Was Jerry Sandusky, “the most hated man in America”, guilty of sexual child abuse?

Up to now, virtually everyone would have to answer the title question with a resounding “YES!”, but after reading a new article in Skeptic magazine by Fred Crews (former chair of English at Berkeley, a debunker of Freud and recovered-memory therapy and, for full disclosure, a friend), I’d have to answer “I’m not sure.”

Jerry Sandusky is a name well known—and well hated—to most Americans. Before retiring as an assistant coach of Penn State’s football team, he founded The Second Mile, an organization to help deprived young people in Pennsylvania. But his association with young boys eventually led to his downfall, and to the downfall of others. In 2008 the police began investigating Sandusky for sexual abuse of children, discerning a pattern of grooming and then of diverse forms of sexual abuse. A grand jury was convened a year later, and in 2011 Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse. Four charges were dropped, and in 2012 Sandusky was convicted of 45 of the remaining 48 charges of sex abuse. He was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in prison—a life sentence for someone who was 67. He’s now in solitary confinement, as convicted pedophiles don’t fare well in prison, since they’re often attacked by fellow inmates.

At the time of the trial, nobody had any doubt about Sandusky’s guilt, and the press jumped on the story. It wasn’t just Sandusky who was involved: someone who thought he saw Sandusky raping a boy reported it to Penn State’s iconic football coach Joe Paterno, who, along with three other University officials, were found in an internal review to have covered up reports of Sandusky’s abuse. Paterno was fired after a long career (he died of cancer not long thereafter), and the three officials, who were also fired, were convicted or pleaded guilty to child endangerment, perjury, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. Graham Spanier, the President of Penn State, was forced to resign, and the university was fined $860 million as well as giving $109 million to those who claimed to be Sandusky’s victims.

Then, in October of last year, Mark Pendergrast, who’s also published on the fallacy of “recovered memory”, came out with a book called The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgement . In his view, Sandusky is “probably innocent.” But how could that be, with ten alleged victims in the trial  and the press backing up the allegations?

I haven’t read Pendergrast’s book, but the Skeptic article by Fred Crews, “Trial by therapy: the Jerry Sandusky case revisited“, summarizes the book in an accessible way. I’d recommend reading it, as Crews isn’t somebody who is gullible, and has spent his career as a skeptic, largely about Freud and issues of recovered memory. I note as well that THE expert on the fatal flaws of “recovered memory”, Elizabeth Loftus, has also endorsed Pendergrast’s book:

“If potential readers are convinced that Jerry Sandusky is guilty, they need to read The Most Hated Man in America. This meticulously researched, provocative, and wonderfully written book by Mark Pendergrast, an enormously important contributor to the repressed memory debate, will certainly make them see another side. Maybe they will think twice.”
—ELIZABETH LOFTUS, Distinguished Professor of Psychology & Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, author, The Myth of Repressed Memory and other books.

While Crews’s article is best fleshed out by reading the book, it summarizes the main problems with the case. These include a completely lame defense for Sandusky, with his lawyers not even presenting exculpatory evidence, and, most of all, the fact that every accusation against Sandusky seems problematic, with many based on flawed or faulty recollections and even on prompting by police and therapists who wanted Sandusky to be guilty. A huge swath 0f testimony is based on this kind of forced “recovered memory”, and research has shown that forgotten memories of trauma are deeply problematic and almost always wrong. Crews goes through each of the ten alleged victims of Sandusky’s abuse featured at the trial, including the accusation of Sandusky was seen raping a young man in the shower (this eyewitness report appears to be wrong). The judge admitted 12-year-old hearsay testimony, and some witnesses who said they saw or experienced no sexual abuse later changed their minds after treatment with recovered memory therapy and pressure from the police.

All this has led to me to reassess the whole issue, and to ratchet down my earlier strong feeling (based on press reports) that Sandusky was a serial sexual predator. I have no idea whether he’s guilty. What about the three Penn State officials who were convicted? Are they guilty of having covered up a crime? Not if they had assessed that no crime had been committed, and there wasn’t evidence that it had been at the time: the “sex act in the shower” wasn’t witnessed when they were supposed to have reported it! That came only much later.

If Sandusky is innocent, how could so many people have been wrong? Well, remember the recovered-memory-based testimony of many children that led to the wrongful jailing of some people in Satanic ritual abuse cases as well as accusations and trials against many more who were exculpated after it was found that cops and psychiatrists both had participated in wrongful solicitation of false memories. There may also be a group effect in which one “recovered memory” spurs others to manufacture false memories, and there’s at least one case in which sheer greed for money appears to have motivated an accusation against Sandusky. Further, Elizabeth Loftus has made a career dealing with “recovered memory” and the attendant false accusations it brings forth, as in the famous “Jane Doe” case.)

