The Paterno-McQueary Riddle: What’s behind the decision to oust Paterno and let McQueary continue?

Michael Sellers

Mike McQueary

Mike McQueary

Joe Paterno is out, but Mike McQueary who actually saw the sexual assault that resulted in the ouster of Penn State’s legendary coach will not be disciplined. Huh? How can that be, you say? There’s a twisted logic to it if you contemplate overall arc of what’s going on behind the scenes between Penn State, its Board of Trustees, and the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Unless you’re in a cave somewhere you know by now that yesterday the Penn State University Board of Trustees voted to oust the university’s legendary coach Joe Paterno “effective immediately” for his failure to do more than he did when alerted to a child sexual abuse situation in which a retired PSU coach, Jerry Sandusky, was witnessed sexually abusing a 10 year boy in the Lasch Building which houses the Penn State Football locker rooms, offices, weight room, classrooms, and more. Earlier in the day Paterno had announced he would retire at the end of the season — a decision which the board evidently viewed as too little, too late.
At the core of the “who’s to blame” morality play is Mike McQueary, who at the time of the incident iwas a 28 year old graduate assistant and is now the Penn State receivers coach. McQueary seems to be Mr. Teflon in this matter, both legally and in the court of public opinion. After all, he’s the one who saw a sixty year old guy anally raping a 10 year old boy and what did he do? Did he intervene? No. Did he call the police? No. He called his Daddy and went to talk to him first, then afterwards, the next morning, he went to Paterno and told him of the incident. Paterno claims that while McQueary was obviously upset, at no time did he describe any of the details of what he had seen. Paterno then, following protocol, reported to the athletic director Tim Curley, his boss (at least technically), that McQueary had seen and reported to him about witnessing some type of “inappropriate behavior” of a sexual nature between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy the night before in the showers of the Lasch building. Paterno did not take any further action — and for that, his 62 years of service at Penn State have been abruptly and unceremoniously terminated, while McQueary, who arguably did less than Paterno and contributed more to the situation that exists today, emerges unscathed, his job intact.
Why?
First of all, even a cursory reading of the Grand Jury Presentement (hyperlink to ) reveals that McQueary is what is known as a “cooperating witness” — the evidence for this begins and ends with the fact that unlike everyone else cited in the Presentment, he is not named, but rather is referred to as the “Graduate Assistant” throughout. This is normally done to protect the identity of a cooperating witness — although in this situation it does the opposite, since that wintness’s identity is already known and the special treatment given him in the Presentment simply screams that he’s “rolling” on everyone else — AD Tim Curley and VP Gary Schultz to start with, since those two have been indicted and face charges. In the report, it is clear that there is major disagreement between the accounts of Curley and Schultz, both of whom maintain that McQueary was vague and nonspecific in his reporting of the incident to them, which is also what Paterno is saying. Interestingly, the Presentment states that the Grand Jury found key portions of the testimony of Curley and Schultz to be “not credible” — meaning they’ve cast their lot with their Cooperating Witness, teflon boy McQueary. Equally interesting, the Grand Jury does not, for some reason, find credibility problems with Paterno’s statement that McQueary was non-specific regarding details when he spoke to Paterno.
How’s that?
Right …. think about it. Paterno, Curley, and Schultz are all consistent in that they say McQueary never gave the details of what he had seen, and made it seem like some substantially lower level of “inappropriate behavior — serious to be sure, but not an anal rape by any stretch.
Yet the Grand Jury, obviously relying entirely on the unquoted testimony of McQueary, the cooperating witness, files charges against Curley and Schultz but lets Paterno walk. Why? Is McQueary actually agreeing with Paterno that he was not specific? If so, then there’s a problem because once McQueary concedes that he was non-specific with Paterno, how credible is his insistence that he WAS specific with Curley and Schultz?
A far, far more likely formulation is that McQueary testified that he was accurate and specific to both Paterno and Curley/Schultz. Paterno, because he did report it “up the chain”, gets off without being indicted — but gets fired summarily without even being allowed to finish the season or even coach the last home game this Saturday.
The point is — the fact that the Board of Director’s couldn’t even let Paterno coach one more day means, very clearly, that McQueary is telling both the Grand Jury and the Board of Trustees that he told Paterno exactly what he saw that night.
That’s the only way it makes any sense. Nothing short of that could really explain the rush to judgment on Paterno, and the rush to abruptly end a storied career that spanned six decades.
But there’s more.
That explains at least in part why the rush to judgment on Paterno — but what about the hands-off approach to McQueary. Why no accountability for him?
Well, it goes back to him being a cooperating witness. The government needs him in their case against Curley and Schultz — without him, they have nothing. There is no paper trail on any of this — all there is, is McQueary’s version of events, Paterno’s version of events, and Curley and Schultz’s version of events. The government has decided to wrap McQueary in its warm and gentle arms, and to do that he has to be able to keep on keeping on without suffering the kind of discipline or ignominy that has been thrust on Paterno, or the legal consequences that have been thrust on Curley and Schultz.
But it’ also clear the government wasn’t thinking all that clearly, because by making it clear for all the world to see that McQueary is a cooperating witness who has cut a deal that left revered Joe Paterno steamrollered, they’ve created a situation where McQueary and the University have to be actively concerned about threats to his security — something that the Board of Trustees has acknowledged, and which means that on Saturday against Nebraska, instead of being on the sidelines, McQueary will be safely secured in the press box.
And so the Penn State mess just gets messier and messier.

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4 Responses to The Paterno-McQueary Riddle: What’s behind the decision to oust Paterno and let McQueary continue?

  1. Indy on November 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Well said, sir.

  2. Dave Burris on November 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    The Board may have other information that impacts on Paterno and not McQueary, such as the 1998 incident involving Sandusky that “went away” followed shortly thereafter by Sandusky’s sudden retirement.

  3. Patrick OMalley on November 11, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Stop and think.

    McQueary is probably being protected by the FBI on a whistle blower law, similar to witness protection in a mafia case. They don’t necessarily arrest those cooperating witnesses.

  4. Dan Stone on November 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    10% of an iceberg is above the water and 90% is unseen.

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