The case of Malcolm Gladwell vs. Jerry Sandusky

October 9, 2019 • 10:45 am

In January of 2018 I wrote a post about whether Penn State’s assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was guilty of child abuse. In 2012 Sandusky was, as you may remember, convicted of 45 counts of sexually abusing eight young boys. His prison sentence was 30-60 years, and, since he was born in 1944, this was of course a life sentence. 

My post dealt at the time with an article by Fred Crews (full disclosure: he’s a friend), the former chairman of the English Department at UC Berkeley and an incisive debunker of Sigmund Freud’s “science”.  Crews wrote an article on the website of Skeptic Magazine called “Trial by Therapy,” raising red flags about the evidence used to convict Sandusky and highlighting a book written by Mark Pendergrast (who’s also published on the fallacy of “recovered memory”) called The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment . In Pendergrast’s view, Sandusky was “probably innocent.”

Now Sandusky, or rather one of his associates at Penn State, Graham Spanier (Penn State’s ex-President, who was fired), has resurfaced as one subject of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Talking to Strangers: What we Should Know about the People We Don’t Know.  Gladwell’s thesis, which is pretty thin (and noted by several reviewers, so that the book hasn’t gotten the usual rave reviews of a Gladwellian tome), is that we practice a kind of confirmation bias in our dealings with strangers, trusting the words and actions of someone whom we like but demonizing everything said and done by someone we dislike. (This of course is playing out in national politics at the moment.)

In a new post at Medium, Crews discusses how Gladwell treats the Penn State case. And in discussing Spanier, Gladwell seems to come perilously close to admitting that the case against Sandusky was weak. But, argues Crews, Gladwell can’t bring himself to even say that, for the Sandusky issue is radioactive. As I learned, if you dare even question that a man accused of sexual abuse of multiple young boys might have suffered a miscarriage of justice, you yourself become one of the demonized. (Crews published the piece himself because no editor would touch it.) But, argues Crews (and Prendergrast), there are serious reasons to think that Sandusky was indeed railroaded. 

Click on the screenshot to read the article:

Here’s an excerpt, and then I’ll list the issues with the Sandusky case. I’m not that familiar with the trial itself, so I will say nothing beyond noting that if Crews, Predergrast (and Elizabeth Loftus, the recovered-memory expert who endorsed Prendergrast’s book) are right, we have to at least revisit the Sandusky matter.


The thesis of Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling new book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know (Little, Brown), consists of two related propositions. First, we humans are naturally disposed to trust others, and we find it hard to credit evidence that our trust was wrongly invested. But obversely, everything said or done by a “stranger” — someone we’ve already decided to mistrust — will be interpreted as consistent with that person’s bad intentions. The stranger (but for clarity’s sake let us rather say the alien) will further alienate us even by actions we would otherwise regard as admirable.

As an example of the first pattern, Gladwell cites the failure of Graham Spanier, then president of Pennsylvania State University, to notify the police in 2001 upon allegedly being told that a retired assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, had been seen sodomizing a child in the shower room of a campus sports facility. For that offense Spanier was dismissed by Penn State’s trustees and indicted, tried, and convicted of child endangerment. (The conviction was recently vacated, but a possible retrial looms.) Gladwell finds it easy to forgive Spanier, for Sandusky had been admired, even revered, for charitable works. In Spanier’s shoes, Gladwell is certain, you and I would have made the same mistake.

Needless to say, the guilt or innocence of Graham Spanier is not a topic of burning interest to the general readers who anticipated publication of Talking to Strangers. Even Gladwell surely regards it as peripheral. But for whatever reason or reasons, he won’t directly address the matter of Sandusky’s own criminality or lack of it. Nor, however, can he leave it entirely alone. Willy-nilly, he has placed in public view crucial revelations, previously known only to a small number of doubters, that cast the Sandusky issue in a novel light. And Gladwell himself must be counted among the commentators whose earlier pronouncements about Sandusky are now thrown into radical question.

Read Crews’s article to see how Gladwell, despite having hit on exculpatory factors for Sandusky, tiptoes around the issue. Here are some of the concerns raised by Crews and others:

1.) “The boy in the shower”, the linchpin of the case against Sandusky, swore in a written statement to Sandusky’s attorney that no sexual contact had occurred. After he hired a lawyer, the boy (now older) recanted. This may be because he wanted a slice of the generous settlement offered by Penn State to Sandusky’s victims—a settlement that turned out to be about $140 million, making any claimed victim a multimillionaire.