We’ll never know if Sandusky did what he was jailed for, but remember that conviction in America requires guilt beyond reasonable doubt.  When jurors buy the idea that recovered and once-repressed memories are an established psychological phenomenon, then a case is already contaminated.

Yet so heinous were the crimes of which Sandusky was accused that articles even questioning his guilt, like Crews’s, lead to rancor. This is on view in P.Z. Myer’s analysis of Crews’s article at Pharyngula, which is itself contaminated by Myers’s deep hatred of Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine (Myers’s post is called “Skeptic Magazine: rots from the head”, and ends by indicting “the stench from Shermer’s magazine”). Myers says this:

They’ve [Skeptic] published a defense of Jerry Sandusky! Look, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. He’s a convicted pedophile. The prosecution brought in a long train of witnesses and evidence of criminal behavior spanning at least 15 years and 10 victims, and this case found him guilty in a community that was full of fanatical Paterno/Sandusky defenders. Anyone remember the riots and protests when the Paterno empire fell? You can’t have a witch hunt when the targets are regarded as holy saints — the evidence was just so overwhelming and undeniable that even angels by repute could be defrocked at last.

The issue, though, is whether the conviction was based on false remembrances and other tainted evidence. Was the evidence really “overwhelming and undeniable”? Since Myers hasn’t read Pendergrasts’s book, or seems deeply familiar with the evidence presented at the trial, I wouldn’t be nearly as sure as he that conviction is tantamount to guilt.  Myers’s commenters agree with him, and some say that they have no time for a book that defends “a convicted child rapist”. But that’s the very reason we have to reconsider the evidence, for it is in face of such odious accusations that the defendant is most likely to be presumed guilty, and convicted on insufficient evidence.

Needless to say, I abhor those who prey sexually on children, and if Sandusky really is a predator then he should spend the rest of his life in jail. Pedophile predators are famously incapable of being rehabilitated. But it’s worth mentioning that in the usual pile-on at Pharyngula by people who hew to Myers’ views and are unwilling to read the book or the articles, there’s one comment worth reading:

There’s nothing dishonorable about being a skeptic when there’s something to be skeptical about.  Something in the air these days has led people to immediately equate accusations with truths, and this is when we must be the most careful.

84 Comments

  1. Kathy Myron
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I believe he was guilty. I believe the boy(s).

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Did you read the article before you gave your opinion? I don’t think you had time to.

      • Dan
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Kathy could quite easily have read it before you posted your own article JAC!

    • John Frum
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 4:16 am | Permalink

      Have you seen the photo of the first accuser lying on a bed with money all over him from his payout?
      This is the accuser who initially said nothing sexual happened but after repression therapy, which has been completely discredited for decades, all these memories came out.
      This is also the case for the other accusers.
      They initially said nothing happened and then kept changing their story to add more and more instances of abuse.
      People known to some of the accusers have now come forward and said that the accuser / and or a parent told them they were going to get a big payout.
      Read the book and then decide whether you still believe the boys.

    • Susan Barber
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Sorry but I have to call you out on this one Kathy. We all want to believe the boys, trust me. It is very emotionally compelling, especially those high in compassion.

      Please take a few minutes to look into it with an objective, open mind. Look at each of the 10 accusers’ stories and decide for yourself which ones (if any) you find to be valid.

      If you then decide that Jerry is guilty based on a logical (not emotional) argument, we will accept that.

      I PROMISE it will be worth your time!!

      Here is a great summary article written by a UC Berkley professor regarding the case: https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/trial-by-therapy-jerry-sandusky-case-revisited/

      And an interview with the author of The Most Hated Man..:
      https://thecrimereport.org/2018/01/03/did-repressed-memory-falsely-convict-jerry-sandusky/

  2. yazikus
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read the book, just the bit at Skeptic, but one thing bothered me particularly. The author seems to accept wholeheartedly that the red-flaggy behaviors and handsiness of Sandusky towards young boys (which he doesn’t seem to dispute) are all just habits learned from Sandusky’s dad, which makes them normal and okay. The characterization of post-exercise ‘prankish romping’ also seems rather generous. As the parent of a boy in multiple sports, these sorts of things would concern me greatly if they were happening in a team.

