Tuesday, May 07, 2013

More on Penn State & Accountability

I’ve written extensively on the contrasting approaches to accountability between Penn State and Duke. The Penn State trustees, although they remained asleep at the switch for years, at the very least acted aggressively once the Sandusky allegations came to light. In contrast to Duke, which has done everything possible for several years to prevent a full-scale investigation of why the administration and so many “activist” faculty members so badly botched the lacrosse case, Penn State’s trustees gave an outside investigator full access to all university documents, including e-mails, involving the Sandusky cover-up. The resulting Freeh Report, of course, exposed some troubling things about Penn State’s campus culture and past decisionmaking process—but the willingness to commission the report suggested an acceptance of accountability that’s been totally lacking at Duke.

The Freeh Report, however, has produced a ferocious backlash on campus and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in Pennsylvania. A handful of elected PSU trustees, led by Anthony Lubrano, have challenged the report’s validity, raising dark hints of denial of due process. PSU faculty leaders embarrassed themselves by challenging Freeh’s conclusions while failing to produce even one piece of evidence to corroborate their assertions. The state’s governor, Tom Corbett, initially accepted the Freeh Report, but then backtracked and sued the NCAA. (That Corbett, one of the nation’s most unpopular governors, faces re-election next year appears to have figured into his thinking.) And various state legislators criticized the NCAA for not spending the entire fine to which Penn State’s leadership agreed on matters in Pennsylvania.

The backlash raises some serious questions as to whether Penn State leaders, and the Pennsylvania politicians that they serve, are abandoning their initial, admirable acceptance of accountability for the Sandusky cover-up. This question has resurfaced in a different form in a bill currently before the Pennsylvania state legislature.

The bill seeks to extend the statute of limitations for victims of the Sandusky scandal, so as to allow them to file civil claims against Penn State and Sandusky’s charity organizations. In many states, such measures have generated opposition from the Catholic Church, since they threatened to expand the Church’s legal liability from the sexual abuse scandal. But in past cases, invariably a combination of public outrage, an understanding that many victims of child sexual abuse take years or even decades before coming forward, and a simple desire to do the right thing have led legislatures to extend the time period for filing suits.

Extending the statute of limitations beyond 30-year-olds, of course, poses potentially problematic questions for Penn State. In general, the narrative around the Sandusky scandal has focused on events of 1998 (when a local prosecutor elected not to file charges against Sandusky, after an investigation of which the PSU leadership was aware) and 2001 (when then-graduate assistant saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the football building’s showers, told Joe Paterno and then two senior administrators, only to see the PSU leadership decline to report the matter to the police).

Given its charge, the Freeh Report focused exclusively on these events and their aftermath. It thus never explored exactly when Sandusky started his pattern of abuse. If, as seems entirely plausible, he was engaging in abuse throughout his time at Penn State, that would mean at least some of his victims might need the law to pass in order to file a claim.

What, then, will Pennsylvania legislators do? Both state politicians and the PSU leadership have repeatedly expressed a willingness to treat all of Sandusky’s victims fairly—which would suggest that the bill should sail through to passage. Yet conceding that Sandusky might well have engaged in abuse throughout his Penn State tenure would undermine all but the most fanatic apologists for the Paterno football program; the (preposterous) claim that Paterno was too old or out-of-touch to effectively move against Sandusky would be entirely untenable as an explanation for any inaction by Paterno in the 1980s.

Far better, from the perspective of any ultra-Penn State loyalists in the legislature, to not look too far back into the past. But if they abandon accountability by declining to support the current legislation, they’ll effectively contribute, in their own way, to the cover-up that brought down the former PSU administration.


Anonymous said...

Duke rarely if ever willingly takes responsibility or accountability for the things they do wrong. They cover, ignore, make themselves look the victim when they are not, intimidate, publicize what and when they want to publicize for their own benefit,and generally make a mockery of any who have issues with them in order to make themselves look innocent and above reproach.

What would President Obama say about the matter? That is the real issue. Takes time to insure the outrage of the populace sometimes to gain the benefit of voting interest perhaps? Guess we will have to wait until it closer to the next election and the Republicans start agressively attacking the Democratic Party again to see any real interest in bringing forth the truth and an eventual end to the case.

Jim In San Diego said...