2.) None of the eight boys who eventually said they were molested by Sandusky ever told anyone about his misconduct before they spoke to police, and many continued to associate with him in the interim.

3.) Some of the accusations, like Sandusky locking a boy in the basement for three days and repeatedly raping him, with Sandusky’s wife, one floor above and oblivious to the screams, strain credulity.

4.) Some or all of the boys (it’s not clear from the piece) were subject to “recovered memory therapy”, and didn’t remember the molestations until therapists “helped” them remember the details.

The above is only a sample of other exculpatory data offered by Crews.

Here’s what Crews says about that, and about the motivations for these belated accusations:

It is this aspect of the case that drew the interest of the psychologists Elizabeth Loftus and Richard Leo, who understand that the theory of repression lacks any scientific credit. To them, belated “recollections” such as Sabastian Paden’s tale of a three-day sadistic kidnapping bore every mark of the dreamlike pseudomemories typically conjured by patients of recovered memory therapists. Paden may simply have been lying, of course. But the authorities who targeted Sandusky were indeed working in tandem with memory enhancers. One of them subjected his patient, Aaron Fisher, to months of daily brainwashing until Fisher more or less “recalled,” or pretended to recall, scenes of violation. “It wasn’t until I was fifteen and started seeing [therapist] Mike [Gillum],” wrote Fisher, “that I realized the horror.”

Other memories were refreshed as it became apparent that any new claims against Sandusky were likely to be believed. “I tried to block this out of my brain for years,” one turncoat declared. Another reflected, “That doorway that I had closed has since been reopening more.” A third stated, ”I have spent, you know, so many years burying this in the back of my head forever.” And after Sandusky was remanded to prison, Pennsylvania’s attorney general at the time, Linda Kelly, congratulated the ex-Second Milers for having dredged their damning scenes from the unconscious. “It was incredibly difficult,” she pronounced, “for some of them to unearth long-buried memories of the abuse they suffered at the hands of this defendant.”

The one major question that remains is what induced beneficiaries of Sandusky’s kindness to betray him so cruelly. Ziegler and Pendergrast know the answer — but so does Gladwell. “According to Ziegler’s reporting,” he remarks in the middle of a long endnote, where it will escape most readers’ attention, “at least some of Sandusky’s victims are not credible. They appear to have been attracted by the large cash settlements that Penn State was offering and the relatively lax criteria the university used for deciding who would get paid.”

“Some of Sandusky’s victims”? No, all of them. In a paroxysm of needless remorse, the Penn State trustees had broadcast the availability of a vast compensation fund that would eventually approach $140 million. An incentive was thus created for any young man who had once been helped by Sandusky, and even for some who had never met him, to spin a preposterous yarn and become an overnight multi-millionaire. And that is exactly what happened — for example, with the lawyered-up shower boy, Allan Myers. At last count, some thirty-five applicants, feigning PTSD at Sandusky’s hands, had availed themselves of Penn State’s princely largesse.

If you think 8 accusations is proof of Sandusky’s guilt, do remember the McMartin preschool case of “ritual Satanic abuse” of children between 1983 and 1987, in which 41 of the putatively abused children testified to that abuse before the grand jury and a dozen or so at the trial.  Those children were urged and nudged by therapists, police, and social workers to level accusations against two of their teachers, one of whom spent 5 years in jail. But in the end nobody was convicted. As Wikipedia reports,

The trial lasted seven years and cost $15 million, the longest and most expensive criminal case in the history of the United States legal system, and ultimately resulted in no convictions. The McMartin preschool was closed and the building was dismantled; several of the accused have since died. In 2005, one of the children (as an adult) retracted the allegations of abuse:

Never did anyone do anything to me, and I never saw them doing anything. I said a lot of things that didn’t happen. I lied. … Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn’t like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. … I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do.

Is it possible that the Sandusky accusations fall into this class? You be the judge.  As to why Gladwell, who knew some of the facts above, won’t even hint that Sandusky may have been railroaded, one can at least guess at an answer. If Gladwell even hinted at that, his career as a writer would be over, for he would have stepped into territory that would have besmirched him in the public eye—territory from which there is no return. But here I’m only speculating.