    • Rita
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      +1

  3. yazikus
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Also, the author mentioned starting the project because he wanted to exonerate Paterno. What better way to support his presupposition of Paterno’s innocence than to find Sandusky innocent? It is hard to lose heroes, for sure.

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but I missed that. Where was this statement by Prendergast?

      • yazikus
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        My mistake, the quote was from Ziegler (the documentarian mentioned in the article). Thanks for making me look it up- was working off my recollection from reading yesterday.

        Ziegler had been troubled by an incongruity: how could the famously ethical Paterno have brushed aside the news of pedophilic rape by his own former defensive coordinator? Ziegler began his inquiry with only Paterno’s vindication in mind,

        .
        Later, however, he is used as a reference:

        But John Ziegler has shown…

        .

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          “My mistake…was working off my recollection…”

          Hmmmmmmmm…….that seems relevant to the story….

          • yazikus
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

            I’m abashed!

            • Ken Phelps
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

              Human, more likely.

            • Michael Waterhouse
              Posted January 8, 2018 at 1:59 am | Permalink

              Like all the people in prison due to people working off memory.

    • Susan Barber
      Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Mark Pentergrast, as an expert of the stunningly debunked “repressed memory” therapy, became interested in the Sandusky case purely from a scientific (psycoanalytical) point of view. He has seen in many previous cases how this B.S. technique has skrewed up cases in the past and understood the scientific literature. He was not affiliated with Penn State in any way before starting his research.

  4. Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Thank you for elaborating on this prickly situation; hopefully, I will have time to give adequate coverage next fall when I teach my Forensic Biology course.

  5. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know enough to pass judgment, and it unnerves me to imagine that everybody got this wrong, but I will say I found that opening quotation of Attorney General Kelly quite chilling.

    It was incredibly difficult for some of them to unearth long-buried memories of the shocking abuse they suffered at the hands of this defendant.

    • John Frum
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 4:19 am | Permalink

      It was incredibly difficult because there were no memories to unearth.
      It is now coming out that repressed memory therapy was used which has been discredited and is no longer allowed as evidence in the US.
      That this therapy was used in this case was repressed in the court case for this reason.
      There have been therapists that have lost million dollar lawsuits where they were found to have used it in other guilty cases.

  6. chris
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the book but one thing I found problematic from the beginning was Mc Queary’s story. He supposedly saw or heard Sandusky raping a young teen and rather than intervene or call the police he called his father. After discussing it with his father and his father’s friend (who as I recall was an MD and legally obligated to report any suspected child abuse), they apparently don’t encourage him to go to the police either but rather to go to Paterno. Who passes him up the line to some university administrators. None of that makes sense to me if McQueary really witnessed what he ended up saying he witnessed. It also makes no sense to me that Paterno and the university administrators were accused of a cover-up when it was the guy who actually witnessed the shower incident who should have gone to the police.

    • mz
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Could McQueary have thought that what he saw may have been a consensual and loving act? Could he have been torn between wanting to report it as abuse or rape, but had misgivings that his actions could destroy something “good” and private?
      I can see him being conflicted. His father and the father’s friend could have asked the questions, “exactly how old do you think the kid was?”, and “Did he look like he was not there willingly? Did he seem like he needed to be rescued?” (I don’t know any of these details)
      Taking it from a law enforcement matter to a departmental matter could have been a decision that was least destructive to a “relationship”, or even least destructive to a kid who may not have “wanted it” but also did not choose the spotlight of rape accusations.
      I think it is a mistake to discount a witness’s testimony just because in hindsight they should have behaved differently. If the witness’s story has flaws, such as his inability to have been there when he said he was, or a history of smearing Sandusky and others, then, yes the witness’s story should be reexamined. Yet one can’t expect any witness to behave exactly as we would have, now that we know the bigger picture. For McQueary, not knowing what we know now, his observation may not have been easy to classify as rape.

      • yazikus
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        This part bothered me as well:

        n the final version, for example, he had peered into the shower three times, not twice, and he had halted Sandusky’s assault by loudly slamming his locker door—a strangely timid means for a 26-year-old, 6’5″, 220-pound athlete to have “done something about” the ongoing rape of a child

        He’s implying, I think, that if McQueary had really though it was rape, he should have violently intervened, which is why his age and size are noted. When I see the age however, it makes even more sense that he went to his father first. He probably didn’t want to believe what he thought he had seen. And has no one been around football culture before? Taking down beloved coaches or players is highly frowned upon, and as someone working as a coach, in the system, McQueary would have been more than aware of that.

