Penn State Defense

The Penn State debacle is beginning to play out like a poorly written soap opera.  Since the story broke, the suspected child molester gave a nationwide interview in which he admitted he showered with children.  The state’s key witness reportedly made statements that might compromise his testimony.  If that is not enough, Joe Paterno is reported to have lung cancer.

Joe Paterno’s alleged cancer diagnosis is another blow to the coach and his family.  One can only imagine how they must feel. If the diagnosis is correct, our hearts should go out to them.   With that said, what are the odds a man would  be implicated in a sex scandal, lose his job and be diagnosed with cancer in the same two week period?  The word astronomical comes to mind.

It is difficult to say how one should feel about Coach Paterno’s reported medical problem.  No one would wish cancer on anyone.  In this case, cynical observers may be hoping the alleged diagnosis has some basis in fact, and is not a sad and dramatic ploy to raise Paterno’s sympathy profile.  Still, if Sandusky is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and McQueary is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the “something smells fishy” index in Pennsylvania will be off the charts.

The idea of an overstated or feigned malady may be repugnant to some.  However, it is a common tactic within the U.S. criminal justice system.  Alleged, suspected or totally fabricated medical issues are used regularly by defense attorneys and publicists.  Heart murmurs become debilitating heart conditions. Mild retardation or mild neuroses become the basis of not guilty by mental defect pleas or attempts to have charges dropped.

It would be easy to dismiss the foregoing as coincidence, confusion or poor judgment.  People do strange things under the pressure of public scrutiny and allegations of wrong doing.  However, a seasoned and skeptical observer might see this in a different light.  Coach Paterno’s diagnosis aside, there are other questions to be asked.

Why would Jerry Sandusky make comments on a nationwide television broadcast that seem to be admitting to acts that are crimes in most states?  Why would a key witness make statements that might jeopardize his credibility?

Sandusky’s comments seem to be unbelievably stupid.  He admitted on national television that he may have committed acts that are crimes in most parts of the country. Why would he do that, and why would his attorney be party to such an act of self-indictment.  There are at least two possible reasons, other than stupidity.

His admissions may lay the groundwork for a plea deal. If this case goes to trial, it will be long, sensational and nasty.  Sandusky can now claim he has admitted making mistakes.  He can show contrition and possibly head off a long prison sentence.  Or, he can claim poor legal counsel if he is convicted and have a chance of winning an appeal.

McQueary’s reported email statements are more understandable in some ways.  His reported actions made him appear to be complicit in the abuse cover up or a coward who ran from the scene of a horrible crime. He may have reacted as he did in an attempt to save his reputation, what is left of it.  Whatever his motivation. His statements may damage his credibility as a witness to the alleged assault in 2002.

Conspiracy theorists should rejoice over the preceding.  There is at least enough conspiracy fodder for a short book, if not an opus.  Throw in the fact a district attorney involved in the case years ago disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and the odds someone will write a book seem certain.

Whether there is a conspiracy or not is for someone else to decide.  This writer does question the likelihood that the diagnosis, the interview and the email could be independent random acts. The good news is that prosecutors will have resources and witnesses other than the coach, the pervert and the whistleblower.  Victims and others will come forward, unless they suspiciously disappear or become wealthy recluses overnight.


© S. E. Jackson

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