Elizabeth Loftus has recommended Crews’s piece as well:

78 thoughts on “The case of Malcolm Gladwell vs. Jerry Sandusky

  1. This … … accusing … … works in the reverse.
    Family Law Court. Any Wee County, USA.

    LIKE “we are soooo taught” to do: Try telling
    your own children to report abuse.

    Then. When they do.
    Then. When you, Mama, do.

    Then. Try retaining custody of your very own children.

    Then. Try, even, retaining a right, a parental right,
    to your very own babes.

    Handmaid … … and not A Damn Thing more,

  2. Uh, is this a joke?

    So all of the accusations were false but he also just happened to both have “horsed around, hugged” and touched little boys’ legs in the shower and also be so obviously psychotic that he was willing to say it on live television as if it were completely normal?

    1. Why don’t you read the article about Sandusky’s “horsing around” and naivete? I see you’re absolutely convinced he’s guilty. As for saying that the post is a joke, you’ve violated the Roolz.

    2. I recall watching Costas’s interview with Sandusky at the time it was broadcast and thinking, along with most of the rest of America, that it was damning, especially Sandusky’s halting, convoluted answer near the end to the straightforward question whether he was sexually attracted to underage boys. (I also recall thinking at the time that it was tantamount to legal malpractice for Sandusky’s lawyer to allow his client to sit for such an interview.)

      After reading Crews’s article, but before returning here to read Jerry’s post and the comments, I watched that interview again. It’s not nearly as damning as I had originally thought. And I’m not so sure Sandusky isn’t the guileless galoot those in his corner portray him to be.

      I’ve seen up-close how police and prosecutors will work on a case to knock the rough edges off witnesses and to ensure that all their evidence fits together seamlessly. In the trade, we speak of that as “sandpapering” a case. (Let me hasten to add that I think it rare in the extreme for police or prosecutors to do so in an effort to frame an innocent individual; they do it to try to prevent a clever defense lawyer from poking an ephemeral hole in an otherwise solid case through which a guilty individual might go free. But every time they do so, they inadvertently increase the chances that an innocent individual might be wrongly convicted.)

      I don’t know if that’s what happened here with Jerry Sandusky, and wouldn’t venture an opinion without getting much deeper into the weeds of the case (weeds which, frankly, I’d just as soon avoid). But I can say after reading Crews’s piece that the Sandusky case isn’t at all what I thought it to be.

      1. “I also recall thinking at the time that it was tantamount to legal malpractice for Sandusky’s lawyer to allow his client to sit for such an interview”

        I was thinking that too. Either his representatives had no idea that he would be that bad in an interview situation, or they were unbelievably negligent. …Or he just ignored their advice and did what he wanted. Which seems possible given how detached from reality he seems.

        1. … Or he just ignored their advice and did what he wanted …

          In that event, the lawyer should have withdrawn from the representation. If the client isn’t going to follow legal advice on such a basic matter, the lawyer cannot render the effective assistance of counsel that is the client’s constitutional due under the Sixth Amendment. The lawyer certainly never should have appeared on the program with him, so as to abet the misbegotten exercise (and de facto waiver of the client’s right to remain silent).

  3. Thanks for posting this. I had no idea that the charges against Sandusky relied so heavily on “recovered memory therapy”, a technique that has been widely discredited. On the other hand, Gladwell’s desire to steer around the Sandusky quagmire is totally understandable. If he had attempted to retry the case in his book, it would be the only thing anyone remembers about it.

    1. as to ‘evidence’ presented to convict Sandusky: it was only testimony. No DNA, no pornography on his computer, no contemporaneous reports, no homosexual history, and virtually no testicles. Not one lawyer for the accusers even asked for an HIV test or STD test of Sandusky. With all those claims of anal sex, don’t you think they would be concerned about contracting something?

  4. Sound like a lot of the investigation of this matter was done very poorly and unprofessionally as well. Putting out money to get people to come forward is a really stupid way to go. Who was in charge of this mess?

    1. Crews’ article does not convince me. I find some of the language in it weirdly hostile, and not the kind of thing I’d expect of an impartial journalistic investigation.

      His debunking of certain details, like the one you mention, seems initially convincing until you investigate the context, and the details end up sounding, if anything, even dodgier.

      Sandusky genuinely seems like a naive guy. It’s possible there was a pile-on of humongous proportions by a whole bunch of greedy, grasping/psychologically-misled children.
      But it’s very possible that he thought there was nothing wrong with his abuse, like plenty of abusers think. I’m also bewildered by why, earlier, when the allegations came to light, he apologised to the mother of one of the children and said he wished he was ‘dead’.

