Parsing rape is a well-used and weary defense, often employed by attorneys, most certainly by the rapist. And in the case of former Penn State coach and convicted rapist now serving a 30 – 60 year sentence for 45 counts of child sexual abuse, parsing rape becomes his only strategy.
That witness who “misinterpreted” things would be Mike McQueary, a graduate student and assistant football coach working in the athletic department at Penn during the time of the Sandusky/Joe Paterno reign, which came to a crashing end in 2011 after a slew of rape and sexual abuse charges against Sandusky. You may recall that McQueary is the person who walked into the shower area of the locker room back in 2001 and testified later that he heard a “skin on skin smacking sound” which he interpreted as sex:
“… McQueary described the incident to his father and the description mentioned hearing but not seeing a slapping sound in the other room, seeing Sandusky put his hand around the child’s waist and later emerging wearing a towel. Mike McQueary’s testimony for the preliminary perjury trial says that he heard ‘two or three’ slapping sounds before entering the locker room, and later saw Sandusky with his arms around the child’s waist while hearing ‘more than one’ of the showerheads running and saw that the child’s hair ‘was wet’; although he did not see any sexual contact of hands or genitals or any evidence of arousal, just from the positions of the bodies he knew it was ‘over the line’ and ‘extremely sexual’ and ‘some sort of intercourse’ was taking place, and that he tried to explain what he had seen to Coach Paterno by using the word ‘fondling.’ [Source]
This, Jerry Sandusky claims, is where it all got grossly misunderstood. From Salon:
“That would have been the last thing I would have thought about,” Sandusky said during what Ziegler described as 3½ hours of interviews. “I would have thought maybe fooling around or something like that.”
Yes. Because “fooling around” or “something like that” with a 10-year-old boy in a shower would have been so much more acceptable, Mr. Sandusky.
But given the facts of the case, which included indictments on over 40 charges of sex crimes perpetrated against eight young boys over a period from 1994 through 2009, with attendant recordings of salacious phone calls and other inappropriate correspondence entered into evidence, it is safe to presume Sandusky’s interpretation of facts are sadly lacking in wisdom or honest perspective. It is particularly compelling to hear his take, after the fact, on what it is McQueary walked in on…”fooling around” becomes a dismissal of actual rape. But then, rapists so seldom conjure an interpretation of their actions that includes the honesty of the word “rape,” as we’ve just sadly witnessed, conversely, in the Steubenville case, where young boys thought molesting an unconscious teen did not rise to the level of actual rape. In both cases, the jury thought otherwise.
Filmmaker John Ziegler was interviewing Sandusky as a member of the late Joe Paterno defense team, hired by the Paterno family looking to clear Paterno’s name as a man who knew of Sandusky’s molestation of children and ignored it. Sandusky was reportedly asked to testify on Paterno’s behalf at trial but “chose not to do so,” according to Paterno family lawyer, Wick Sollers:
Sandusky also told Ziegler he was not sure whether head coach Joe Paterno, who was fired after Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest, would have let him keep coaching if he suspected Sandusky was a pedophile. Sandusky was investigated by university police for a separate shower incident in 1998, but remained one of Paterno’s top assistants through 1999.
“If he absolutely thought I was, I’d say no,” Sandusky said. “If he had a suspicion, I don’t know the answer to that.” [Source]
Perhaps not as unequivocal as the Paterno family would have liked.
But maybe they can get more from Sandusky the next go-around. He isn’t going anywhere for the next 30 to 60 years… locked up for what he would call, “maybe fooling around.”