Mike McQueary's testimony attacks Jerry Sandusky while repairing his own reputation

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

BELLEFONTE, Pa. – For a little over seven months Mike McQueary sat silent, trusting a legal system to let the facts play out in a case where he never has been, and never will be, accused of wrongdoing

The fallout from trying to report Jerry Sandusky of sexual molestation in 2001 has cost him his dream job as a Penn State assistant football coach, caused him to be raked over the coals in the media and have every fiber of his ethical being questioned in his hometown of State College, Pa., and beyond.

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Mike McQueary testified about the 2001 incident that made him a central figure in the case. (Reuters)

Tuesday, on the second floor of Centre County Courthouse, he finally spoke publicly, under oath and in front of Sandusky, the man he stumbled upon showering and, McQueary alleges, sexually assaulting a boy in the Penn State locker room late one February night over a decade ago.

It came just as stories continue to break that the state attorney general is in possession of emails between some of the men McQueary told about the incident: Penn State's president, vice president and athletic director.

According to NBC, those emails not only show McQueary was clear in his reporting of the incident (the Penn State officials originally insinuated he wasn't) but that the officials made the potentially criminal decision to not turn the information over to social services or law enforcement in an effort to be "humane" to Sandusky.

That's what McQueary was unknowingly dealing with: a bankrupt culture he should've never trusted.

[Related: Jerry Sandusky engaged in acts of oral sex, a second alleged victim testifies]

And that's what made Tuesday the time for McQueary to step out of the cloud of condemnation that's followed him since Sandusky was indicted last November for molesting 10 boys over 15 years. Sandusky maintains his innocence. His trial began here Monday.

Let's be clear on one thing: Mike McQueary could have done more that night he found Sandusky in, what McQueary calls, an "extreme sexual position" with a boy in the showers.

Could have and should have.

"Physically (I) didn't remove the young boy from the shower or go and punch Jerry out," McQueary acknowledged during his testimony, and you could all but hear the regret in his voice.

Hindsight isn't just 20/20, it can be projected onto others, as in everyone thinking that if they too were in that position, they would've acted differently.

No one knows whether they would, though. Not for sure.

And, it turns out McQueary did more than he was credited for when the story broke last fall. At the time he was portrayed as someone too timid or too unconcerned to do the right thing and properly report the crime.

Graham Spanier, Penn State's now fired president, claimed to a grand jury he wasn't given specific enough information about the incident to act. And Tim Curley, the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, the school vice president who oversaw the police department, expressed confusion over whether McQueary fully explained what he saw.

If Monday's report by NBC about the email exchange is accurate (a story Penn State has not refuted), then those are lies. McQueary was clear enough that the men took the allegation very seriously. They even conducted legal research into the potential case before concluding that they'd rather play nice with Sandusky.

[Related: Neighbors of jurors in Sandusky trial don't support him, want justice]

Curley and Schultz already are charged with failing to report a crime and perjury. The attorney general has said Spanier could still be charged.

If those men committed crimes, then McQueary's reputation is one of the victims.

Had they lived up to their legal and moral responsibilities and pursued Sandusky based on McQueary's allegation, then he'd have been a hero, this would have ended long ago and the parade of witnesses rolling into this courthouse to tearfully describe Sandusky molesting them as 11, 12 and 13 year-olds would be shorter or non-existent.

McQueary arrived at the court in a minivan driven by someone from the prosecutor's office. He was dressed sharply in a dark suit with a blue shirt and white collar and silver tie. He was accompanied by his wife and approached the witness stand with the intensity that made him a Penn State starting quarterback and high-level college assistant.

At one point, in the middle of McQueary's testimony, Judge John Cleland declared a 20-minute recess. The courtroom mostly cleared, but McQueary stayed in the witness box, holding the same posture, staring straight ahead, waiting intensely for his long-awaited chance to again speak.

McQueary is a key witness for the prosecution because it's almost impossible to believe he could have completely made up his allegation in 2001 only to have similar behavior later alleged against Sandusky by eight boys who are now grown men.

There was nothing to gain back then. He'd been watching the movie "Rudy" at home that Friday night, got fired up by the storyline and decided to head back to the football facility to watch some recruiting tapes. That's when he surprised Sandusky.

His testimony Tuesday was forceful, direct and clear. He talked like a coach, offering specifics, and stood strong against a mostly inane cross-examination by defense attorney Karl Rominger.

