Award for Penn State whistleblower in Sandusky scandal rises to $12 million
A Pennsylvania judge on Wednesday awarded $5 million to a former Penn State University assistant football coach who implicated Jerry Sandusky in the sexual assault of young boys, bringing to more than $12 million the amount owed to the former assistant.
Judge Thomas Gavin of Centre County, Pennsylvania, ruled that Michael McQueary qualified as a whistleblower under a state law and that the school wrongfully fired him as retaliation for reporting Sandusky to school officials.
McQueary will be awarded $4 million for past and future lost salary and $1 million for reputational damage and humiliation over his firing, Gavin said in a written ruling.
The evidence was “overwhelming” that McQueary’s firing was connected to his whistleblowing, the judge wrote.
Representatives for McQueary and Penn State could not immediately be reached for comment. Lawyers previously said they could not comment because Gavin had a gag order in place.
McQueary, who coached wide receivers for famed Penn State head coach Joe Paterno for eight seasons, said he witnessed Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach, having sex with a young boy in 2001, a decade before the scandal became public and Sandusky was arrested.
McQueary reported what he saw at the time to Paterno and other school officials, but they chose not to tell authorities, according to state investigators.
McQueary later cooperated with investigators, implicating school officials in a cover-up.
Sandusky, now 72, was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Paterno was fired for his role in the Sandusky scandal and died months later. McQueary never worked anywhere of note after his dismissal, he said in his lawsuit, because other schools viewed him as damaged goods. The university contended that he lost his job because the new head coach, Bill O’Brien, did not want him.
McQueary also alleged in his whistleblower lawsuit that former Penn State President Graham Spanier defamed him in a public statement in 2011 that publicly defended others.
In an unusual arrangement, a jury ruled last month on defamation and misrepresentation claims made by McQueary against Penn State, awarding McQueary $7.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages. [nL1N1CY021]
Gavin ruled separately on the whistleblower part of the lawsuit.
The judge said in his ruling that Penn State never publicly recognized McQueary for coming forward, and that doing so “would have gone a long way” toward reducing the public humiliation of his firing.
(Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)