Penn State on claim Joe Paterno knew of sex abuse as early as 1976: 'We are aware of the allegations. But the legal case and confidentiality commitments that govern our settlement agreements preclude us from discussing these matters at all. We are sensitive to the need to adhere to our commitments and to honor the privacy concerns of potential victims' - NBC News
The Penn State child sex abuse scandal was an incident in which Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, was charged and convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. Sandusky had located and groomed victims through his charity organization, The Second Mile. Also implicated were several Penn State University officials, whose alleged actions were questioned in terms of whether they met ethical, moral, and legal obligations in reporting any suspected abuse. The scandal broke in early November 2011 when Sandusky was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation. Although Sandusky's abuse may have begun in the 1970s, he was charged with abuse that occurred between 1994 and 2009. Additionally, three school officials (including school president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley) were charged with perjury, obstruction of justice, failure to report suspected child abuse, and related charges. Shortly after the scandal broke, Spanier resigned. The Penn State Board of Trustees terminated the contracts of Curley and of the longtime head football coach, Joe Paterno.
Jerry Sandusky's criminal trial began on June 11, 2012, at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He maintained his innocence. Of the 52 charges, 4 charges were initially dropped, leaving 48. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse. Sandusky was sentenced on October 9, 2012, to a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 60 years in prison.
The Board of Trustees commissioned an independent investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm. The Freeh Report stated that Spanier and Paterno, along with Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz, had known about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky's part as early as 1998, and were complicit in failing to disclose them (although Paterno did make a report to his superiors). In so doing, Freeh stated that the most senior leaders at Penn State showed a "total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims" for 14 years and "empowered" Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse.
The Freeh Report had far-reaching outcomes for Penn State. The NCAA used the Freeh Report in lieu of its own investigation to impose sanctions on the Penn State football program. On July 23, 2012, the NCAA imposed a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, and vacated all victories from 1998 to 2011. These sanctions were considered to be among the most severe ever imposed on an NCAA member school. NCAA President Mark Emmert stated that the sanctions were levied "not to be just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people." The Big Ten Conference subsequently imposed an additional $13 million fine. In 2014, the NCAA reversed course. It rescinded the postseason ban, restored scholarships, and re-credited Penn State and Paterno with their victories from 1998 to 2011.
As of November 2012, two other investigations are ongoing: a federal criminal probe by the local United States Attorney launched shortly after the discovery of Sandusky's crimes, and a separate probe from the Department of Education into whether Penn State responded to the incident properly and reported it in accordance with federal law. On July 30, 2013, Spanier, Schultz, and Curley were ordered by Judge William Wenner to stand trial.
On January 22, 2016, some of the charges against Curley, Schultz, and Spanier were dropped due to the violation of their rights to legal representation. All three men still await trial on charges of suspected abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.