When the verdict of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial was read on the crowded steps of the Bellefonte, Pennsylvania courthouse last Friday, there were cheers and applause from a waiting public. The scene looked more like a pep rally than it did a serious court case. This struck me as strange, as there seems nothing to celebrate here. The mother of victim #6 said it rightly, “nobody wins, we’ve all lost.” On his CNN program, Piers Morgan said this is not a night of celebration but of healing and he commended the victims/survivors for speaking up and the reporters for covering such a difficult story.
The entire plot and the logic of those involved in the Sandusky story are twisted in a way I cannot understand. One man is hated for speaking up; Penn State students rioted after Joe Paterno was fired for not speaking up; defense attorney Joe Amendola made jokes while his client was jailed and put on suicide watch, and then of course there were those cheering spectators. None of this makes sense to me.
Mike McQueary is considered the “Judas” of State College. He says he saw Sandusky with a boy in a locker room shower one night, and because of this revelation he’s credited for “helping expose the alleged [sic] crimes and, by extension, the secretive Penn State culture that may have facilitated them,” writes Frank Fitzpatrick in an early June Newsweek article entitled, “Fury Returns to Penn State.” Fitzpatrick says that, for many Americans, McQueary is a hero, but in State College, “he’s an outcast, a villain, a traitor.” One morning when the 6-foot-4 red head was walking his dogs, a driver passed by and gave McQueary the finger. Why such disdain for a man who helped break the silence? Fitzpatrick has one theory: JoPa supporters insist that had McQueary contacted police the night of the shower incident instead of Paterno, Sandusky “might have been stopped long before he was. Paterno might still be alive and coaching. And the university’s ‘We Are … Penn State’ pride as well as the integrity that was its signature virtue might still be intact.” Talk about a slippery slope fallacy!
First of all, McQueary’s decision to tell Paterno hints at a culture of secrecy but it also suggests the level of trust he had for Paterno to do the right thing. Also, who’s to say that had McQueary gone to the police that night a scandal would have been prevented and Paterno might still be coaching and alive? What connection does the scandal have to Paterno’s death from cancer? And continue coach? Paterno was 85, for goodness sake. How much longer did Penn State expect him to go on coaching?
If McQueary fits the traitor archetype of this story, defense attorney Joe Amendola is the clown. After the verdict was announced, Amendola spoke with CNN. While he was being miked up, the reporter explained they were live with Piers Morgan. Amendola joked, “What do you mean? I thought I was alive.” He kept laughing and smiling and when the interview ended, he gushed at Piers Morgan’s celebrity, saying he was a big fan and watched Morgan all the time. Call me crazy, but if your client has just been convicted of child rape and is facing life in prison, shouldn’t you at least pretend to be heavily burdened or deeply concerned? Steve Martin will play Amendola in the made-for-TV movie.
Can someone explain to me the priorities and values of State College? They love Paterno but hate McQueary, so I conclude that football is prioritized over the safety of children. Amendola acted goofy even though his client sits in a prison cell, on suicide watch. A nervous tick, perhaps? A flower blossoming in his 15 minutes of fame? Despite the seriousness of the moment, people cheered on the courthouse steps and some of them even waved at the camera from behind the backs of the speakers at the podium. Why were they on the steps in the first place? Why were children there (at 10 PM)? And consider this creepy admission by Amendola: he says “he literally stood in the shower and said: ‘God, help me find the words to defend Jerry as best I can.’ He says it was all from the heart.” What is it with these guys and showers?
I know, I know, we all deal with pain in our own way. Some folks in State College deal with it through anger; parents in Bellefonte are elated and relieved that “the monster” has been locked up; and Amendola may have been trying to cover up his true emotions with jokes. The men who spoke up in the Sandusky trial are no doubt vindicated for the suffering he put them through, but they will always have the memory of that pain. An unsuspecting Dottie Sandusky and her children not only face a future without a husband and father, they have the allegations made by adopted brother Matt to confront. It was a sad night in PA last Friday, but to watch the events play out on television you would have never known.