      And to hang the case for him being ‘probably innocent’ on the points brought up in this article…? No. Not enough to say that, and certainly not when you investigate further.

    1. and the Peter Ellis case in New Zealand (where it looked more like using an electric grinder on the evidence than sandpaper).

  5. I don’t know whether Sandusky is guilty or innocent, but the fact that witnesses recounted exculpatory statements based on recovered memories, not to mention the monetary potential for doing so, is disturbing. That, plus the media frenzy surrounding the case was not conducive to a Sandusky getting a fair trial.

    1. I do not understand how it’s still legal to have ‘recovered memories’ used in a court-case.

      1. It’s incredible to me. How many times do we have to be shown that something is utterly worthless before we stop using it? It’s like flipping a coin to decide someone’s innocence or guilt, except both sides of the coin say “guilty.”

  6. “As I learned, if you dare even question that a man accused of sexual abuse of multiple young boys might have suffered a miscarriage of justice, you yourself become one of the demonized.”

    This is another consequence of the postmodernist tendency to analyse everything in terms of “power” and “victim hierarchies”, and to see everything as “advocacy” rather than as seeking truth.

    Thus anyone asking whether Sandusky is innocent cannot possibly be genuinely seeking the truth of the matter, they must acting as an advocate, and that means they must be trying to reinforce power hierarchies — ones that have a white, male, sexual predator on top.

    1. Actually you saw the same thing happen in the late 1980s/early 90s ‘Satanic Panic’ child abuse cases, if someone questioned the accusations being made, then ‘evidence’ linking them to the abuse would soon surface.

      In one Canadian case they bought in Mounties from out-of-province after the local law enforcement found itself on the receiving end of claims of being complicit in abuse. When the Mounties started questioning the material presented to the therapists, they found their names appearing in the childrens statements.

      Combine that with books like ‘The courage to heal’ that taught women to believe that ‘If you think you have been abused, you were.’, and you can see where the danger of the #MeToo movements ‘Believe the Survivor’ statements lies.

  7. From Gladwell’s book which includes the transcripts from court, McQueary testifies that at 8:30pm on Friday night, he can see Sandusky in the shower naked with a minor somewhere between 10 and 12 years old. He hears slapping sounds and sees Jerry behind the boy, skin to skin contact.

    Why would McQueary make this up? There could be no reasonable justification for an adult to be showering with a minor late on a Friday night in the locker room. There are many reasons the minor may not testify however.

        1. Note that that piece is from That’s the kind of place you would expect such claims to be debunked, but they agreed with them, although they originally had a disclaimer.

  8. This is an excellent post. I had no idea so much of the trial may have relied on ‘recovered memory therapy’. Nevertheless, there probably are enough details to make a cohesive picture of Sandusky’s guilt.

    These cases are more common than people know and they are rife with difficulties associated with first person accounts, which are often so difficult to corroborate.

    Grooming of young children is very difficult to identify and just as difficult to believe that it’s happening. Kids too will often not admit something happened to them.

    A large part of the burden has to fall on parents. Parents and kids need to have a honest, open relationships about their interactions with coaches and teachers. Making kids stronger also helps, but educating them about how they can be ‘groomed’ is the most useful thing so they can prevent being victims.

    1. Indeed.

      A friend’s son was sexually assaulted at sleepover. She noticed her son had changed and could not figure out what had happened. Six months later, things had not gotten better, so she decided to send him to a therapist who pried the secret out of the boy. She confronted the perpetrator. Her son neither forgot nor lie, he wanted to bury the secret.

  9. I wonder, after more time has elapsed, if Sandusky will be released based on questions about the fairness of his trial. Can it be appealed based on new information, such as recanting victims or understanding that recovered memory therapy has been challenged?

    1. He won’t get a new trial from Pennsylvania judges, because they are all elected, and can’t risk being seen as supporting a convicted pedophile.

  10. It’s interesting, and I definitely think that the whole ‘recovered memories’ thing is incredibly dodgy.

    At the same time, the author says “all” of the witnesses are untrustworthy and repeatedly imputes to them motives he has no way of knowing are genuine.

    The way people report sexual assaults is complicated. The way people deal with them is complicated. More than that, the way children deal with adults doing bad things to them is incredibly, absurdly complicated. For example, I do not find this:

    “none of the eight boys who eventually said they were molested by Sandusky ever told anyone about his misconduct before they spoke to police, and many continued to associate with him in the interim.”

