By Dave Warner
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – The former football coach whose account of Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in a Penn State shower is at the heart of a cover-up case against former school officials testified at their court hearing on Monday.
Mike McQueary told of a series of talks he had with late Penn State coach Joe Paterno in February 2001, including the morning after he spotted Sandusky sexually abusing a child in the locker room showers.
“I had seen Jerry Sandusky engaged in a very bad sexual act, a molestation act, with a minor,” McQueary testified he told Paterno. He also testified that he told other university officials about the incident – including two of the three officials appearing at Monday’s hearing. None reported it to police.
Sandusky, 69, a former assistant football coach, was convicted in June 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. He is serving a sentence of 30 years to 60 years in a state prison.
McQueary lost his job as a receivers coach after charges were filed against Sandusky in November 2011. His testimony opened a preliminary hearing in the criminal case against the college’s former president, Graham Spanier, 65; its former athletic director, Tim Curley, 59; and its former senior vice president Gary Schultz, 63.
The three university officials are accused of a “conspiracy of silence” for failing to report the shower incident to authorities, which permitted Sandusky to continue preying on boys, most of whom he met through a charity he founded for at-risk youth.
McQueary, who testified he also told Curley and Schultz of the shower incident, said Paterno told him in the months following the shower incident “Old Main screwed up,” using a nickname for the administrative center of Penn State.
Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 and charged with molesting boys. A year later, in November 2012, a grand jury charged Spanier, Curley and Schultz with endangering the welfare of children, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Spanier also was charged with perjury.
Curley and Schultz were previously charged in November 2011 with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.
Spanier was fired from Penn State; Curley was placed on administrative leave and Schultz had already retired from the school.
Harrisburg District Judge William Wenner will decide if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial after the preliminary hearing.
Within weeks of Sandusky’s arrest, Penn State Trustees fired Spanier, at the time the nation’s highest-paid public university president. Trustees also fired Paterno, Sandusky’s boss. Months later, Paterno, a legendary figure in college football died of lung cancer at the age of 85.
Civil lawsuits filed by the victims, now grown men, against the university are close to being settled, with the school putting aside $60 million to cover the claims, according to a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. The attorney said there were as many as 32 claims from alleged victims.
McQueary also has filed a whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against Penn State, accusing the school of not renewing his contract because he cooperated with authorities investigating Sandusky and the Penn State officials.
And, Spanier’s lawyers have served legal notice that they intend to file defamation charges against Louis Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Freeh was the author of a study, commissioned by the university, spelling out a narrative of the scandal that many in the state rejected, including the Paterno family.
The Freeh report prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for college sports, to issue sanctions against Penn State. The NCAA imposed a $60 million fine and voided the 14 seasons of football victories Sandusky coached.
(Additional reporting by Teresa McMinn; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Philip Barbara and Leslie Gevirtz)