Lesson from Sandusky case
Just pick up the phone.
The sentencing hearing in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case ended Tuesday in the only way it could — with the equivalent of a life sentence imposed on the once-respected 68-year-old former Penn State University football coach.
Indeed, the hearing was unremarkable with one exception — the former coach's speech to the court in which he proclaimed himself the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy and proclaimed that "in my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts."
These kinds of full-throated claims of innocence can have a jarring effect. After all, the courts are not perfect, and tragic mistakes occur.
But given the nature of the evidence against him, it's hard to imagine that Sandusky did not do exactly what he was accused of doing — use his cover as a venerated former football coach to target, groom and sexually molest a series of young boys over a period of years.
Sandusky was convicted of multiple charges involving 10 children. But the fallout from the case has been dramatic. Two former Penn State administrators continue to face criminal charges for perjury in connection with their conduct after Sandusky's misconduct was reported to them. Penn State's president was fired while Joe Paterno, Penn State's once revered football coach, also was dismissed for his lack of action after a member of the Penn State coaching staff reported that he had seen Sandusky engaging in sexual activity with a young boy in the showers at the team's practice facility.
Also remaining to be resolved is a blizzard of threatened or already filed lawsuits against Penn State by Sandusky's many victims.
None of this was foreordained. All the responsible parties had to do when Penn State football staff member Mike McQueary reported what he had seen was call the police and step aside to let professional investigators do their jobs.
Instead, they were frozen by inaction, speculating about whether it could be true and operating on secondhand reports of what McQueary had seen. Ultimately, they did nothing, allowing Sandusky to continue to prey on children.
What happened in this case has happened before and will happen again. The Penn State officials did not believe what McQueary reported because they could not believe it. To them, Sandusky's behavior was unfathomable so they ignored it.
The lesson here is that people who receive reports of this nature do not have to make a judgment either way. History shows, however, that they cannot resist trying to handle it themselves, laying the groundwork for the kind of disaster that has caused so much misery in Pennsylvania.