Bernstein: Judge Shames Joe Paterno’s Inaction At Penn State

By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) At a sentencing for three Penn State officials who facilitated the rapes of children on their campus, another, bigger name was singled out for his complicity in the years of horror.

Joe Paterno, guilty.

It’s impossible to prosecute a ghost, of course, but judge John Boccabella made clear that the evidence pointed to Paterno himself as the primary reason why Jerry Sandusky’s decades of crimes were covered up and proper authorities never contacted.

“Why no one made a phone call to police is beyond me,” Boccabella said. “Why Mr. Sandusky was allowed to continue to use the Penn State facilities is beyond me. Mr. Paterno, the legendary football coach, could have made that phone call without so much as getting his hands dirty.”

Further damning Paterno himself was the rationale behind the sentences handed down. Former school president Graham Spanier will serve four to 12 months in prison and two years of probation. Former vice president Gary Schultz received a jail term of six to 23 months and probation, but ex-athletic director Tim Curley was punished hardest with seven to 23 months, in large part due to his evasive testimony about Paterno’s personal influence toward criminal inaction.

Curley repeatedly claimed he was unable to recall conversations with Paterno that halted a plan to alert police to Sandusky’s pattern of child rape and molestation. Prosecutor Patrick Schulte noted that Curley was ready to make the call, but “something changed after talking to coach Paterno.”

“I was unimpressed by your testimony during the trial,” the judge told Curley.

He also implied that Curley was lying about his memory problems, saying, “I find it really hard to believe that he doesn’t remember every detail of the most serious mistake he ever made.”

The official condemnation of Paterno matters because of the ongoing, twisted efforts by a dark movement of worshippers to rewrite history in a way that somehow exonerates the sainted coach from wrongdoing. His role in the years of hideous crime is now a permanent part of public record, beyond the private investigation commissioned by Penn State that initially unearthed he emails from Curley that indicated Paterno’s direct involvement.

The truthers had been making recent gains against any remaining dignity at Penn State, forcing a tribute to Paterno at a football game last fall that resulted in widespread national embarrassment, then adding Jay Paterno to the board of trustees as an agent of further revisionism.

Trustee Al Lord was forced to step down from the board after his comments to a reporter that referred to “so-called victims” for whom he was “running out of sympathy,” a rare moment in which the cultists’ mask slipped.

Boccabella’s broadside of Paterno at sentencing Friday is a victory for principle and common sense and a substantial blow to the merciless campaign by the coach’s acolytes to make the evil un-happen, a sick crusade that revictimizes endlessly those whose lives were ruined by Sandusky.

The three men led a cover-up that was successful in protecting Paterno from criminal prosecution at the time. Their insular institutional practices and control of the levers of enforcement provided just enough deniability to empower a massive PR war to try to shore up Paterno’s legacy before he died.

None of that is plausible anymore. Testimony has been given under oath and hard evidence considered. Juries have ruled, and now a senior judge has spoken.

Joe Paterno chose to let boys be raped and made sure that phone call was never made.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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