Joe Paterno is Not a Victim

Joe Paterno is Not a Victim
Joe Paterno and his wife wave to Penn State students.

Thick rimmed glasses, shirt and tie, khaki pants, wind breaker, black shoes. Defenseless, vulnerable, unfortunate, innocent, victim. There are plenty unhappy people in a place called Happy Valley who believe both sets of descriptions refer to Joe Paterno, the now fired iconic coach of Pennsylvania State University.  Those individuals would be absolutely wrong.

Second Mile is an organization that was started in 1977 as a foster home by former Penn State defensive coordinator Gerald A. Sandusky to help troubled inner city boys and grew to become a three location charity to help boys from absent parents or troubled homes.  Mr. Sandusky completely obliterated the trust of vulnerable boys with alleged acts of sexual abuse over  number of years.  Current Wide Receivers coach for Penn State Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, literally caught Sandusky naked in a Penn State athletic facility shower in the act of sodomizing a ten year old boy in March of 2002. McQueary told Paterno who then notified higher ups in the university. No further investigation took place. Scores more of defenseless children were wined and dined, taken to bowl games, and were sexually abused by Sandusky through utilizing Penn State facilities for another 8 years.

I grew up a foster child in the inner city of Chicago.  I was raised by an amazing old woman named Emma Lily Mitchell. She was the only foster parent I had. She died when I was 14 and I was left as a ward of state alone to raise myself. I knew about the rampant abuse of foster children as a youth and was afraid as to what would happen to me upon my foster mom’s demise. I proceeded to hide from the system. I pretended my foster mother was alive during high school by forging her signature on every document she was required to sign sent home and bounced from various friends’ homes. Sometimes I slept on a park bench or in a car. I knew the majority of foster youth go through 3-4 homes over their lives and never really find a true home. Along the way many are physically, emotionally, and sexually abused.

Child abuse has the potential to not only claim the childhood of its victims, but the adult lives of the victims as well. I sympathize with the victims in this case. The legacy of a man is tarnished, but the lives of victims are stained forever.

Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney and legal blogger for Chicago Now. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.

(c) 2011, Exavier Pope

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  • You point out two things that are starting to get attention, primarily that he was dealing with vulnerable youth (someone else pointed out that since they were, they couldn't tell their parents and Sandusky knew that) and it wasn't just that the two were in the shower, but that the person saw a sex act.

    The legal question seems to be whether Paterno did enough by telling the higher ups who were recently indicted, but it also seems like there should be some legal responsibility (aiding and abetting?) for letting Sandusky on the premises after Paterno got the knowledge he claimed to have passed on. Of course, this might have been thought as no big deal, or could be like the priesthood, but the priests accused of not reporting eventually were charged.

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