        • Pandaczar12
          Posted January 10, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

          He was an ex-coach that many particularly didn’t like.

    • John Frum
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 4:24 am | Permalink

      He didn’t see it.
      When he entered the locker room he heard slapping noises that he thought were sexual.
      When he looked in the shower he only saw the boy and someone’s arm pull at the boy.
      He only knew it was the coach when they were leaving.
      That boy when interviewed said the slapping noises were them snapping towels and that nothing sexual happened.
      The prosecution changed McQuearys story to say he had seen anal sex and when he questioned this was told to keep his mouth shut.
      His story changed many times throughout the case.

  7. Jan Looman
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the Skeptic article yet, but I will.

    But I feel compelled to respond to the comment “Pedophile predators are famously incapable of being rehabilitated.”

    This statement is based on a myth.

    Sexual offenders, regardless of offence type actually re-offend at very low rates relative to other sorts of crime. The best estimate of the reoffence rates are in the range of 10-15%.

    Boy victim child molesters like Sandusky(???) tend to reoffend at higher rates but even these are well below 50%.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/misunderstood-crimes/

    This article is from 2008, so almost 10 years old and, just an FYI, reoffence rates have declined since that time.

  8. Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but I don’t find the 10-15% figure for all sex offenders in your link, which says this:

    “Sex crimes researchers R. Karl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon of Public Safety Canada conducted a large-scale meta-analysis (quantitative review) of recidivism rates among adult sex offenders. They found a rate of 14 percent over a period averaging five to six years. Recidivism rates increased over time, reaching 24 percent by 15 years. The figures are clearly out of alignment with the public’s more dire expectations.

    Also contrary to media depictions, most offenders do not “specialize” in one type of sex crime. Most are “generalists” who engage in a variety of sex and nonsexual crimes as well. Hanson and Morton-Bourgon found that sex offenders had a total recidivism rate (for both sex crimes and nonsexual violent crimes) of approximately 36 percent over a period of five to six years. Nevertheless, perpetrators of different types of sex crimes exhibit varying rates of repeat offending. The 15-year recidivism rate is 13 percent for incest perpetrators, 24 percent for rapists, and 35 percent for child molesters of boy victims.”

    If you’re going to link to an article that gives the statistics you report, please use articles that actually give the figures you cite. Even 50% recidivism is very high compared to other sex crimes, but I may have overstated the rate for pedophilia, an impression that I got from my faulty memory!

    • Jan Looman
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      https://psmag.com/news/whats-the-real-rate-of-sex-crime-recidivism

      I pointed out that the article was old. Here is a more recent one

      • mikeyc
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        An old neighbor of mine was an assistant state attorney whose office specialized in prosecuting re-offenders. Her office prosecuted all offenders, not just those who were incarcerated for sex crimes. I recall her saying something similar – that the the overall recidivism rate for sex crime offenders was much lower than most people suspected. However, she was quick to point out that recidivism rates for violent sex crimes is horrifically high, greater than 50% (I have no actual data in support, just her say-so).

        The “sex crime” category is rather broad, including those convicted on statutory crimes and non-violent sex crimes (voyeurism, sexting, etc). I suspect it is these people who don’t re-offend. The violent ones tend to do it again, though, and that is frightening.

        • Jan Looman
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Actually, “the violent ones tend to do it again” is also not borne out by research. The degree of force in a sexual offence and injury caused to the victim is actually unrelated to recidivism

          https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13701423_Predicting_relapse_A_meta-analysis_of_sexual_offender_recidivism_studies_Journal_of_Consulting_and_Clinical_Psychology_66_348-362

          https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/2004-02-prdctrs-sxl-rcdvsm-pdtd/2004-02-prdctrs-sxl-rcdvsm-pdtd-eng.pdf

          • mikeyc
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

            Thanks! It’s always best to have data.

            I can’t read the first one (behind a pay wall) but will note both support you, overall. However, the first says this in the abstract; “There were, however, subgroups of offenders who recidivated (sic) at high rates”.

            I’m not sure but I bet it’s referring to the results in the second article (which I can read), which shows that recidivism rates depended heavily on a number of factors with those in the “sexual deviancy” category re-offending about 30% of the time; the highest rate in their subgroups, most of which are in the 5-15% range you cited. They break the “sexual deviancy” category down into several sub categories with something called “sexual preoccupations” having the highest rate (28%) among them.