The defense essentially conceded Sandusky was in that shower, making physical contact with the boy. Rominger instead parsed words over the slightest variances in McQueary's story, obsessed over a reasonable initial misremembering of the date and harped on pointless details like whether he actually saw anal penetration or just Sandusky rubbing his naked front up against the naked back of a boy.

"Absent seeing a penis, yes, I think they were having sex," McQueary said.

McQueary appeared to be a boon to the prosecution, but he made sure to mix in his own defense.

Was he clear with Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, with whom he met the morning after the incident at Paterno's home?

"I made sure he knew it was sexual and it was wrong," McQueary said. "I did not go into gross detail of the act … I didn't feel comfortable using (certain) terms. I didn't explain those details or use those terms when talking to (Paterno) out of respect and out of my own embarrassment, quite frankly."

It was enough for Paterno to inform Curley, who more than a week later summoned McQueary to a conference room at the Bryce Jordan Center, where Curley and Schultz awaited. Schultz, McQueary said, qualified as him going to the police because Schultz oversaw the police.

"In my mind, Mr. Schultz represented the police, without a doubt," McQueary said. "I thought he was very much like a district attorney for the university."

Judging by the charges against Curley and Schultz, no less than the attorney general believes McQueary did the right thing and was detailed enough.

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Mike McQueary was forceful as he gave testimony for the prosecution against Jerry Sandusky. (Reuters)

Questions persist though. When his bosses did nothing, how could McQueary stomach seeing Sandusky still hanging around the Penn State football facilities for another decade?

McQueary said he couldn't. He said the two never again had a conversation and anytime Sandusky would enter the room, McQueary would abruptly leave. It was noticeable enough to draw the attention of other football staffers.

"On the surface people saw me have negative reactions if, say, Jerry were to come in the equipment room," McQueary said. "People became suspicious, so I would say something to the effect that I saw something and I didn't want to be around him again …

"The last few years, as the rumors about Jerry Sandsuky began, I'd say, 'What the heck are we letting him in the building for?' "

Why didn't McQueary just quit?

"I would never resign from Penn State University," he said succinctly.

What about reports that McQueary continued playing in the Second Mile charity golf outing, which Sandusky apparently believes he did.

"I'd like to see proof of that," McQueary said, acknowledging he played before the incident but saying he highly doubted he participated afterward.

"I made a strong attempt to not be associated with anything Jerry was involved with," McQueary said.

As for his participation in an Easter Seals event that, it turned out Sandusky was involved with, McQueary said he didn't know until afterward that Sandusky participated.

"(It was) for Easter Seals, not the Second Mile," McQueary said. "It's been reported that there (were) kids involved with it and it benefited Second Mile. It was organized by a local police officer and it was for the Easter Seals."

McQueary was fighting for his reputation Tuesday, perhaps fighting for his career.

"Frankly, I want to be a football coach at Penn State University and I don't have that opportunity," he said. "I don't think I've done anything to not have that job."

In the strange world of college athletics, being the guy who tried to stop Sandusky only to be failed by his administrators, each of whom may face criminal charges, could have him blacklisted.

"You left an adult man and a boy in a locker room where you just saw them in a sexual position," Rominger said during the cross examination.

"Yes, sir," McQueary said.

"Didn't call the police," Rominger continued.

"Yes, that's right," McQueary said.

"And you assumed that nothing else would happen," Rominger said.

[Related: Sandusky juror profiles: All Caucasians, most have ties to Penn State]

"I was extremely frustrated and flustered, once I saw them separated it's safe to assume that I assumed it was over," McQueary explained. "I've said repeatedly I didn't do anything physically to stop it. Its been well publicized … Did I pull the boy out of there, did I physically go and assault anybody, did I remove him?"

He didn't need to answer. The regret was palpable. A big, strong former Division I football player's initial reaction wasn't to attack, but to call for the counsel of his father and a trusted older friend. He followed what they said: Trust the experienced administrators who ran the school.

It's all come back to haunt him. Mike McQueary, who for a decade did more than any other person at Penn State, any other person in Centre County, to stop Jerry Sandusky, must continue to answer for not doing more.

If his bosses had followed the law, he'd be lauded. If he'd said nothing, he'd be as anonymous as anyone else that turned a blind eye.

Instead he was forced to explain himself on a witness stand Tuesday.

Afterward, he looked at least a little relieved. He piled back in the minivan with his wife and was whisked away from the rear of the courthouse, across High Street, onto Penn, down a long downtown hill and, with any luck, back to some semblance of his former, sensible life.

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