Insurance claim suggests Joe Paterno knew of Jerry Sandusky abuse in 1976

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4 Fast Facts

  • Insurance claim says former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was told about Jerry Sandusky allegations in 1976
  • That’s 18 years before what had been previously thought as the earlier known incident regarding Sandusky
  • The former Penn State assistant was found guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys in the 1990s and 2000s
  • Sandusky worked at Penn State for 32 years; prosecutors said he used his charity to get access to children

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was told that his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing a child as early as 1976, according to a claim by an insurance company.

This date is 18 years before what had been thought as the earliest known incident of abuse by Sandusky. The allegation was revealed in a single line of a court document filed Wednesday.

Convicted pedophile Sandusky was found guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys during the 1990s and 2000s. He was employed by Penn State for 32 years. He had used a charity he founded and access to the college football team to entice and abuse kids. Sandusky is serving a prison sentence between 30 to 60 years.

The allegation that Paterno and assistant football coaches were aware that Sandusky was molesting children back in the 1970s and throughout the 1980s surfaced in a lawsuit brought by Penn State University against its former insurer, Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA).

The lawsuit, filed in late 2013, seeks to determine whether Penn State or its PMA insurance policy is liable for paying victims who were abused by Sandusky. At least 30 men were involved in a civil settlement with Penn State, and the number of victims could be even higher.

“PMA claims…in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU’s Head Football Coach Joseph Paterno, that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky,” the document reads.

The insurance company also made several allegations that Sandusky had sexually abused children in the 1980s, according to the court filing.

• In 1987, a Penn State assistant coach “is alleged to have witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a child at a PSU facility.”

• In 1988, another Penn State assistant coach “reportedly witnessed sexual contact between Sandusky and a child.”

• In 1988 again, “a child’s report of his molestation by Sandusky was allegedly referred to PSU’s Athletic Director.”

“There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU,” wrote Judge Gary Glazer in the court filing.

It’s unclear what evidence the insurance company had in making these claims. A number of depositions from the victims included as evidence in the case’s docket are sealed. The footnotes in the judge’s filing cite these depositions as evidence for the abuse allegations.

Prior to these revelations, the earliest known incidents involving Sandusky dated back to 1994. Sandusky had abused children whom he met through a charity he founded called the Second Mile.

Paterno’s legacy

Prior to the Sandusky scandal, Paterno enjoyed a sterling reputation as the most successful coach in major college football.

Paterno, at the age of 80, died in 2012 before he could be interviewed by investigators and under a cloud of suspicion that he, along with Penn State officials, failed to act after learning of Sandusky’s misconduct.

Months after his death, a 900-pound bronze statue of a beaming Paterno was also taken down outside the football stadium.

Paterno’s family has vehemently defended his legacy and denies that Paterno played any role in a cover-up, even though an independent investigation funded by Penn State found he had knowledge of allegations against Sandusky as early as 1998.

The Paternos’ attorney, Wick Sollers told the Patriot-News: “An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky.”

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