Statutes of Limitation exist for a number of very good reasons:

Evidence ages and even disappears. Witnesses die, or move, or forget. Memories become distorted. Mail and email is only kept for a limited period of time. All evidence withers.

At some point, a defendant loses much of the defendant's ability to defend itself. Claims become "he said/she said", with all the problems that raises for finding justice.

When much time has passed, and claims cannot be disproven with evidence, it is human nature for some to take advantage. So, we get claims which are fraudulent.

There is some presumption that when a victim is injured, the victim knows it and will seek redress. We know this is not completely true, but it is still a valid presumption.

There are different statutes of limitations for different crimes. To some extent, the legislature tries to balance the competing interests of possible plaintiffs with the interests of possible defendants in arriving at a reasonable statute of limitations.

These limitations periods are selected in quiet times, when there is no crowd howling for someone's neck. This is probably a good thing.

So, there are very valid policy reasons for enforcing statutes of limitation. It certainly is the right of those who may have to defend themselves from ancient claims to oppose extending existing statutes of limitations.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Please explain to me why five years later there is still not civil trail. These 3 young men have not had there chance for justice to be served. Why does it take 5 years for discovery.

Anonymous said...

"Please explain to me why five years later there is still not civil trail. These 3 young men have not had there chance for justice to be served. Why does it take 5 years for discovery.?

Please explain how the above happens in a slam-dunk case, being litigated by a team of the best lawyers in the country (Sullivan, Mazel, Emery, Scheck, etc.)

The violations of rights in the Duke case were so obvious a blind man could see them. It was ripe for summary judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs, not five years of delay.

Anonymous said...

Actually it was 7 years ago

Anonymous said...

As Hillary said (paraphrasing): Why are we still talking about this? It happened a long time ago.

Big Al

Anonymous said...

"As Hillary said (paraphrasing): Why are we still talking about this? It happened a long time ago."

For the same reason we still talk about Scottsboro (maybe with the hope it won't happen again)

Jim In San Diego said...

Here is a further and somewhat stronger response to the idea that, if Penn folk do not support an extension of the statute(s) of limitation, they are "abandoning accountability".

This is serious hyperbole.

Every single person contributing to this blog, including myself, and including this blog's author, would oppose an extension of a statute of limitations which would increase their own civil or criminal liability.

There is a difference between accepting accountability, and committing suicide. The world does not work well enough for anyone to bare their neck, lay their head under the guillotine, and invite others to do their worst. For, they surely will.

Since no one at all, including any of us, would agree to this, it greatly overstates the argument to claim that Pennsylvanians should in the interests of accountability.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Are the results so far of this on-going team case available on-line?

From what can be gathered so far to the casual observer, the only thing accomplished by that case so far is to cement in the minds of the Durham court system and the people who work there that they can do as they please in any case and not be held accountable for it, even if their actions are obvious civil rights violations. Is that a correct assumption?

Has negative case law examples been generated by this case that further decreases the civil rights of all?

Is that what this case is ultimately about, or is there any positive outcome from it at all?

What did Duke agree to in their settlement with the team members involved in the case?

Was it beneficial to anyone or has even more damage been done to the civil rights of all by Duke as well as a result of that settlement agreement?

Anonymous said...

" the only thing accomplished by that case so far is to cement in the minds of the Durham court system and the people who work there that they can do as they please in any case and not be held accountable for it"

They already believed that, which is why no one exhibited any qualms about framing three innocent students for a crime which never happened.

None of them protested--which strongly suggests that this was not their first trip to the fair.

"Has negative case law examples been generated by this case that further decreases the civil rights of all?"

Blame Judge Beaty. His opinion dismissing most of the claims was a joke. And in a way, that's Justice with a capital "J"--if Durham has to live with the kind of injustice it so enthusiastically watched being inflicted on others.

"Is that what this case is ultimately about, or is there any positive outcome from it at all?"

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel

"Was it beneficial to anyone or has even more damage been done to the civil rights of all by Duke as well as a result of that settlement agreement?"

Maybe if Durhamites had protested injustices in their system before, or had protested during the lax case, the results might have turned out differently. Maybe even the lax case might never have happened. (But if you hope for a storm, you can't complain when thunder and lightning result.)

Anonymous said...

What about all the NC people who did protest or had absolutely no say in what happened?

Now, Duke is not a viable option for medical services because of the injustice and continued injustice. Do they have a right to sue?

