Testimony is to begin on Monday in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former Penn State assistant football coach who says the university fired him after learning he was a witness against Jerry Sandusky, the former coach later convicted of molesting boys on and off campus.
Michael McQueary, 42, says Penn State placed him on administrative leave in the autumn of 2011, soon after he was identified as a key witness against Sandusky in one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning articles about the scandal by Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim.
McQueary was later fired from his $140,000-a-year coaching job and was ostracized by friends and colleagues, according to court papers. Alone among employees caught up in the investigation, Pennsylvania State University refused to pay his legal fees.
McQueary, who has accused the university of defamation and misrepresentation as well as a whistleblower charge, is seeking more than $8 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit is being heard in Centre County Court of Common Pleas in Bellefonte, near the main campus of Penn State. A jury was selected last week.
McQueary declined comment in a brief telephone conversation last week. Neither his lawyer, Elliot Strokoff, nor Penn State’s lawyer, Nancy Conrad, would comment.
The suit stems from an incident on Feb. 9, 2001. McQueary, then a graduate student, says he witnessed Sandusky “engaged in highly inappropriate and illegal sexual conduct” with a boy in a locker room shower at the headquarters of Penn State’s football program.
McQueary said he told Joe Paterno, the school’s legendary head coach, about what he saw. He said Paterno thanked him for the report, and athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz assured him that they would handle the matter. As a consequence, McQueary says, he did not report what he saw to police.
Sandusky, who is now 72 and serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years at the state’s “supermax” prison in Greene County, was not arrested for another 10 years. McQueary testified at Sandusky’s 2012 trial that resulted in his conviction on charges of molesting 10 boys.
Penn State succeeded in delaying trial of McQueary’s lawsuit for four years, arguing that it would be unfair to hear the case before resolution of the criminal cases against former Penn State President Graham Spanier, as well as Curley and Schultz for allegedly covering up the Sandusky scandal.
In August, Thomas Gavin, the visiting judge from Chester County near Philadelphia who is hearing the case, ordered the case to trial.
Spanier, Curley and Schultz are scheduled for trial on the criminal charges beginning Jan. 2 in Harrisburg.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)