Mike McQueary Is Awarded $7.3 Million in Penn State Defamation Case
A Pennsylvania jury on Thursday, in a defamation case against Penn State University, awarded $7.3 million to Mike McQueary, the former assistant football coach who in 2001 told Coach Joe Paterno that he had witnessed Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a child in the locker room shower.
The jury, which deliberated for about four hours, found that Penn State had defamed McQueary with a statement in 2011 defending its former athletic director and vice president against a charge of perjury related to what McQueary said he had told them about Sandusky, a longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State.
Judge Thomas Gavin, who presided in the case, still has to rule on McQueary’s accusation that Penn State retaliated against him after he testified at Sandusky’s 2012 trial. McQueary was not allowed to coach at Penn State’s first game after Paterno was fired in connection with the scandal, in 2011, and McQueary’s contract was not renewed.
Even before Thursday’s ruling, the scandal had already cost Penn State well over $100 million in N.C.A.A. penalties, legal fees and settlements to victims of Sandusky’s sexual abuse. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
McQueary testified to a grand jury in 2010 that in 2001 he told Paterno, and later Athletic Director Tim Curley and the university vice president Gary Schultz, that he had witnessed the abuse. The testimony helped prosecutors eventually charge Sandusky, who is now 72.
The Pennsylvania attorney general subsequently charged Curley and Schultz with perjury after they told a grand jury that McQueary did not tell them Sandusky had committed something as serious as sexual abuse. The perjury charge was dismissed, but Schultz, Curley and Graham B. Spanier, the former university president, still face criminal charges of failure to report suspected child abuse and endangering the welfare of children.
McQueary, testifying at a hearing a month after the scandal came to light in 2011, provided the first public account of his reporting the abuse to Paterno.
At the time he witnessed the abuse, McQueary, who was a backup quarterback for Penn State in the mid-1990s, was a graduate assistant.
McQueary’s testimony in December 2011 helped show that Paterno, one of the most successful and beloved coaches in college football history, had heard that Sandusky had abused a boy at least a decade before Sandusky’s behavior became publicly known. Court documents released this summer showed that Paterno heard such an allegation as early as 1976.