A few of Jerry Sandusky’s jurors cracked a smile as Joe Paterno’s former player and graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary testified during the second day of the Sandusky trial. He reiterated that he saw Sandusky sodomize a child in a Penn State locker room, and that shocked, he walked out and called his father, who told him he needed to tell Paterno. McQueary called the following morning. “At the time, we had a couple of job openings on the staff,” McQueary testified. “I said, ‘Coach Paterno, it’s Mike McQueary. Can I come over to talk?’ He said, ‘No, I’m not giving you a job.’”
That’s when McQueary was able to make the State College courtroom snicker—at a Joe Paterno story, naturally. Some of Sandusky’s friends, dozens of media reporters and several jurors each cracked a smile, some gave up an audible chuckle.
Considering the occasion, it was a sick joke. Considering the audience, it was perfect timing. For a jury with close ties to the university—including a student, alums, former employees and a former professor—the joke played into Paterno’s still pristine, paternal image within their community.
So it would make sense to them that the first authoritative figure McQueary called was not police but Paterno, per McQueary’s father’s advice. Paterno, as most in the Penn State faithful still believe, always knew best.
“I made sure Coach Joe knew it was sexual,” he said. “I didn’t explain [specific] details out of respect and probably my own embarrassment, to be frank with you.”
Paterno told McQueary he would alert then-athletic director Tim Curley and then-university vice president Gary Schultz, who was also head of Penn State police. About a week later, Schultz and Curley met with McQueary in a Bryce Jordan Center conference room. McQueary told them he saw a sexual act between Sandusky and a boy. They told him they alerted Sandusky’s charity for children, the Second Mile.
“In my mind, Mr. Schultz represented the police without a doubt,” McQueary testified. He never spoke of the incident to Sandusky, who he continued to see at Penn State football and charity events and in the gym.
If the jury deems McQueary credible, it helps the prosecution. He is, without question, their strongest witness other than the alleged victims. During cross-examination, defense attorney Karl Rominger tried to discredit McQueary. But the former Penn State quarterback was on the offense.
Rominger questioned McQueary’s description on the age of the boy, who hasn’t come forward. “You want to play games with words. That’s fine, sir, I understand that,” McQueary said. “I’m not a math major or anything, but I think [10 or 12 years old] is about the same age.”
Rominger pressed on: How could you get the date [of the incident] wrong by a year? “I’m not perfect,” McQueary said.
If you didn’t see Sandusky or the boy’s private areas, are you certain you saw sodomy? “Let me put it to you this way, if I’m at a college party at a frat house, and I walk in there and he’s in there on top of a girl, I walk out and think that they’re having sex,” McQueary said.
If you actually saw sodomy, why didn’t you immediately go to police? “It’s been well-publicized that I didn’t stop it,” he said.
In what would be the only time McQueary’s voice cracked during his nearly two hours of testimony, he reiterated what he told authorities months ago: “I was very flustered and so I just hid.”
It was the second time in day two of the trial that someone testified they tried to hide from Sandusky. Earlier, alleged victim no. 1—an 18-year-old boy who graduated from high school Thursday—sobbed as he recounted performing and receiving oral sex multiple times with Sandusky when he was in middle school. “I was extremely confused about what was going on,” he testified. “I didn’t know what to think … I was frozen.”
The alleged incidents occurred in Sandusky’s basement bedroom, with his wife, Dottie, upstairs. Lacking a father figure, the boy would stay overnight at the coaching legend’s home and no one questioned it because Sandusky had such a positive reputation as someone who helped children. The boy testified that he would hide under tables in the basement, but Sandusky would find him. “There was nowhere really to hide,” he testified.
At one point during McQueary’s cross-examination, Rominger looked to prove that McQueary has financial motives, questioning the whistle blower’s suit McQueary filed against Penn State a few months ago. McQueary used it as an opportunity to assert that he still wants to coach. “Frankly, I want to be a football coach at Penn State University, and I can’t,” McQueary said. “And I want to add that I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong to lose that job.”
How McQueary believed he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy and flubbed the date by more than a year when authorities questioned him in 2008 perhaps makes him a questionable witness. How McQueary walked to his coaching office after he looked into the eyes of a naked boy he believed Sandusky sodomized is, without doubt, beyond logical reason.
Outside the Penn State community, perhaps McQueary is unbelievable. But inside the courtroom, he got some jurors to crack a smile.