Joe Paterno (Photo courtesy: Getty Images Sport)
By Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY
A spokesman for the family of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno on Sunday decried the leak of purported e-mails from university officials that indicate Paterno was consulted after a 2001 allegation of sexual abuse against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
"Our message to everybody is slow down here," said spokesman Dan McGinn. He said the e-mails, which the school turned over to an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh, "are all on the record. Everything is going to come out. What's being done here is people are trying to leak something to try to pre-empt the Freeh Commission."
The e-mails were reported Saturday by CNN, which said it had not seen them but listened to a source read them. USA TODAY could not independently verify the e-mails.
They appear to show that when graduate assistant Mike McQueary told school officials he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a boy, they decided to talk with Sandusky rather than report the alleged incident to authorities, CNN said.
In the e-mails, according to the report, Graham Spanier, then university president, says he is "supportive" of a plan by athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz to "work with" Sandusky but notes they might be "vulnerable" for not reporting him.
Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys and is awaiting sentencing. Spanier and Paterno were fired. Paterno died in January. Schultz retired.
Curley and Schultz are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report child abuse. They have said McQueary reported only horseplay.
Wendy Murphy, a former child-abuse and sex-crimes prosecutor, said the reported e-mails appear to validate what she suspected: "It's just not possible that Spanier didn't know what Sandusky was doing."
Murphy said the e-mails could help Curley and Schultz if they show that both reported the allegation to Spanier.
The e-mails also would suggest Paterno knew more than he said: On Feb. 26, 2001, CNN reported, Schultz suggests contacting authorities, but the next night, Curley writes to Spanier that after talking with Paterno, he would like to "work with" Sandusky instead.
Lawyers for Curley and Schultz could not be reached.