by Geoff Rushton
The lead investigator in the Jerry Sandusky case said Mike McQueary was “the linchpin,” in the investigation and that the former Penn State wide receivers coach has been “consistent from day one.”
Testifying on the third day of trial in McQueary’s lawsuit against Penn State, investigator Anthony Sassano described McQueary as a crucial figure leading to the arrest of Sandusky in 2011 on child sexual abuse charges. Sassano said McQueary played a similar key role in the charges against two former Penn State administrators for their alleged concealment of Sandusky’s abuse.
A family friend, meanwhile testified about what McQueary told him the night he saw Sandusky and a boy in a locker room shower, a somewhat different story than what McQueary has testified to in the past.
After McQueary was revealed in November 2011 as being the unnamed graduate assistant in the Sandusky grand jury presentment who witnessed Sandusky with a boy in a locker room shower, McQueary became the subject of national media attention for the perception that he should have done more to stop him. He also received threats.
Penn State attorney Nancy Conrad seized on those two points during Sassano’s testimony. She sought to show that it was McQueary’s own actions or perceived inactions, not Penn State’s, that harmed his reputation and that the university was justified in placing McQueary on administrative leave for his own safety.
McQueary claims Penn State retaliated against him for cooperating with investigators and defamed him in statements from former Penn State President Graham Spanier. He says he unfairly lost his job and has been unable to find work in coaching because of Penn State’s actions.
In emails to former chief deputy attorney general Jonelle Eshbach and Sassano, McQueary said that “national media and public opinion has totally, in every single way ruined me. For what?” He expressed concerns about media reports that suggested he should be charged with a crime, which Sassano reassured him would not happen.
He also forwarded an anonymous email he received that said, “I want to KILL you you [expletive] piece of [expletive].” Sassano said he and the attorney general’s office did not view threats against him as being serious.
“We assessed it, did not believe it was real and took no further action,” Sassano said.
On Tuesday, former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin testified that Penn State Police and the athletic department had received threats against McQueary that played into the decision to place him on leave.
Later on Wednesday, Erikka Runkle, the athletic department human resources manager in 2011, testified that McQueary’s assistant, Bill Kavanaugh, came to her and said that the Lasch Football Building “was being bombarded,” and that he was concerned for the safety McQueary and McQueary’s family.
Sassano testified that Penn State never contacted the attorney general’s office about the threats. He added that “numerous barriers were placed in our way by Penn State throughout the investigation.”
McQueary also wrote in an email that his words “may have been slightly twisted” in the grand jury presentment, which summarized his testimony as saying he had witnessed Sandusky engaged in anal intercourse with a boy in a Lasch Football Building shower in February 2001. McQueary wrote that he knew what he witnessed was sexual but that he couldn’t say he was “1000 percent sure it was sodomy.”
Sassano said that McQueary’s testimony remained consistent since he was first interviewed in 2010 and that it was reasonable to conclude he had witnessed intercourse.
“He said the same thing exactly since day one,” Sassano testified. “From day one he believed he saw sodomy. He saw what he believed to be penetration from 20 feet away. He believed he saw an act of sodomy. He couldn’t say 100 percent because he did not see insertion. He said that from the get-go.”
In 2012, Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts related to child sexual abuse. The jury found Sandusky not guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in the case of Victim 2, the unidentified boy McQueary saw in the shower with Sandusky. In that case, Sandusky was convicted of four other counts, including indecent assault.
McQueary told his father, John, and family friend Dr. Jonathan Dranov, about the incident the night it occurred in February 2001. Dranov testified on Wednesday, as he did to the grand jury and at Sandusky’s trial, that McQueary told him that he had heard “sexual sounds” but did not describe seeing a sexual act.
He said McQueary told him he saw a boy in the shower and then a man’s arm come around the corner to pull him back in. After McQueary slammed his locker, he saw Sandusky come out in a towel. Dranov said McQueary was visibly shaken and when Dranov asked multiple times what he had seen, McQueary became more upset but only discussed the sounds he heard.
“[McQueary] was quivering, choosing his words. He was obviously visibly upset,” Dranov said Wednesday.
