State police head stands by criticism of Paterno, Penn State - abc27 WHTM

State police head stands by criticism of Paterno, Penn State

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The mother of a victim reported abuse by Jerry Sandusky in a Penn State shower in 1998. Janitors claimed they saw the ex-coach in a shower with a boy in 2000, and Mike McQueary reported an incident in 2001.

Three reports in four years, yet nothing was done to stop a predator who, celebrity-like, was in a luxury box at a Penn State football game days before his arrest in November 2011.

"And he was in that shower room," said Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. "And had access to it for years and years and years after these events were reported. It is a concern. You're curious. Why did it happen?"

Noonan, a Marine officer in Vietnam and former FBI agent, was with the attorney general's office when the Sandusky investigation began. He's privy to a lot of the early information that came in about the former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted predator. He says Penn State was less than cooperative with the investigation and gives one example of janitors scared to speak up after seeing Sandusky abusing a young boy in a shower.

"They thought they would lose their jobs if they reported the crime, and that speaks to the culture that was present," Noonan said. "I wasn't always in law enforcement. I worked on a garbage truck at one point, but I've never had a job where I felt I couldn't speak up about child sex abuse. I don't understand that."

Leaked e-mails have surfaced implicating Penn State officials in a cover-up. They appear to point toward legendary late head football coach Joe Paterno. They are emails the AG's office didn't know existed until they were uncovered by investigator Louis Freeh, the former FBI director hired by the university for its own investigation.

Noonan said the AG's office didn't have these emails while initially investigating Sandusky but Freeh has since uncovered them.

"They hired their own people to go through the computers and found them," he said.

Gov. Tom Corbett confirmed Tuesday that Penn State's Board of Trustees was briefed on the existence of the emails, but he's not happy they've been haphazardly released.

"I don't like leaked information," Corbett said.

Corbett is in a unique position. Now the governor and a Penn State trustee, he was the attorney general when the investigation and also privy to insider information.

Corbett said what he learned about the school's culture as AG has given him some ideas about changes he would like to see now that he's a trustee, but he's not revealing details yet.

"I have ideas, but I'll share them with the Board first," he said. "I'll also wait on what comes out in the Freeh report."

While criticizing leaks and not yet offering specific cures for Penn State moving forward, Corbett did offer this: "You can't legislate behavior, and if you look at this issue much of this is behavior, behavior by Mister Sandusky and others."

These behaviors will presumably be revealed in coming months, both by Louis Freeh and the perjury trials of two Penn State officials. Corbett also reflected on his charge to Penn State trustees moments before they voted to fire Paterno and former president Graham Spanier in November, that they "must remember the children."

"That 'must remember the children' applies not just to Penn State but to everyone," Corbett said. "We have a duty to our children and that has to be followed."

Noonan anxiously awaits the Freeh report and the upcoming trials. He says he's curious about many things and about the implications of a cover-up at the highest levels of the university.

Noonan said he was criticized for emotionally and loudly insisting last November that Paterno and other Penn State officials had a "moral obligation" to report suspected abuse to police. More calmly and with a smile on his face, he said he stands by his comments.

"When you have a problem, the correct response is to deal with the problem," Noonan said. "Get it over with, not to ignore it, not to hope it goes away, because the reputation of the institution is based on what you actually do in those situations, not what it appears to the outside."

The focus of this case has now clearly shifted from what one man did to what a major institution failed to do.

To view Dennis Owen's full interview with Noonan, click here

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