            However, they also noted that those convicted for sex crimes who had other convictions for violent crimes was by far the biggest predictor of re-offending with rates >50%, though it isn’t clear to my reading that the re-offense was necessarily a sex crime (I suspect it is not). This is probably what my neighbor was referring to, though again she didn’t cite any studies; it was an informal conversation.

            Thanks again.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Should try to read this book. I did not pay much attention to the story when it blasted out all over the news. However, I would not be surprised to find out much or part of the accusations were not proven. Pedophilia, especially against younger kids is a tough thing to prove, particularly when it does not include outside evidence. In a simple sexual harassment case in the workplace you often have many other sources and actions to help make a case but not with this.

  10. ploubere
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I remember well the Wenatchee, Washington child abuse convictions in the 90s that turned out to be false. Those accused had their lives upended based on false memory testimony.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wenatchee_child_abuse_prosecutions

    So it is well worth careful consideration and following due process in prosecuting these cases.

  11. God Shammgod
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Years before the Sandusky accusations came out, I remember former Penn State linebacker Lavarr Arrington mentioning on his radio show that coach Joe Paterno was fond of walking around the showers naked. That’s a generational thing, I think.

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and when I was in junior high, when we all showered communally and naked, we always had towel fights with each other. Granted, we were of the same age, and I don’t think it’s really very good for Sandusky to have engaged in this kind of horseplay with his boys–if that’s all he did. But if it is all that happened there, then it’s no crime, just poor judgement.

      • yazikus
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Generational, and perhaps cultural as well. When I was in Finland, we always showered communally and saunaed (in the nude) after team practice. There was no towel fighting, however. And nudity was simply normal. As for poor judgement, as a person running a charity for at-risk youth, he should have been watching his behavior very carefully. If he felt comfortable doing those things fairly plainly, it does not speak well to what he might have been comfortable with behind closed doors.

      • mikeyc
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        I was a competitive athlete from the late 1970s on. Communal showering and changing rooms was the standard for all the men’s locker rooms I visited then and for many years. It was a thing of the times, I suppose. Horsing around, while naked or not, was also common and expected. It may be seen by some to be salacious or homoerotic, but that was never the feeling I had. It was more of a rite of passage.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          There are sports facilities that have non-communal showers?

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    A very similar case is that of Arnold Friedman subject of the excellent documentary “Capturing the Friedmans”.
    It understates the case that Friedman was innocent which is more deeply explored on the website of the Center for Reason and Justice.

  13. EliHershkovitz
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    From the Atlantic:

    “But the worst moment of all came when Costas asked Sandusky, ‘Are you sexually attracted to young boys?’ Instead of immediately saying, ‘No,’ the way someone supposedly denying the charge of being a pedophile might, Sandusky hesitated, prevaricating on the question and qualifying his answers with a confused reply of ‘sexually?’ He then added, ‘I enjoy young people.’ It took him 16 full seconds to finally say the word ‘no.'”

    Let’s assume the shower scene and 90% of the testimony was bogus (a stretch). There is still enough evidence left over to convict Sandusky.

    Crews expertly wears his defense attorney hat throughout this entire piece—a piece worthy of a Roy Black closing.

    Do I buy it as a juror after taking in the *totality* of the evidence and testimony? Of course not. I vote guilty as charged.

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      “…Are you sexually attracted to young boys?’ Instead of immediately saying, ‘No,’ the way someone supposedly…”

      I am not an expert, but here is the thing. Perhaps he wanted to make an honest answer, hence the delay, he is attracted to healthy males in full physical athletic peak, after all, he had made a living at selecting males for just that reason.
      Ask any ancient Greek guy watching nude males in competition.
      How would i or anyone answer that honestly and not dig yourself into a hole given what he was being accused of,
      ….from young adults, youths to young boys, under the heat and focus of the ‘day’ not hard to stretch and he would have effectively self incriminated.

      • phil
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        “Ask any ancient Greek guy watching nude males in competition.”

        Or an ex-pope.

        • phil
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

          Oops! That wasn’t supposed to have happened.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      “Let’s assume the shower scene and 90% of the testimony was bogus (a stretch). There is still enough evidence left over to convict Sandusky.”

      If 90% of the evidence can be shown to be bogus, that raises reasonable doubt about the other 10%.

