McQueary sues Penn State, claiming defamation

Mike McQueary is seeking$4 million.
Mike McQueary is seeking$4 million.
Posted: October 04, 2012

Mike McQueary, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach turned star witness in the case against Jerry Sandusky, sued the college Tuesday, claiming defamation and unfair termination.

In filings in Centre County Court, the 38-year-old alleged he was maligned for his cooperation in the state's case against the Nittany Lions' former defensive coordinator, who was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse. He is seeking $4 million.

McQueary is also expected to play a key role in the forthcoming trials of two former Penn State administrators charged with failing to report Sandusky's crimes and later lying about it to a grand jury.

A university spokesman declined to comment on the suit Tuesday. McQueary and his lawyer, Elliot A. Strokoff, did not immediately respond to interview requests.

The university's actions "have irreparably harmed [McQueary's] reputation for honesty and integrity and . . . his ability to earn a living, especially in his chosen profession of coaching football," the lawsuit states.

Since Sandusky's arrest in November, McQueary has become a lightning rod for varying reactions to the case. Critics question why he didn't do more to stop the abuse he says he witnessed, while others have hailed him as a hero for standing up to testify against key figures in Penn State's powerful football program.

He was the only witness to provide testimony that Penn State's administration had been made aware of serious allegations against Sandusky.

He told jurors in June that while working as a graduate assistant in 2002, he walked in on Sandusky molesting a boy in a football locker room shower, but that after he reported the incident to former head coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, and university vice president Gary Schultz, he never heard about it again.

Prosecutors allege that all three men failed to notify outside authorities, allowing Sandusky to continue abusing children until his arrest last year. Curley and Schultz face charges for allegedly failing to fully investigate and later lying about it to a grand jury.

While Paterno and former university president Graham B. Spanier were not charged, both were forced out of their jobs for their handling of McQueary's claims.

But in his lawsuit Tuesday, McQueary said he, too, suffered "distress, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment" in the weeks after the scandal broke.

Almost immediately after the arrests, Spanier pledged full support for Curley and Schultz in a statement that the former assistant coach now says "reinforced the perception that [McQueary] lied and committed perjury."

And then days before the first home game after Sandusky's arrest, McQueary said, administrators informed him he would no longer be coaching and asked him to leave the State College area for the weekend.

When he returned, he says, he was placed on administrative leave and left in limbo until last month, when Penn State president Rodney Erickson said in a nationally broadcast interview that McQueary was no longer employed by the university.

McQueary has asked a judge to grant him $4 million in lost wages over a potential 25-year career as well as attorneys' fees.

A preliminary court date has not been set.


Contact staff writer Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

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