Politics & Government

PA Gov. Corbett defends firing of Paterno, Spanier

Students gather around the statue of Joe Paterno at Beaver Stadium on Nov. 9, 2011, in State College, Pa.
Students gather around the statue of Joe Paterno at Beaver Stadium on Nov. 9, 2011, in State College, Pa. David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT

UNIVERSITY PARK — Gov. Tom Corbett said he was disappointed by the responses of former Penn State President Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno to the sex abuse scandal involving a former university coach.

During a press conference Thursday at The Penn Stater, Corbett said he supports the decision the university trustees, announced Wednesday, made to terminate both Spanier and Paterno.

“Their actions caused me to not have confidence in their ability to continue to lead,” Corbett said.

In response to a different question, Corbett said in his career, particularly when he was attorney general, he has “seen many instances where people who have power believe that they’re beyond the law.”

Corbett also made a point of speaking directly to students.

“The eyes of the nation are on you. They’re fixed on this campus ... Please behave and demonstrate your pride in Penn State,” he said. “Your actions speak much louder than your words and will carry with you for a very long period of time.”

Thousands of Penn State students flooded downtown State College and Old Main area late Wednesday night after university trustees announced that Joe Pater-no’s career was over. Many had wanted to see him at a last home game Saturday. The crowd of students, police said, turned into a “riotous mob” that threw rocks and bottles, tore down lamp posts and street signs, and overturned a news van.

Police used pepper spray, issued orders to disperse, and had Penn State issue a text alert ordering students to vacate the area around Old Main and downtown streets.

Students, Corbett said, have a right to speak out, but not a right to violence.

Corbett said his reaction to the riots overnight Wednesday was: “knuckleheads.”

Retired Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was arraigned Saturday on charges he’d sexually abused eight boys over a 15- year period. The Attorney General’s Office has said that Sandusky met the boys through The Second Mile, a charitable organization he founded for underprivileged children.

Corbett said the state needs to refocus on the victims — finding them and helping them.

Corbett was attorney general when that office began the investigation into Sandusky in 2009. It was referred to that office by then-Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira, who cited a conflict of interest. Corbett said that his remarks Thursday were as governor and an ex-officio member of the Penn State trustees, and that he couldn’t go into details of the ongoing investigation or the trustees’ deliberations.

Corbett said he believes there will be an inquiry into what information The Second Mile officials had about the alleged abuse by Sandusky.

In 2002, according to the grand jury, a graduate assistant, later identified as current assistant coach Mike McQueary, walked in on Sandusky in the shower sexually assaulting a boy who appeared to be 10 years old. Officials with the university and Second Mile have said they were not told the incident was that serious.

Charities are under the purview of the Attorney General’s Office, Corbett said. What, if anything, Second Mile officials knew will have to be determined.

On the question of whether Spanier could face criminal charges for how he handled the situation, Corbett said Attorney General Linda Kelly has said the investigation is ongoing.

To read more, visit www.centredaily.com.

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