    …to be anywhere near as damning as the author believes it to be.
    A big chunk of _adult_ victims of rape never mention it, and continue to associate with their rapists, for a variety of complicated psychological reasons. And children are even more likely not to mention it, to keep quiet, and not question the authority of the adult who abused them. That kind of behaviour among young victims is not rare.

    Other sentences and phrases seem to me to be unnecessarily confident about the guilt of the children and the innocence of Sandusky, eg.:

    “the question is what induced beneficiaries of Sandusky’s kindness to betray him so cruelly”

    …and calling a child who changed their mind a “turncoat”.

    I don’t know enough, and I’m open to the possibility that this was a miscarriage, but I’m wary of anyone who talks about a case like this with such confidence and uses language like ‘turncoat’ to describe a child who changes their mind about a sexual assault accusation.

    1. I think I was probably too easy on Crews.

      The more I read about this case the more intemperate and dogmatic his article seems, and the more pointlessly unpleasant some of his rhetoric is.

  11. I remember very little of the life before grade school. I do remember traumatic or significant things that took place after 1st grade. (I’d think that being molested is a significant event.) My point is that there are substantial differences between the victims of the two cases mentioned here in memory capabilities

    The jury reached a verdict of guilty on June 22, 2012 (Wikipedia). The multimillion- dollar settlement was announced later. The incentive didn’t exist before the verdict.

    I guess it is possible that the victims wished to pursue a civil lawsuit so they lied.

    I don’t know if Sandusky is truly guilty. Yes, there is a possibility of making type I error. To be honest, I probably would look for evidence or clues that he is truly guilty if I am to read the trial transcripts.

  12. Per WikiPedia: On November 14, in a televised phone interview on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams, Sandusky admitted to correspondent Bob Costas to having showered with underage boys and touching their bodies, as he described it “without intent of sexual contact.”

    Done. No empathy from me for Sandusky. Would it have been okay if it was underage girls? No of course not. But it is not okay with boys either, for exactly the same reason. He is the adult, they are children. There is simply no excuse for taking showers with them, even if he was “just looking.” It’s gross, it’s irresponsible, and if it isn’t illegal it should be.

    1. As I am sure you are aware, there is a huge difference between roughhousing in the shower and sex. If he did one but was found guilty of the other, it was a huge miscarriage of justice. Would you really have no empathy for him?

      And that’s not to mention the other people whose lives were ruined – Spanier, McQueary, Paterno, etc.

    2. Forgot to mention that he ran a foundation that helped thousands of youth. If is a rapist, he is despicable. If not, he is a hero in my book.

    3. If mixed age showering after sports is all it takes to decide someone deserves no empathy then how many cultures and subcultures would be criminal in your eyes.

      In many regions of the US, if you just go back a few generations, this was completely unremarkable behavior. I remember going to the pool/gym with my dad as a kid. The showers were completely open in a way that probably wouldn’t be built today. People of his generation thought nothing of it. They grew up in a time when facilities and norms did not provide as much privacy. These kinds of norms vary significantly. German norms on nudity are still very different and can surprise foreigners, but that doesn’t make them criminal.

      I understand that American norms have changed, but Sandusky is older (and these events happened nearly two decades ago). It seems likely that Sandusky was operating on the older set of norms.

  13. I appreciated Crews’ criticism of Gladwell. I could be wrong but it seems like he is saying that Gladwell’s vagueness (in a sense) might do exactly what he (Crews) says in the last paragraph:

    “’Readers of best sellers who would never attend to Ziegler or Pendergrast now have in their hands enough information to suspect that the main victim of the Sandusky drama has been Sandusky himself, a martyr to the resurgent wave of puritanism that has grown ever stronger in the years since his conviction.’” – Crews

    I would have to read everything about this whole topic to even be able to say what I might think about Sandusky. I knew he was convicted at that time that he was. Before I read Crews’ article today, I watched the Bob Costas interview, watched these two interviews below, and read a portion of the sex scandal on Wikipedia.

    Sandusky Case: Victim 1 Speaks

    Sandusky Victim 1: Lonely Fight for Justice

    I am not sure whether or not the Aaron here, the “first” victim (or first to come forward), is the same as the Aaron mentioned in the article. The following stood out to me as incorrect, though, after having just watched both videos.

