In Clint Eastwood‘s movie “High Plains Drifter“, the apparition of the town’s marshal (played by Clint himself) returns to exact justice for his public flogging death. Everyone in town witnessed the event yet did nothing to intervene and the marshal perished. It became the town’s dirty little secret, everyone knew yet no one discussed it. The town and its citizens lived in this shame until the ghost of the marshal returned to set them free and freedom came at a heavy price.
A similar scenario has set itself up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in general but more specifically the 1998 investigation in which if Mr. Sandusky was arrested, his reign of terror would have been ended. But, he wasn’t and there seems to be a collective amnesia about that investigation.
We need to know why?
Both Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno denied knowing that Jerry Sandusky was investigated in 1998 for child sex abuse. It seems illogical that they did not know. Jerry was not some middling employee but a highly visible and important one. They had to know, right? Joe even appeared to be following the investigation according to e-mails by Tim Curley but before the grand jury, Joe denied any knowledge. Why would he lie on this but be truthful as to what Mike McQuery told him, it does not make sense. If he wanted to protect everybody and head off the state attorney’s investigation, he would have minimized what Mike told him thus giving the University cover. As we know, he was truthful as to his conversation with Mike McQuery. Now, one can envision a reason for Graham Spanier being less than truthful in this regards as if he knew about 1998, his decision in 2001 becomes all the more reprehensible. Yet, he is steadfast in his assertion that he did not know. Is this believable?
This amnesia as to 1998 just does not affect those on top but the whole town. How could such an allegation be made and no one knew about it? When I was a police officer in NYC, I worked in the West Village of Manhattan. One day David Lee Roth was arrested for buying marijuana. The whole precinct knew about it within minutes and before too long, the press was involved.
Now an allegation made against Jerry Sandusky would have similarly moved like wildfire through the PSU campus police; and not only the police department but many in the State College community. Yet, no one seems to have any idea an investigation was ever conducted until the scandal broke last fall. Additionally, this insider information was not limited to the police department. The district attorney’s office was involved. Penn State administrators such as Schultz and Curley were involved. State investigators from child protection services were involved. Despite this widespread knowledge, no one knew.
Is this conceivable? An investigation of this magnitude was not leaked or is something else at play here? There had to be whispers, too many people knew and for all of them to keep their lips zipped seems impossible. Did the community at large also look the other way? To answer this question we may need an avenging angel like Clint Eastwood’s character in Highs Plains Drifter to sift through the facts and hand out justice.
The only way to get to the bottom of this is for an outside agency such as the FBI or state attorney general’s office to come in and re-investigate the 1998 case. What may come out will not be pretty but for the town to heal itself, it will be necessary.