We told you last month how Joe Paterno's death might have the effect of cosseting Penn State administrators from criminal prosecution in the Jerry Sandusky case. And now that's the defense being pursued by Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the on-leave athletic director and the former senior vice president for business and finance, respectively, who are charged with perjury and failure to report abuse.
Curley's attorney has filed a motion asking to have Curley's perjury case dismissed. And Schultz's lawyer just did something similar. Pennsylvania law requires a perjury charge to have a corroborating witness. In this case, things essentially boil down to what assistant coach and key witness Mike McQueary said versus what Curley said, with Paterno broadly providing corroboration for McQueary's account. And while Paterno's grand jury testimony was read into the record during Curley's and Schultz's preliminary hearing in December, Paterno was never cross-examined by the defense. Which means Paterno's testimony cannot be part of the trial. Without Paterno, and without any additional witnesses or evidence to back up McQueary's version of events, the perjury case against Curley is seriously crippled.
Over the weekend, I got involved in an email exchange with a Penn State supporter that began with her bellyaching about our continued use of "Penn State Scandal" as a tag for our continuing coverage of this story. "The charges will be cleared," she wrote at one point of the perjury allegations. Her argument was that what we were calling a Penn State scandal was really a Jerry Sandusky scandal, which is the favored argument of many Penn Staters because it reassures them that there are no monsters under their bed after all. Of course, this willfully overlooks a number of things, not least that the entire mythology of Joe Paterno's happy kingdom—and it was his kingdom, not Curley's or Schultz's—rested on his providing the sort of fierce moral leadership that he pretty evidently shrank from after first learning of the allegations. (Remember, Paterno testified under oath that McQueary described "inappropriate" acts of a "sexual nature.") Curley and Schultz will both get off, in all likelihood, but it will be something less than an exoneration. They will get off because the legend who passed the buck to them is dead.