      If the 10% was rock-solid and sufficient to convict Sandusky, why would the prosecutors bother presenting the dubious 90%? They wouldn’t, since it can only weaken their case. So the reasonable assumption is that the 10% that hasn’t yet been impeached is as shaky as the 90% that has.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 8, 2018 at 6:00 am | Permalink

        Many of these cases seem to have two things in common:

        1. A whole pile of suspicious circumstances, doubtful hearsay, sometimes even ‘recovered memories’

        2. Not one single solid piece of evidence

        That’s a sure sign, in my opinion, that the investigators were trawling around desperately trying to find something conclusive, and eventually decided they weren’t going to so decided on the ‘throw enough mud and some of it will stick’ tactic.

        cr

        • Susan Barber
          Posted January 11, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          Also, don’t forget a MAJOR financial incentive. Almost $100 million paid out to victims so far by PSU, including a hefty $7 mil to McQueary for being “suppressed as a whistle blower”

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 12, 2018 at 3:37 am | Permalink

            One is reminded of some of the mediaeval witch trials where the accusers got to share the ‘guilty’ party’s confiscated assets…

            What, me, cynical?

            cr

    • Johan Richter
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 4:49 am | Permalink

      How is that evidence of anything? Certainly it is no evidence of him having done anything wrong. By the way, I don’t think we are talking about pedophilia, the boys were not that young.

    • Pandaczar12
      Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      One could argue that someone who has been hiding crimes for years, possibly decades, would be ready to answer that question from Costas. Some take his rambling answer as evidence of his innocence.

      • John Frum
        Posted January 10, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        When asked about it later he said he delayed because the question really threw him off.
        He couldn’t believe someone would ask him that and he’d never thought of it before.
        The guy appears to be very simple in some regards especially with regard to showering with the boys.
        Even though he had grown up doing it and had done it for years, he should have realised that by then it would be frowned upon.

  14. yazikus
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    One of the main themes in the Skeptic article is how ‘unthinkable’ it would be for these children, if molested, to continue to visit/associate with Sandusky. This is such a classic smear used on victims of sexual assault, who might could have plenty of varied reasons for trying to make nice with an abuser. That is not solid evidence of Sandusky’s innocence.
    Next, the characterization of the mom ‘boasting of her inebriation’ with her myspace photo (and benign caption that doesn’t say she is drunk, could be a joke) seems out of place. Her alleged revelry doesn’t make Sandusky any more or less guilty of anything.
    Thirdly, this caught my eye:

    Dottie Sandusky was on the first floor of the small, unsoundproofed house, but Sabastian’s loud screams of pain and terror were ignored. Dottie, then, must have been a fiendish accomplice to rape. But for anyone who knew her—a loving mother, a churchgoing Methodist, and a stern enforcer of household rules who was nicknamed “Sarge”—this was the most preposterous fantasy of all.

    The most preposterous? Because women cannot help out abusers? We all know that isn’t true. And churchgoing doesn’t preclude someone from being an abuser, or helping an abuser. A cute nickname doesn’t say much about anything either.
    Lastly, as you read through, take note of how the Skeptic author speaks about the boys accusing Sandusky. His focus on their misbehavior, history of troule, etc. Now look at the glowing tone he uses to describe Sandusky:

    the extraverted but high-principled Sandusky

    If anything, this article is a good example of why victims of these sort of crimes can be reluctant to speak out.

    • EliHershkovitz
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Well stated, yazikus.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Yes that was a troubling theme, but if you read it you also saw that none of his accusers accused him of anything until after getting involved with the case. If that doesn’t raise at least some flags for you, I just don’t know….

      • yazikus
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        I did contemplate those testimonies as the article at Skeptic presented them. Sandusky, however, had a trial. There was due process. Judges, attorneys, law enforcement, etc. also had access to witness information. Sandusky was also a wealthy man with access to the attorney of his choice, not stuck with some half-baked bargain basement shill. I am not going to pour over the court transcripts, I’ve read enough of this today, to try and create some sort of Netflix special for a wrongly accused Sandusky. His own testimony and behaviors are enough red flags for me to be certain I’d never have my son near him. The review at Skeptic was poorly done, imo.

        • Evan Plommer
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

          Right on.

        • BJ
          Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

          Should we do away with the Innocence Project, which has so far freed 351 people who were convicted after their due process? Of course, as a society, we have to draw a line and say, “this is where due process ends. After this point, it is as certain as we can be with the resources and time we can devote that this person is guilty,” but that doesn’t mean the process is flawless. If you’re tired of reading about it, that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that you can just dismiss everything. I think there’s a possibility he’s innocent, but nothing has swayed me to be sure of that yet. I’m just keeping an open mind after reading things I didn’t know before (I didn’t follow the case very closely).

