Now that Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty of 45 of the 48 charges against him, Penn State would like to put the ugly incident behind them. But the school's child-sex abuse scandal is far from over, as further legal and financial consequences loom on the horizon.
According to Lisa Friel, former chief of the Manhattan DA's sex crimes unit, Penn State may have a financial obligation to Sandusky's victims.
Penn State is likely to have to pay these victims a great deal of money to compensate them for the awful things that happened to them, most of which might not have occurred had Penn State officials put the safety of children above the reputation of their institution.
While not as easily quantifiable, that same reputation has also taken a serious hit in the wake of the scandal.
Penn State's former head football coach Joe Paterno, who died in January, was fired following criticism that he knowingly allowed Sandusky's abuse of children to continue. Former university President Graham Spanier was also fired.
Two more Penn State officials have been held accountable — athletic director Timothy Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz are charged with perjury and failure to report sexual abuse of Sandusky's victims.
Attempting to do its own clean-up, Penn State hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh to head an internal investigation. But Sandusky's victims will almost certainly file a separate civil case against the university for its failure to act in response to serious child-sex abuse allegations. Attorney Tom Kline, who represents one of the victims, reiterated Penn State's responsibility.
The moment the verdict was announced against Sandusky, the landscape of this scandal shifted toward a new focus on Penn State. There is no doubt that we are going to file a claim against Penn State. Jerry Sandusky may have been the perpetrator, but Penn State was his enabler.
In a statement released after the verdict, the university said that it would "compensate" the victims — but will that be enough to avoid another trial?
Widener University law professor Wes Oliver advises Penn State to "resolve the lingering matters quickly." The overwhelming evidence against Sandusky and the sheer number of convictions suggest that the university had compelling reasons to get rid of Sandusky and chose not to. While Curley's and Schultz's fates are now outside of Penn State's jurisdiction, the school will have to continue its public penance.
Meanwhile, Sandusky's lawyers are complaining that they did not have enough time to prepare their case. As attorney Joe Amendola said—
We told the trial court, the Superior Court, and the Supreme Court we were not prepared to proceed to trial in June due to numerous issues, and we asked to withdraw from the case for those reasons.
For Sandusky's victims, however, the trial's surprising speed was a long overdue step toward retribution. It's now up to Penn State to see how quickly they can work to undo the damage — a process that will likely take far longer than Sandusky's conviction.
[Image via AP]