And can a lawyer be obtained in order to do so?

A class action lawsuit would seem reasonable if there actually are victims (due to the loss of medical services and ability to trust Duke and Durham medical services) it would seem.

And why do people think it is only Durham or Duke people who have suffered, or even who deserve to suffer. That is fairly prejudicial in it's generalization is it not?

And what about all the Duke students - they have to face the same injustice by attending Duke.

How many people have to rely on Duke for services in NC who have and had no part in the injustice seen repeatedly occuring in Durham and Duke?

Why should they suffer because of the injustice?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps ALL the students at Duke could or would protest the injustice?

What about the fact that you do NOT see THAT happening, ever?

All anyone ever sees is EVERYONE getting slammed for what Durham and Duke and NC justice system does, even though they victimize the citizens or visitors to this state as much or more than they did the LAX guys. What about that overriding loss of trust by EVERYONE when they think of NC?

Anonymous said...

I think that is one of the things that really and truly bothers me about this case. How do you know it was actually Durham people who were up in arms about the LAX team on those blogs, which is where I am assuming the hatred of NC citizens originated in relation to this case. Those comments could have easily have been written by people out to hype up the case for their own political reasons. The prejudice and discrimination normally inherent when thinking of NC's history and environment was only made MUCH worse by this case, and has been extended to all who live in NC, even when they have no part it in, and never did, and do not agree with it, nor ever will. Nor, obviously do they have any power or ability to change anything, since the LAX team, with its team of lawyers, cannot achieve a change for the better for all people either.

Anonymous said...

So either Durham and Duke are trying to purposely inform the world that Duke and Duke/Durham cannot be trusted and injustice is the norm for medical and other professional services, or they seriously do not think that what they have done has caused this type reaction to what has and is being done in people. The first scenerio is understandable if you realize that broadhead (and perhaps others) are from Yale, etc. - and perhaps he/they have always subconciously wanted to destroy Duke - I mean - you never know - and since there is such great status prestige type competition in that class of university in this nation - it is plausible.

The second scenerio only portrays Duke in an even worse picture than would be inherent in what is perceived simply because of the specialties in the medicals fields that they are leaders in - they have NO excuses for the civil ignorance these cases extends to ALL, including themselves. This scenerio is one you could say insults intelligence. But the negative feelings, emotions, and other negative consequences to health and well-being to many brings the harm to a entirely other negative level that cannot be denied. It seriously makes many never want to deal with them professionally again due to lack of trust and the general way that this distrust and Duke's anger and fear in reaction to that and the whole case where they feel victimized is used as a weapon against the people whom they provide services to and for.

So much has been lost - and it is sadder still if they will not learn these lessons placed before them now - and so therefore continue with the harm - until someday they finally do learn. The same as with any living identity of course - Duke as well is subject to this - as they place themselves as an identity - and so cannot escape reality any more than any other living identity.

They are aware of this of course – or are they? Maybe it is both scenerios, which is why so many are still paying the consequences of the game Duke plays.

Anonymous said...

This is horrifying news about Penn State.

Anonymous said...

anonymous - you are so right about Duke, you know them as most do not.

There is no point in protesting in Durham against Duke, Duke owns Durham.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but it has to do with attitudes towards sex crimes.

The today show had a story of an 18 yo high school girl in FLA charged with a sex crime for having sex with a 14 yo girl. Both girls have admitted the sex took place. However activists are up in arms over the charges against the 18 yo, demanding the charges be dropped.

From Liestoppers this AM:


Wednesday, May 22, 2013
False accuser who sent innocent young man to prison for four years pleads guilty to perjury
A follow-up to a story we've followed closely. Elizabeth Coast pleaded guilty yesterday to making a false sexual assault report that led to the conviction and imprisonment of an innocent man. Johnathon Montgomery spent four years in prison for a sexual assault that never happened.

Coast falsely claimed that Mr. Montgomery molested her in 2000 when he was just 14-years-old and she was 10. Mr. Montgomery denied the allegations, but in 2008 a judge convicted him of aggravated sexual battery and other charges based solely on his accuser's story. He was sentenced to 7½ years in prison. Coast finally recanted her story last year and was charged with perjury."

A young man falsely accused of a sex crime ends up in prison. A girl who admits to what is a crime by law should get a pass because she is a girl.