By Dan Bernstein – Senior Columnist

“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved.”

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— Penn State AD Tim Curley, in an e-mail to school president Graham Spanier.

And with that, CNN’s devastating chronicle of the active shielding of child-rapist Jerry Sandusky, the legacy of Joe Paterno is forever sealed. The coach did not merely turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to violent acts against children, but made sure they continued. He was not the dutiful employee passing things up the chain of command, but the commander himself.

Those nominally outranking him – Curley, Spanier and VP Gary Schultz — were set to inform outside authorities that Jerry Sandusky was seen assaulting a boy in the football-office showers. A series of emails details the conversation agreeing on a plan to contact the Second Mile chairman, the Department of Welfare and Sandusky to describe the eyewitness account.

That didn’t happen, however, because Joe Paterno made the call: nobody say nuthin’ to nobody.

The timeline is easy to follow, the story clear. If you wish to read every word of the emails yourself, you can:

As has been chronicled in this space for months, too much was at stake for Paterno to allow his football program and his vast, personal business arrangements with Second Mile connections to be brought down by scandal.

So he made sure Sandusky could go about his business uninterrupted. In fact, he raped another boy in the same building seven months later, thanks to Paterno’s decision. Sandusky never even had to turn in his keys, never had to abide by a ban from campus that was never enforced. He had full use of Penn State football facilities to prey on more children up until the indictment became public last November.

Think about this. Never were officials at Sandusky’s personal victim-farm alerted to what they knew, never did they attempt to identify the boy so he could be helped. Three university officials were ready to turn Sandusky over to the state, but Joe Paterno changed the conversation and got his way.

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He knew Sandusky was a child predator, testifying under oath that he knew. He was the one that chose to let crimes go unpunished, and to facilitate more.

The dead-end cultists have nowhere to go, now, in their increasingly desperate attempts to protect their false god, who lies in pathetic ruins. The “He didn’t know” defense was kneecapped by his own statements to the grand jury. The “He fulfilled his legal duty” defense is undermined now that we know how the power structure really worked in Happy Valley. The deathbed claim of not understanding that it was possible that a man could rape a boy was an obvious, guilty lie.

It doesn’t matter that he was fired over the phone. People who do what he did forfeit the right to any special treatment, regardless of how many games his teams won or how long he had lived near campus. He deserved to be fired, however it needed to be done. Even the last, worshipping loon has to see that, in light of what we know to have transpired.

Paterno is in tatters today, and should be. It’s about damn time.

It’s not a good day to be Franco Harris, Dick Vitale, Mike Krzyzewski, Phil Knight, or any other last-gasp defender of Paterno, willfully ignorant of facts to ward off cognitive dissonance. It is a very good day for those who desire that the truth be learned.

Even the most hopeful that a saint would emerge unscathed from one of the darkest chapters in the history of sports is finally forced to confront reality. To refuse to do so is to join the company of other, similarly-unhinged deniers.

They should look not through eyes clouded by fear and shame at perceived enemies of Penn State, nefarious forces of the mainstream lined up with imagined agendas, or political alliances that for some reason have decided to bring down their school.

They should look inward – at themselves and their unhealthy culture of insularity that fostered this. They should look toward the statue at the stadium, at the man at the center of all of it.

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.

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