  15. Frank
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Why does PZ hate Michael Shermer? I’ve been a Skeptic subscriber for quite a few years now and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      Envy? Shermer is a popular figure with an extensive bibliography, Myers is considered an angry and divisive figure with a failing blog and a single book that was just reprints of old blog posts. His hatred seems to be in direct proportion to how successful his imagined ‘enemies’ have been: Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Jerry, Nugent, even the guy who made gelato.

    • mordacious1
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      PZ likes to go on witch hunts whenever he hears a rumor about someone he’s jealous of. Of course, if one of his own horde admits to raping children, he makes excuses for them. It’s weird.
      As good as summary as any about what you asked about:
      https://www.atheistrev.com/2013/08/more-internet-vigilantism-as-shermer.html?m=1

      • Doug
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        “If one of his own horde admits to raping children, he makes excuses for them.”

        Could you give an example of him doing this? I haven’t heard this before.

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      Why? Because Shermer is a hard-core libertarian who believes that “markets are moral”, an idea that he claims is grounded in evolutionary psychology. And for years Shermer was the “angry, divisive figure” – pro-death penalty, skeptical about global warming, and pretty scathing about anyone who disagreed with him. He’s come around on many issues, but it’s hard to lose that kind of reputation. For example, see http://skepdic.com/refuge/shermer.html

    • Hunt
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 5:06 am | Permalink

      Myers has convinced himself that Shermer is a rapist from his shrewd extrajudicial sluething. Shermer is also a libertarian and more successful than Myers, which is enough for him to form a white hot hatred for any other virile male challenger in his vicinity.

      Myers thinks that this article and articles on Skeptic questioning #metoo are a grand strategy on the part of Shermer to undermine the credibility of anyone making claims of sexual harassment, assault or impropriety. Because…crazy reasons that make some kind sense in the disordered neuronal impulses of his (brain?).

      Myers confuses the skeptical inquiry that revisits sexual assault conviction with condoning sexual assault. Because all sexual assault convictions are true. Questioning accusations are bad enough, what, are you some kind of rapist? A legal system that convicts people like Sandusky is perfect. However, Ghomeshi got off scot free, the bastard.

      Any other questions I can answer?

      • Frank
        Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        Thanks but I think your’s and Geoff’s and mordacious’ replies (and the supplied links) answer my question.

        Cheers.

        • Frank
          Posted January 8, 2018 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          …and Speaker To Animals.

          Thanks guys.

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      You’re spot on. That’s got a name: The Horseman Envy: https://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2014/12/03/horseman-envy/

    • Posted January 10, 2018 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      Horseman Envy: https://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2014/12/03/horseman-envy/

    • Posted January 22, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      I think PZ Myers hatred of Shermer is based more on his extreme left ideology than on envy. His blog is an echo chamber of angry like mindedness. There is also a bit of a nerds vs jocks issue apparent in this post and thread:

      https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/11/10/this-is-why-i-hate-college-football-programs/

  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    New Zealand, to its shame, had its own disgusting moral-panic sexual-abuse case. Google ‘Peter Ellis’. Ellis was a childcare worker at a creche who found himself in the sights of the child-sexual-abuse witch-hunt industry. There was absolutely no hard evidence that any children had ever been abused by anybody. The entire case was based on hearsay, supposition and statements extracted from children – some as young as three. But the police and sexual abuse specialists kept interviewing them (118 of them) over and over until they had enough ‘evidence’ on videotape for the ‘throw enough mud at a wall and some of it’s going to stick’ type of prosecution. They asked leading questions and filtered out all the parts where the kids were clearly fantasising (‘Peter killed a kitten’).

    I wouldn’t vote to convict someone of a parking violation on that sort of fabricated ‘evidence’.

    And in the case of ‘recovered memory’ the only person I’d convict would be the therapist – on grounds of fraud, suborning perjurys and malicious prosecution.

    cr

    • EliHershkovitz
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      Many safeguards have been put in place since the 27-year old Peter Ellis case.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:06 am | Permalink

        Yes, they certainly needed to be.

        cr

  17. Talk Is Cheap
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    A few corrections to the article.

    Tim Curley and Gary Schultz pled to a single misdemeanor of EWOC. All of the other charges were dropped. They had the state stepping on their necks for over 5 years with an impossibly polluted jury pool found across the state.

    Graham Spanier was given the same offer by the state SEVEN times, and he refused. He elected to take his case to trial rather than admit to something he didn’t do.

    The jury found for a single misdemeanor of EWOC and this is now on appeal to Superior Court.