    “2.) None of the eight boys who eventually said they were molested by Sandusky ever told anyone about his misconduct before they spoke to police, and many continued to associate with him in the interim.”

    From the above two video news links, from 7:22 in to the end (a minute or so more) on the first and into about 2 minutes on the second, it talks about everything that happened before the police were called. Something doesn’t match up there. The school was involved. CYS was involved so something is off.

  14. I’ve served on a few juries on criminal cases over the years. Most dealt with petty crimes where the verdict was unlikely to be life-altering. The exception was a man charged with sexual abuse of his step-daughter. Problem was that the child was 3 or 4 at the time, with no corroborating evidence but the appearance of a bad relationship with ex-wife at the time of the accusation. At the time of the trial, the child was about 11, was [understandably] not witnessing in person. We had audiotapes of an interview with the child that were of very poor quality, and cross-examined testimony of the officer who interviewed the child.

    That was about it: jurors were prone to credit the interview notes, but a few also claimed also to understand every word of the audio.

    Disagreement was largely a matter of personal experience — do we remember anything from the age of 3+ years? Would we have when we were 11? I don’t know. If I was placing a bet, I would have given odds that the defendant was guilty as charged. But only short odds, and because this was a mostly private matter absent a public witch hunt. I abstained [I think a second juror did as well–both of us thought the consequences — the life-altering conviction required more than 2-1 or 3-1 odds. Still a conviction[10-2] , as Oregon had, and has, non-unanimous convictions..

    I don’t see any good way to avoid miscarriages of justice in a jury system. In my experience everyone comes in with beliefs, prejudices, and most are not honestly addressed in deliberations. If we had a less draconian system that aims to rehabilitate, it would matter less.

  15. Very sorry to see the general tenor of replies to this thread. Why did Sandusky invite all these young boys to stay over in his basement? Why (as his wife testified), did he go downstairs to “tuck them in”? Why did Sandusky give most of them UNDERPANTS that he wanted them to wear? Get real sports fans.

    1. I can only speak for myself. But hearing that they used Recovered Memory Therapy to get the victims to remember the abuse is what is giving me serious doubts. For example, if you had heard that the critical evidence in a case was provided by psychics then wouldn’t you have second thoughts. I had assumed they had better evidence.

      Recovered Memory Therapy is very controversial and has already been involved in gross miscarriages of justice. There has been research into implanting false memories and the techniques they found to work overlap with the techniques used to “recover” memories. Considering the current reputation of recovered memories, the fact that the prosecutors were basing their case on them is a big red flag. To make up my mind, I would have to see what evidence against Sandusky remains after all the testimony contaminated by recovered memories was removed.

      By the way, I am not a sports fan and had not even heard about Penn State sports before the scandal. I’m not sure why you would guess at that motivation for the commenters here. I think the commenters that trouble you really are concerned about the possibility of an innocent person in jail.

      I don’t get the “why did he have boys stay over” part either. If he really was an idealistic religious guy who was trying to save at risk boys by being a father figure then this doesn’t seem that outlandish. Jimmy Carter is an idealistic religious guy. He builds homes for the poor and gives a crazy amount of time and energy to his pet charity. That is unusual, even weird. But some people are like that. Before the scandal, Sandusky was nicknamed Saint Sandusky. If he really is innocent then he may have deserved the moniker. According to the linked articles, when they were tracking down the kids he mentored to look for more victims, they were mostly getting testimonials about how wonderful he was. That doesn’t fit for me.

  16. On the topic of memory, what are the differences between the victims and the coach who saw the shower scene from years earlier? It seems like there is somewhat of a discrepancy there also in terms of how memory is retrieved or repressed. “Muddled” (my term here) memory works for and against both sides of the coin here. It would be traumatizing if that coach had indeed glimpsed that.

  17. IMO ‘recovered memory’ is dangerous, prejudicial and malicious BS, and any witness and any evidence that has been in contact with a ‘recovered memory’ specialist is irremediably contaminated and should be utterly disregarded. It has the same credeibility as a medium. There is plenty of genuine evidence of the power of suggestion and brainwashing.

