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Sandusky abuse scandal impact felt widely

| Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 9:18 p.m.

STATE COLLEGE — A year ago, as Jerry Sandusky was awaiting trial, Joe Paterno was telling a reporter he had “no inkling” before 2001 that Sandusky may have been a pedophile and Penn State's recently departed president, Graham Spanier, had drawn no criminal charges.

The Sandusky child molestation scandal brought developments on a daily basis in 2012, including the former assistant football coach's conviction and sentencing, Paterno's death from cancer two months after he was fired, new doubts about Paterno's Sandusky-related statements and charges against Spanier for an alleged cover-up.

The pivotal event this year was Sandusky's three-week trial in June, during which eight young men testified they had been abused as children in various ways, from grooming and manipulation to fondling, oral sex and anal rape. Sandusky, who did not testify, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison, which means the 68-year-old who helped coach the Nittany Lions to two national championships is likely to die in prison.

The school removed a glorifying statue of Paterno from its prime spot outside the football stadium, but his name still adorns the campus library that his donations helped build.

Tim Curley is on leave with pay as athletic director until the final year of his contract expires, Gary Schultz has retired as an administrator and Spanier remains a tenured faculty member since he was pushed out as president shortly after Sandusky's arrest.

All three deny the allegations. There are pending legal disputes about whether they will be tried separately and regarding the legal advice they received from former university chief counsel Cynthia Baldwin.

Curley and Schultz had been scheduled for a January trial on perjury charges, but judges have delayed that proceeding, as well as a preliminary hearing on additional charges for all three men.

The scandal has had repercussions outside the courtroom as well, most notably in the form of a July consent agreement by the university with the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference. Penn State avoided having the football program suspended from play but agreed to a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction in scholarships, an NCAA-record $60 million fine and forfeiture of more than 100 wins.

Despite the loss of several star players, whose permission to transfer without penalty was part of the NCAA deal, Penn State finished the season under new coach Bill O'Brien with an 8-4 record.

At least five victims or accusers formally began civil lawsuits against Penn State this year, as did Mike McQueary, a former assistant coach who reported seeing Sandusky showering with a boy in 2001.

In State College, the university has trained thousands of employees regarding child abuse and adopted many of the reforms suggested after an investigation headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh.

The Sandusky scandal reached into many aspects of life in Pennsylvania this year. It became a matter of debate in the Legislature, where a study recommended improvements to state child abuse laws, and lawmakers appear poised to take action in the coming months.

On the political front, Kathleen Kane became the first Democrat elected attorney general after a campaign in which she made an issue of how the Sandusky investigation was handled under Tom Corbett, then the attorney general and now the state's Republican governor.

Sandusky, confined in Southwestern Pennsylvania in one of the state's most secure prisons, recently appealed a decision by the State Employees' Retirement Board to revoke his $59,000-a-year pension. He maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals.

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