    It is critical to note that after 7 years and all the national attention – the state has never produced a victim for the infamous McQueary “shower incident”.

    At trial – not a single other witness corroborated Mike McQueary’s testimony. Everyone testified that what Mike “saw” was indirect and around a corner.

    Speaking of the infamous McQueary”shower incident” – the state has never independently corroborated the date of February 9, 2001.

    Sure, Mike meets with his dad and Dr. Dranov on the 9th, and then makes a report to Paterno the morning of the 10th, but we don’t know if Mike didn’t see Jerry in the shower with a Second Mile teen on December 29, 2000 (as evidence suggests) and sat on that for 5 WEEKS until staff changes happened in the football department.

    McQueary has never been cross-examined.

    McQueary’s testimony at the Curley/Schultz preliminary hearing and his very first statement to the AG (released years later) are completely antithetical. In fact, Mike is now capable of Time Travel the evening of February 9th, 2001 if you believe his various testimonies.

    Louis Freeh – a former FBI director – never bothered to lay down a simple timeline of McQueary’s activities for this linchpin event in his report. That’s just basic investigative work – especially for a guy who claimed to have “continually interfaced with the AG”. Freeh never reviewed McQueary’s initial statement to the AG, if he had, bells would have gone off.

    So in prosecuting the 3 Penn State administrators the Commonwealth of PA did a victory lap over 3 misdemeanors, regarding a crime that didn’t happen, to a victim they never identified, on a date that has never been verified, using a statute that STILL doesn’t apply to college administrators.

    YCMSTU

  18. Diane G.
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    sub

  19. John Frum
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    For everyone making a judgement I implore you to read the book and you will find how it is possible to have 10 accusers with not one of them telling the truth.

  20. Brive
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    This is a bit much coming from PZ’s commentariat who support and minimise the Self made claims of a child rapist – Ogvorbis.

  21. Posted January 8, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    About the review, it asks about how someone who is being molested would willingly go back to the alleged molester.

    Easy: those who have been molested tell me that sometimes, “it feels good” and the conduct itself would be ok if it were between consenting adults.

  22. colnago80
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Here’s another take on the Sandusky case.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/09/24/in-plain-view

    I have not read the Crews book so I am not competent to comment on it or the Gladwell article in the linked to New Yorker issue.

    However, I am rather suspicious of books and articles that come out claiming that someone convicted of a crime in a high profile case (which the Sandusky case was) is really innocent.

    As an example, numerous books and articles were published for decades, claiming that Julius Rosenberg was innocent of the spying charges he was convicted of and was framed by the government. Unfortunately, when the Venona files were released by the Russian government after the demise of the Soviet Union, it became clear that, in fact, Rosenberg was guilty as charged.

    • Posted January 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      In principle at least the case can be a travesty of justice and the conviction wrong thereby – and yet the person did the acts that he was charged with. (I don’t know if this applies to Julius Rosenberg.)

      • colnago80
        Posted January 8, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

        Alan Dershowitz admitted that at least Julius was guilty as charged but that the prosecution used dubious evidence against him.

        There have been other cases, e.g. Sacco and Vanzetti, Richard Hauptmann and Lee Harvey Oswald where books and articles by the score have been written, all of which cherry pick the evidence to make their point.

  23. Posted January 8, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    The “recovered memory” stuff is a travesty if the prosecution here was really using it. Is there enough left for a conviction? I don’t know. (I haven’t read the book.)

    • colnago80
      Posted January 8, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Apparently, Sanduskys’ attorneys; raised that issue during their appeal of the verdict to an appeals court and several witnesses denied that recovered memory techniques were used.

      http://christophertevuk.com/index.php/2018/01/08/why-skeptics-defending-jerry-sandusky-is-ludicrous/

      • Jamie
        Posted January 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        I question the voracity of those claims, particularly given that the author of the blog you link states that Coyne specifically and “new athiests” in general are “morally despicable.” It seems he has an axe to grind.

      • Johan Richter
        Posted January 13, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Appeals court in the US generally only look at legal issues, they don’t take a second look at whether the evidence is any good. Evidence might well be legally admissible and still of little value.

  24. nicky
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    “Pedophile predators are famously incapable of being rehabilitated.}
    Yes, they are reputed for that. I once saw a TV program (+/- 2 decades ago) about a child rapist who underwent voluntary (?) castration in a Baltimore programme. Can’t find that Baltimore castration programme, but I still remember how happy the (ex-)rapist claimed to be that he had his urges under control now.


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