On June 22, as I sat by my television with bated breath–as did much of this country– waiting for the verdict to be handed down in the Jerry Sandusky trial, I wondered to myself, why is the defendant’s table so empty of those accountable?
Convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky went from Penn State to the State Pen after a jury of seven women and five men–many with direct ties to the university–found him guilty of 45 of the 48 charges brought against him.
Sandusky now sits behind bars in a county jail awaiting his fate–what will ultimately be a death sentence for the sexual predator–a maximum of 442 years in prison.
So why did the dirty old man in the dusty brown coat ultimately feel the wrath of the American justice system alone?
You don’t think this is just about Sandusky do you?
This is much bigger than that.
This is about holding institutions accountable as enablers.
On July 9, CNN.com reported that former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s investigation into Penn State shows Joe Paterno’s interest in handling issues internally and the extent of these practices and how they may have contributed to a Sandusky cover-up.
In 2005, Dr. Vicky Triponey, the then vice president of student affairs, wrote in an e-mail that she had met with Paterno, and he discussed with her that he wanted to be the sole disciplinarian of his players.
Triponey criticized Paterno’s request to keep violations private, saying “Paterno would rather we NOT inform the public when a football player is found responsible for committing a serious violation of the law and/or our student code -- despite any moral or legal obligation to do so.”
Yet Triponey and the University failed to act on Paterno’s irrational request allowing Sandusky’s actions—both immoral and illegal—to continue for another four years.
As satisfactory the feeling of knowing that this monster of a human being will now finally be held accountable for the decades of unconscionable horror inflicted onto those 10, once innocent children, I asked myself, is the end of Jerry Sandusky enough?
Or as a society, do we have a moral responsibility as leaders, role models, and parents-something that Sandusky himself was not–to say we will no longer stand by the wayside, trusting these people with our children while they repeatedly brush case after case of sexual abuse under the rug with monetary compensation?
I say we must look deeper than what is on the surface, and dig down to the core root of this problem.
That’s where you come in National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The case attracted national media attention in 2011, not only for the heinous accusations against this monster, but also because of the high-profile ranking of Penn State University itself, an institution that employed Sandusky as an assistant coach for 30 years.
Reuters reported in December of 2011, that the university ranked third among most valuable football programs with an estimated value of $100 million, out grossed only by Notre Dame and the University of Texas.
While the national media covered this trial all the way up to its verdict on the 22nd, a senior official of the Roman Catholic church–an institution whose annual profits shadow in comparison to the Penn State football program’s $100 million net worth–was found guilty himself, on one count of conspiracy for covering up child sexual abuses by priests under his supervision.
Msgr. William J. Lynn was found guilty by a jury in Philadelphia of one count of endangering children, and now faces a prison term of three-and-a-half to seven years himself.
The New York Times reported that Monsignor Lynn, 61, served as secretary for clergy for the 1.5 million-member Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004.
Although Lynn’s duties included investigating abuse complaints, the prosecution argued that he ignored accusations and reassigned known
predators to unsuspecting parishes.
The district attorney’s office in Philadelphia, which has been investigating the archdiocese aggressively since 2002, have argued that senior officials should be held accountable –something that the NCAA should consider, and Penn State should ready for, because I don’t think that the biggest scandal to shock the Nittany Lions will end with the conviction of its ring leader.
Now, I understand that Sandusky’s enablers are either banished from the university or dead, but someone, something, has to be responsible for restitutionary damages. After all, it’s only fitting since the university was the one that Joe Paterno and former President Graham Spanier were trying to protect, not Sandusky.
Holding those accountable
There will be no more settling out of court as if you’re compensating victims for your negligence, but those who run these institutions will be held accountable for their dereliction of duty as a human being and an adult.
Just ask the Boy Scouts of America.
Back in 2010, a jury in Oregon ordered the institution to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages to plaintiff Kerry Lewis and five others, members of the Boy Scouts back in the 80s who were molested by a former assistant scoutmaster, Timur Dykes.
This judgment became the largest award to a single plaintiff in a child abuse case in the United States, crippling what has become a billion-dollar organization, but not stopping it, maybe until now.
Amid the Jerry Sandusky trial and a week before he learned his fate, the Oregon Supreme court ordered the release of 1,247 confidential files from the Boy Scouts of America.
The court ordered that the files be made public after names of victims and others who reported sexual abuse are redacted.
The “perversion files,” a name given to the documents by the Boy Scouts of America themselves, date back to 1965 and document sexual abuse among the organization for nearly 20 years.
By releasing the information to the public, Oregon lawyers hope to expose a "culture of hidden sexual abuse," and bring an end to institutions like the Boy Scouts of America, hopefully causing a ripple effect, washing out these enablers at their cores.
It’s time now for Penn State and the NCAA to follow suit.
They must wipe this program from the record books, level Beaver Stadium and make history of one of the most storied football programs of all times to set an example.
Because if they do not, the program will continue to profit, and those 10 children’s house of horrors spanning nearly two decades will forever be their cross to bear, and they will remain just as guilty of these heinous crimes as Sandusky himself.