The news of the passing of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno has barely had a chance to sink in and already implications are being drawn up over what his death means to the cases linked to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
According to law experts who interviewed with the Associated Press, not much.
If anything, it takes a middle man, so to speak, out of the cases against former VP Gary Schultz and athletic director (on leave) Tim Curley and their conversations with football assistant Mike McQueary, who according to his testimony at a preliminary hearing, witnessed Sandusky performing “extremely sexual” acts on a young boy in 2002.
Curley and Schultz face perjury charges in the Sandusky scandal.
“Obviously, you’re taking away a great deal of the high-profile nature of this case, because it deals with Joe Paterno’s football program,” criminal defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy told the AP. “But with regard to the legal impact of his death, there is none.”
“[Paterno's role] was a distraction, and now that that part of the case is really gone, it will focus much more on his interaction not with Paterno, but with the Penn State officials,” added Duquesne University law professor Nicholas P. Cafardi.
It’s well-known and documented that Paterno did what he was legally obligated to do when he was informed of what McQueary saw in 2002 by reporting it to his superiors; what Paterno was “morally” obligated to do remains a topic of debate and ultimately cost him his job as head coach of the Nittany Lions.
But Paterno was part of a chain of individuals, including Curley, Schultz, McQueary and former university president Graham Spanier, who are key components of the scandal and grand jury indictment of Sandusky. In other words, Paterno could have been a key witness. Paterno’s grand jury testimony, however, cannot be used in court now because he was never cross-examined by the defense.