Penn State sued over abuse inaction

Penn State sued over abuse inaction

A young man who testified against a former college American football coach sued Penn State University, blaming it for how its top officials dealt with complaints that Jerry Sandusky behaved inappropriately with boys.

The lawsuit filed by the person known as Victim 1 at Sandusky’s trial said university officials made deliberate decisions not to report Sandusky to authorities.

Those decisions were “a function of (Penn State’s) purposeful, deliberate and shameful subordination of the safety of children to its economic self-interests, and to its interest in maintaining and perpetuating its reputation”, the suit said.

It was filed electronically in Philadelphia state court, Slade McLaughlin, a lawyer for Victim 1, said.

Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June of 45 criminal counts for sexual abuse of boys, both on and off campus. He awaits sentencing that will likely send him to prison for the rest of his life.

The case rocked Penn State University and the small community where it is located and became one of the biggest scandals in the history of US collegiate athletics.

University spokesman Dave La Torre said the school had no comment on the pending litigation.

“The university takes these cases very seriously,” Mr La Torre said adding that the current president and board “have publicly emphasised that their goal is to find solutions that rest on the principle of justice for the victims”.

Around November 2009, Victim 1 and his mother reported Sandusky to the boy’s high school and the Clinton County child protective agency.

Their complaint triggered a state investigation that last year resulted in charges against Sandusky, as well as Penn State administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley.

Schultz, who retired, and Curley, who was placed on leave, were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse. Both deny the allegations and await trial.

Revered head football coach Joe Paterno was fired after a career of emphasising integrity both on and off the field and running what had been considered one of the cleanest programmes in sports. He died in January of lung cancer.

The lawsuit draws heavily from court testimony, grand jury investigations and Penn State’s own investigative report, conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh, on Sandusky and how university officials handled the claims against him.

The suit alleges negligence, fraudulent concealment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. It asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

Victim 1 is known as John Doe C in the complaint. The suit names no other defendants than the university.

The lawsuit also claims that a “special relationship” between Penn State and The Second Mile, a Sandusky-founded charity for youth, gave Sandusky a respectable public image and connections that enabled him to perform criminal acts.

It alleges that Penn State “believed its reputation and economic interests would be adversely impacted if the public learned that a man closely associated with the school’s football programme was, in fact, a paedophile”.

The Second Mile’s future remains uncertain, subject to a legal dispute.

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