Dranov testified that he and John McQueary later met with then-Vice President Gary Schultz, one of the two administrators to whom Mike McQueary had reported the shower incident, to work out an affiliation agreement between his medical practice and Penn State. After the meeting, John McQueary asked where the investigation stood.
Dranov said Schultz told them there were “rumors” of a previous incident in the 1990s that was investigated by police. He said Schultz told them no charges were brought and the board of Sandusky’s The Second Mile charity for at-risk youth was notified. Dranov said Schultz indicated similar actions were being taken with Mike McQueary’s report, but did not say other agencies were involved.
An allegation of abuse was made against Sandusky in 1998. The case was investigated by Penn State Police but the Centre County District Attorney declined to prosecute. Investigations have shown Schultz appeared to be aware of the 1998 case.
Dranov said that John McQueary told Schultz, “This was a potentially serious incident with serious repercussions and he wanted to be sure it was being attended to in an appropriate fashion.”
Conrad questioned Dranov about his status as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse because he is a physician. Dranov said because of what McQueary described and because he was not a witness to it, the incident was not a mandated report.
Asked if he thought it was “bad enough” to call police or child welfare agencies that night, Dranov said no.
“I don’t want to give the implication I didn’t think it was a serious incident,” Dranov said. “I did. I followed up to make sure he reported it.“
Dranov urged McQueary to report the incident to his supervisor, which he understood to be Penn State’s procedures.
McQueary reported the incident to Joe Paterno the next morning, and Paterno reported it to then-Athletic Director Tim Curley and Schultz, who spoke with McQueary but dispute that he told them anything sexual had occurred. Among McQueary’s lawsuit claims is that Curley and Schultz misrepresented what they would do with the information he gave them.
Both Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury (since dropped) and failure to report suspected child abuse based on McQueary’s testimony and their denials that he had told them of anything sexual. A later charge of child endangerment also remains and they still await trial.
In an email to Sassano and Eshbach, McQueary said the AG’s office had made no statement of support for him and asked about whether he could make a public statement of his own. On Monday, Eshbach testified that she told him not to because she did not want him to give a statement that could be used in cross-examination. Sassano said that McQueary was free to respond, but that he didn’t think he should.
“You don’t respond to these kooks and nuts,” Sassano testified.
Administrative Leave and Severance
Earlier Wednesday, Joe Doncsecz, Penn State’s corporate controller, testified about severance payments to McQueary after his contract expired on June 30, 2012 as well as a bonus and raise he did not receive while still on paid administrative leave.
A clause in the contract of Penn State’s assistant coaches called for 18 months of severance if they lost their jobs as a result of a coaching change. Other assistants who lost their jobs when Bill O’Brien took over as head coach in January 2012 began receiving their severance after termination.
McQueary, however, remained employed though on leave until the end of June 2012. When McQueary’s contract expired, Doncsecz said, there had been no instruction to begin severance payments for him and that it would have been normal course of business for payments to stop at the end of a contract.
Under questioning from McQueary attorney Elliot Strokoff, Runkle, the athletic department HR manager at the time, said that it would have been general practice for a staff member whose employment was ending to be notified in advance. McQueary has claimed he did not know he was no longer employed by Penn State until he saw media reports in July of 2012.
In a deposition read into the record, former Athletic Director Dave Joyner said he was unsure if McQueary had received notice, but that he would have expected McQueary to show some curiosity about his contract status as its end neared
In September 2012, Doncsecz testified, McQueary’s severance payments began, including back payments for July and August. Severance payments were made in full through December 2013. Joyner said there had been a “mix-up” that delayed payment and that it was Joyner who authorized for the severance payments to begin.
Strokoff also questioned Doncsecz about cost of living increases received by other assistant coaches in January 2012, as well as bonuses they received for coaching in the Ticket City Bowl.
Doncsecz said McQueary did not receive the raise on instruction from the University Budget Office because of his status as being on leave with pay. He called it “a gray area.”
He added that the athletic director, Joyner, submitted the names of coaches to receive the bowl game bonus and McQueary was not among them. On questioning from Conrad, Doncsecz said due to McQueary’s status he would not have coached in practices or the bowl game.
Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.