Media groups have asked a Philadelphia judge to unseal insurance documents that could address whether Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was told in the mid-1970s that his assistant was molesting boys.
The media groups also asked the judge Thursday to unseal details of the $92 million in settlements the school has paid to more than 30 people who say they are victims of Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys.
“There may have been allegations of abuse that occurred sooner than people thought,” said lawyer Craig Staudenmaier, representing The Associated Press and others. “This is information that needs to be made public.”
Common Pleas Judge Gary Glazer ignited a firestorm last month when he disclosed in a ruling that an allegation had been made that a child complained about Sandusky to Paterno in 1976 and that two assistant coaches witnessed abuse of other children in the 1980s. A son of the late Paterno has dismissed the 1976 claim as “bunk.”
Glazer is presiding over Penn State’s lawsuit against its insurer, which seeks reimbursement for some of the settlements.
He pledged Thursday not to release the alleged victims’ names or identifying information if he unseals the records. Some testified at Sandusky’s criminal trial or gave public interviews. However, others filed private complaints with the university, resolved through mediation, and their accounts have never been made public.
Penn State hopes to keep it that way. The school’s lawyer argued that the child sex-abuse victims should be spared any further trauma and embarrassment.
“The deposition transcripts contain very sensitive, very private information that has not been made public,” lawyer Alexander Bilus argued Thursday. “These people are not here to object.”
He asked the judge to meet with the alleged victims before unsealing their complaints or testimony. The judge agreed to consider the request, but noted that the public is well-aware of the nature of the Penn State sex-abuse complaints. Sandusky maintains his innocence.
The documents sought by the media include two expert reports filed as part of the insurance lawsuit. One evaluates the reasonableness of the settlements and the other analyzes the insurer’s potential responsibility given the evidence.
Steven Engelmyer, a lawyer with the Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Co., said the latter report examines “what did Penn State know, when did they know it and did they have an obligation to inform their insurance carrier what they knew?”
The Associated Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philadelphia Media Network and PA Media Group are seeking access to the documents. Glazer did not indicate when he would rule.
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