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Did Penn State's Joe Paterno Break the Law in Sandusky Scandal?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

It seems Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno may not have broken the law in his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal. But police say Paterno's actions did not live up to his famous mantra of "success with honor."

Sandusky, Paterno's former defensive coordinator, is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. Several alleged incidents took place at Penn State.

Paterno admits he knew about one such incident. He reported it up the chain of command, to Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. But he did not tell police.

"[W]hether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building, I think you have a moral responsibility to call us," Pennsylvania Police Commissioner Frank Noonan told reporters Monday.

Were Joe Pa's actions legally or morally objectionable?

On the surface, Joe Paterno's actions appear to suffice under the law, which requires a university employee to report suspected child abuse to superiors. Paterno has not been charged.

But investigators -- and shell-shocked fans -- are still shaking their heads. Considering how serious the abuse was, why didn't Paterno -- or anyone else for that matter -- call the police?

In the incident that Paterno reported, a graduate assistant allegedly caught Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in a shower at Penn State.

The assistant told Paterno, and Paterno told Curley, who then met with the witness and Penn State's vice president for business Gary Schultz.

No one took any further action. Curley and Schultz have resigned, and are charged with perjury and failure to report the crime.

For his part, Paterno says he did not know the severity of Sandusky's abuse. Paterno claims he only knew that the graduate assistant "saw something inappropriate" -- not the child rape described in the grand jury report.

"I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention," Paterno said in a statement. He canceled his regular weekly press conference, which had been set for Tuesday.

Now rumors are circulating that Joe Paterno's days as the winningest college football coach in Division I history are numbered. If so, Paterno's failure to stop Sandusky's abuse may eclipse his victories on the field.

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