Editor's Note: Jane Velez-Mitchell airs weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on HLN. You can read more about Jane here.
Now it’s time for Penn State to pay.
The sweeping prosecution victory in the Jerry Sandusky trial must be counted as merely the first step in the journey to complete accountability and justice for the Sandusky 8. Now it’s time for Penn State to pay. And pay. And pay.
The time has come to vigorously prosecute the officials who ruled this legendary institution when these allegations surfaced and who are charged with failing to tell cops about suspected child sex abuse. As we know now, had someone in power simply dialed 911 the boys -- who were sexually assaulted by Sandusky after the initial allegation -- could have been spared.
It was a over decade ago that a shaken coaching staffer Mike McQueary told his boss, legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, that he saw Sandusky and a pre-pubescent boy in the Penn State locker room doing something that looked extremely sexual. Paterno did not call 911. When the scandal later broke, Joe Pa was fired for this inaction and died months later of cancer in one of the swiftest and steepest falls from grace in recent public memory. However, Paterno said he did inform university administrators.
Two former Penn State officials -- Timothy Curley, then-Penn State’s athletic director, and Gary Schultz , then-senior vice president -- are now set to stand trial on charges they failed to report suspected child abuse. They are also accused of lying to the grand jury investigating Sandusky. The two men maintain their innocence. I, for one, can’t wait for opening statements in this next trial.
With various ongoing investigations into who knew what when, it’s very possible others may be charged as well. We must learn the full extent of this alleged cover-up. Every official at Penn State who was told McQueary’s story and sat on their hands needs to be brought to account. After the scandal broke, University president Graham Spanier was forced to step down. What, if anything, did he know? Let’s hope the federal investigators who are probing all these questions are thorough and relentless.
As for Penn State itself, immediately after the guilty verdicts in Sandusky’s trial, the university issued a statement saying it has a commitment to pursuing the truth and “… wants to provide a forum where the University can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the University.”
Tom Kline, the lawyer for one of the victims says, "The moment the verdict was announced against Sandusky, the landscape of this scandal shifted toward a new focus on Penn State…There is no doubt that we are going to file a claim against Penn State… Jerry Sandusky may have been the perpetrator, but Penn State was his enabler.”
The setting for many of the sordid stories told on the stand was the Penn State showers.
So, how do you compensate someone who was raped as a child? How do you put a price tag on psychological annihilation? How do you attach a dollar amount to the kind of emotional pain and suffering that impacts your entire view of the world and notions of love, romance, family and authority? How do you pay someone who has had their life stolen? Is a million enough? A hundred million?
Penn State is a very rich institution. One legal pundit called it a veritable Ft. Knox. It’s essential that this institution be held financially accountable for allowing their sports facilities to be turned into a hunting ground for a sexual predator who felt he was accountable to nobody.
In our culture we punish through prison and payment. You can’t put an institution behind bars. But, you can make it pay through the nose.
The people who run America’s most powerful institutions -- be they educational, religious or corporate -- must get the message, once and for all, that they cannot put the inanimate thing that pays their salary above the welfare of beings that can feel pain.
Penn State wants to settle. It must settle in a way that hurts. My message to the victims of this horror: Don’t settle for anything less.