s role in the probe be­came public. McQueary told her he felt he had not been prop­erly sup­ported dur­ing a pros­e­cu­tion news con­fer­ence, his story had not been ac­cu­rately told in a grand jury re­port and that he felt he was be­ing vil­i­fied.

For­mer univer­sity lawyer Wen­dell Court­ney re­counted telling one of the ad­min­is­tra­tors, Gary Schultz, to re­port the shower in­ci­dent mat­ter to child wel­fare au­thor­i­ties.

“It was my as­sess­ment that the ap­pro­pri­ate course of con­duct would be to re­port it and let the Depart­ment of Public Wel­fare in­ves­ti­gate it in a man­ner it deemed ap­pro­pri­ate,” Court­ney said.

He said Schultz de­scribed the in­ci­dent as horse­play and did not men­tion any sex­ual com­po­nent, as McQueary claims he re­lated to Schultz, then the school’s vice pres­i­dent with su­per­vi­sory author­ity over po­lice, and Tim Cur­ley, then the ath­letic di­rec­tor.

Lisa Pow­ers told ju­rors that Spanier knew at least a week ahead of time that San­dusky, Cur­ley and Schultz were go­ing to be charged in Novem­ber 2011. He called her into a meet­ing with then­general coun­sel Cyn­thia Bald­win and Steve Garbin, then the trus­tees’ chair­man, to work on a news re­lease — a state­ment the law­suit claims made it ap­pear McQueary had lied.

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