New PSU Revelations: Message Board Rumors Led To McQueary; Victims Were Reluctant To Come Forward; Documents Are Missing From Second Mile

Today's New York Times has a long story about how the investigation into sex-abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky developed. Four key plot points jump out:

From the story by the Times's Jo Becker (emphasis ours):

Working off the brief mention on an Internet forum where people chatted about Penn State athletics, according to the two people with knowledge of the case, investigators narrowed their list of coaches likely to have seen something to Mike McQueary, then an assistant coach and the football program's recruiting coordinator.

State College is a close-knit community. Word would get around that a Penn State coach had met with investigators. So investigators set up a meeting in an out-of-the-way parking lot, according to those with knowledge of the case.

There, one day a little over a year ago, McQueary unburdened himself, the two people said. He needed little prompting.

He told of a horrific scene he had stumbled upon as a graduate assistant one Friday night in March 2002: a naked boy, about 10, hands pressed against the locker room wall of the Lasch Football Building, being raped by Sandusky. McQueary was explicit and unequivocal, the people said. He had told Paterno, the team's longtime and widely beloved head coach, about the incident the next day, but he was filled with regret that nothing had happened.

So, basically, it was message board rumors that cracked the case. And McQueary—the prosecution's star witness—had harbored enormous guilt that nothing was done. Which makes McQueary's subsequent statements, revealed in private emails that were leaked this week, about having gone to the police and done something to stop what he saw Sandusky allegedly doing all the more curious. Why does he now feel the need to equivocate?

Another development in Becker's story:

Most disturbingly, investigators continued to identify possible victims - young men who had been boys when Sandusky befriended them through his foundation for troubled youngsters.

Those young men were not eager to tell their stories, the two people with knowledge of the case said. The young men were not convinced that the attorney general's office had the will to go after a case that could rewrite the storied history of the university's football program. And they asked: If the case went forward, who would believe them over a revered figure like Jerry Sandusky?

It was a question investigators had asked themselves. But with McQueary, they had what they regarded as an impartial witness, and one from within the ranks of Penn State itself.

In other words, it was easy for Penn State allegedly to try to cover this up, since not even the alleged victims felt they would be believed when matched against the might of the Nittany Lions football program.

Becker's piece then gets to the initial 1998 investigation against Sandusky, since McQueary's revelations led them to widen their scope. The 1998 case resulted in no charges from the district attorney, who is now believed to be dead. But get this:

As investigators leafed through the old report—it ran close to 100 pages—they came to believe that the campus police officers had truly wanted to make a case against Sandusky, according to people with knowledge of the current investigation.

[...]

Ultimately, the district attorney decided against taking the case to trial, a decision that, years later, the attorney general's investigators could well understand. According to people with knowledge of the current Sandusky case, the district attorney's decision in 1998 was a close call, even with the evidence the campus police had.

But what most struck the investigators, according to people with knowledge of the current case, was that the university itself seemed to have done nothing in the wake of the police investigation. Whether that was because other senior officials at Penn State did not know of the investigation or because they knew of it, but chose to do nothing, is a central question for investigators today.

[...]

Investigators over the last week have made clear that they have serious doubts about whether so few people in senior positions of responsibility came to know of the 1998 investigation.

That's a police report totaling close to 100 pages—and no reaction whatsoever from Penn State. Nothing.

The last major revelation from Becker's reporting is this:

Meanwhile, investigators served numerous subpoenas on the Second Mile, according to people with knowledge of the inquiry. Not only did they want the names of children who had been through the program, they also demanded all of Sandusky's travel and expense records.

Much of the older paperwork was stored at an off-site records facility. The travel and expense records, for instance, had been sent over several years earlier. But select members of the charity's board of directors were alarmed to learn recently that when the records facility went to retrieve them, some of those records—from about 2000 to 2003—were missing.

The attorney general's office was notified of the missing files, people with knowledge of the case said. Subsequently, the foundation located apparently misfiled records from one of the years, but the rest seem to have disappeared.

[...]

Some investigators said they were convinced that the idea that Sandusky had an inappropriate interest in, and relationships with, young boys was a fairly widely held suspicion around and even outside Penn State's football program over the years.

"This was not the secret that they are trying to make out now," one person involved in the inquiry said. "I know there were a number of college coaches that had heard the rumors. If all these people knew about it, how could Sandusky's superiors not know?"

Inquiry Grew Into Concerns of a Cover-Up [New York Times]