The Pulse: What exactly did McQueary say?

If he did tell of a child's rape, it's hard to fathom the reaction of Paterno and others.

Posted: December 04, 2011

On the eve of Tuesday's preliminary hearing for former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, who is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a decade, something is bothering me: the chronology involving Victim 2 and then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary.

As has been widely reported, McQueary allegedly saw Sandusky raping a young boy on March 1, 2002.

The grand jury summary says that immediately after seeing the rape, McQueary told his father and that the following day he "telephoned [Joe] Paterno and went to Paterno's home where he reported what he had seen." That this was a face-to-face conversation makes sense. Telling one colleague that you saw another one committing rape is not the sort of information you'd convey by telephone.

Which is why I question what is supposed to have happened next.

The summary says that Paterno then called athletic director Tim Curley "to his home the very next day, a Sunday, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

Fondling? Something of a sexual nature? While still totally inappropriate, that's quite a sanitized version of what has been alleged. One explanation is that McQueary never provided that level of detail to Paterno.

And two other observations bear mention. First, that a day passed before Paterno met with Curley is curious. If McQueary really reported to Paterno that he'd witnessed a rape, that one-day delay doesn't make sense. The situation called for more urgency.

Equally mysterious is McQueary's absence from the meeting between Paterno and Curley. If Paterno was told of a rape, he would have wanted McQueary to relay the details to Curley himself. It seems implausible that Paterno would assume responsibility for relating such a serious claim to Curley in McQueary's absence. This was far too important a subject for a case of whisper down the lane.

What seems more likely is that if McQueary told Paterno he'd witnessed a rape, Paterno would have immediately summoned Curley to his home (on Saturday) with McQueary still there. And even if he could not connect with Curley until Sunday, you'd think Paterno would have wanted McQueary present for that meeting.

But that didn't happen. Instead, the grand jury summary suggests that Paterno met with Curley without McQueary. So what does it all mean?

Maybe nothing. Perhaps I'm giving too much scrutiny to a 23-page report that is itself only a summary of the grand jury's findings. On the other hand, it may support the idea that McQueary made a report of something untoward to Paterno but didn't describe a rape, which is exactly what Paterno suggested in a Nov. 6 statement:

"As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility," Paterno's statement said. "It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report."

After Paterno told Curley, the athletic director then made a report to Gary Schultz, a university vice president, although the summary does not say exactly when. The summary does say that Schultz testified he was called to a meeting with Paterno and Curley "in which Paterno reported 'disturbing' and 'inappropriate' conduct in the shower by Sandusky upon a young boy."

As for McQueary, about 10 days after the initial incident, he was called to a meeting with Curley and Schultz where he "reported ... that he had witnessed what he believed to be Sandusky having anal sex with a boy. . ." Whether he supplied that level of detail is a matter of dispute. Curley testified that McQueary reported " 'inappropriate conduct' or activity that made him 'uncomfortable.' " Curley specifically denied that anal sex or anything of a sexual nature was described. For his part, Schultz was "very unsure about what he remembered" McQueary telling them.

The summary says the grand jury found McQueary to be "extremely credible." However, Curley and Schultz were considered "not credible" and both "made a materially false statement," according to the summary, resulting in perjury charges.

McQueary's account is further obscured by an e-mail he sent to a classmate last month in which he claimed he "did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police" after the alleged incident, according to the Allentown Morning Call. That contradicts the grand jury summary, which stated that "the 2002 incident was never reported to any officials" from the Department of Public Welfare, Children and Youth Services, or the university police.

The dissection of these exchanges is not a mere case of semantics. McQueary is going to play a critical role in the criminal trial of Sandusky. Beyond the victims, McQueary is the only independent eyewitness to the alleged depraved acts. If he did not fully report what he now claims to have witnessed - or if his credibility is undermined by his e-mail - it will provide fodder for his cross-examination and potentially cause significant damage to the prosecution's case.


Contact Michael Smerconish via www.smerconish.com. Read his columns at www.philly.com/smerconish.

 

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