Karen Heller: There was nothing 'humane' in keeping quiet

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier in 2001. He now faces possible indictment by the state attorney general. PAUL VATHIS / AP
Former Penn State president Graham Spanier in 2001. He now faces possible indictment by the state attorney general. PAUL VATHIS / AP
Posted: June 18, 2012

How many young boys ago was 2001?

That's when Penn State president Graham Spanier and top administrators determined it wouldn't be "humane" to report Jerry Sandusky to authorities.

Yes, spare the coach, shatter the child.

The decision was made after a university football assistant, a highly credible witness, said he saw the football coach showering with a boy, no older than 12, late at night in a university locker room and reported the incident to his superiors.

This was the Penn State Humane Society, as a website dubbed university officials' actions, or tragic lack thereof.

Investigators uncovered e-mails, which were reported Monday, by Spanier and now-suspended athletic director Timothy Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz suggesting that the "humane" treatment of Sandusky was to not inform law enforcement. For his charity, Spanier faces possible indictment by the state attorney general.

In four days of blistering testimony in Bellefonte, more than a dozen prosecution witnesses, eight of them victims, offered searing accounts of Sandusky's alleged predatory and perverted behavior.

"He made me feel like I was part of something like a family. He gave me things that I never had before. I didn't want to give it up. I loved him," Victim 3 said.

"This is a daunting task. I'll be honest with you, the commonwealth has overwhelming evidence against Mr. Sandusky," Joseph Amendola told the jury in opening remarks. "I've never had a case like this in my life."

Amendola is Sandusky's attorney.

The alleged abuse is so extensive, the horrors so consistent, one courtroom participant referred to the coach's Second Mile charity as a "victim factory."

Though Judge John Cleland prepared jurors for the trial to last through June, the prosecution presented its case with stunning alacrity, in just four days. Opposing sides have been humane in keeping victims' time on the stand brief.

By comparison, the priest trial taking place in Philadelphia presented an agonizing 10 weeks of testimony. Those jurors are still deliberating after nine days. Emotions are so raw that lawyers began flinging invectives, one reportedly slammed his cellphone, and the prosecutor said of a defense attorney, "I've seen better manners in a barnyard."

Sandusky faces 52 counts of child sexual abuse, of molesting 10 boys over 15 years. Many of the alleged incidents occurred at university athletic facilities and after the night when then assistant Mike McQueary said he saw the coach doing something in the Penn State showers that was "sexual and wrong."

McQueary testified last week that he has no doubt he witnessed rape that night in 2001, calling the crime "more than my brain could handle."

Spanier, Penn State's president for 16 years, resigned in November in the wake of the scandal. He contends that officials told him the incident was "horsing around."

Is rape really that easy to confuse with horsing around? Penn State administrators engaged in possibly the worst case ever of whisper down the lane.

Still, in what world is it acceptable for a 57-year-old man to be "horsing around" in a shower with a 12-year-old?

Certainly, Spanier should know about boundaries. He's a family therapist who has written extensively on human sexuality and adolescent development. He's a founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues. And he's still a member of the Penn State faculty.

Curley and Schultz are already charged with perjury and failure to report a crime. Schultz even kept a secret file on Sandusky's alleged abuses, according to court documents. In a motion filed last week, prosecutors charge that the former vice president "told so many lies during his Grand Jury testimony" that the commonwealth can't counter them all.

Sandusky sat quietly in the Bellefonte courtroom, drained of emotion, his head resting in his meaty hands, as victim after victim, eight in all, some barely men, told the same wretched story over and over. They were small boys from broken families looking for a father figure, for love, who testified they were broken further, some after Sandusky was allegedly caught in the act so many horrors ago.

Tell us, where is the humanity in doing nothing?

Contact Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com.

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