    We had a case, the Peter Ellis case, where a creche worker was convicted of child abuse entirely on videotaped ‘evidence’ carefully amassed from interviewing dozens of three-year-olds (!). This after some hysterical parent (I just googled – a mother who had written a book on sexual abuse. Think I’ll let ‘hysterical parent’ stand) started a witch-hunt, and without any actual evidence whatsoever. The investigators kept asking the toddlers leading questions until they ‘admitted’ what the investigators wanted to hear. Three-year-olds aren’t stupid, they’ll make up whatever story they sense the interrogator wants them to make up. The prosecution carefully screened out the wilder tapes where the kiddies had Peter strangling kittens etc. And the kids were not allowed to be cross-examined in court.

    Hopefully this would not be allowed to happen now.


  18. Why would anyone ever do a job that puts them at risk of accusations?

    “recovered memory therapy”, is I understand, deeply flawed…
    The Return of the Repressed: The Persistent and Problematic Claims of Long-Forgotten Trauma

    “Can purely psychological trauma lead to a complete blockage of autobiographical memories? This long-standing question about the existence of repressed memories has been at the heart of one of the most heated debates in modern psychology. These so-called memory wars originated in the 1990s, and many scholars have assumed that they are over. We demonstrate that this assumption is incorrect and that the controversial issue of repressed memories is alive and well and may even be on the rise. …
    The memory wars have not vanished. They have continued to endure and contribute to potentially damaging consequences in clinical, legal, and academic contexts.

  19. Just a final word on this thread: repliers who have the impression that Sandusky was convicted on the basis of repressed memory therapy need to read the trial transcript. There was mountains of evidence presented about Sandusky’s grooming pattern completely unrelated to the sexual assaults themselves; unrelated to the purported ‘recovered memories’.

    1. This also.

      Matthew Sandusky on Oprah

      This is Matt Sandusky, one of Sandusky’s adopted sons. He apparently supported Sandusky initially and then finally came out about his own experience. I don’t understand why he would make this up or why the first victim, Aaron, would make that up. The putting his hand closer and closer up the thigh over time. From 13:13 to 15:51 here. This is incredibly disturbing.

      1. Why would he make this up? In the middle of the trial, Sandusk’s main potential witness flipped! He didn’t testify against Sandusky — he disappeared for the rest of the trial, but did get a hefty settlement (The prosecution claimed that victim 2 was never found). Matt say that his side was going down and that there was a potential pay out on the other side, … which he got! go back and watch Oprah ask him about it again.

        1. “Matt say that his side was going down and that there was a potential pay out on the other side…”

          I listened to the whole thing, thank you. I read all of your comments initially. I wasn’t going to bother responding at all. Please see my response below.

          On the above: That is completely false. He said absolutely no such thing to Oprah in this interview.

          1. I misspeelled “saw” as “say”. Sentence should’ve been:

            “Matt say that his side was going down and that there was a potential pay out on the other side…”

            Here’s Ziegler’s video on it:

            1. Arg! I did it again. Sentence should’ve been:

              “Matt saw that his side was going down and that there was a potential pay out on the other side…[emphasis mine]”

              1. From 6 to 8 minutes in, Ziegler claims his siblings said they heard him say he could make money from claiming he was a victim. He then says he took the money, without any explanation.

                Also remember, he flipped right after learning that Allen Meyers flipped. Before Matt flipped, he made a sworn statement in support of Sandusky.

                From 58:00 to 1:06 of Ziegler’s podcast interview with Mark Pendergrast, they have a very interesting discussion about Matt Sandusky:


    2. Unfortunately that raises (correctly) an intersting question in law and its epistemology. If some evidence is gathered inappropriately in a trial, does that “contaminate” the rest? And if so, how? And how does one (especially with sentencing) do the disregarding, if that’s all one has to do?

      What if, hypothetically, S. is guilty of *some* of what he is accused of, and *not* of the others, which were, say, created by “recovered memory therapy”?

      This strikes me as a very likely possibility in general, and I do not know what I would say even normatively (never mind legally, which I of course have no expertise on).

    3. 1. 1998: At 21:49 in: “’I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. I wish I were dead.’” – paraphrased quote of Sandusky from recorded call between Sandusky and the boy’s mom in 1998 after the boy and Sandusky showered together. This incident happened in 1998 and was reported in 1998. A call between the mom and Sandusky was recorded then by investigators. There was no money involved, no motive to lie, and the recollection was fresh as it happened that day.

      Matt Lauer interviews Dottie Sandusky

      2.“Shortly after that in 2000, a janitor said he saw you performing **** *** on a young boy in the showers in the Penn State locker facility.” – Bob Costas to Sandusky in an interview – 3:18 in

      Why would a janitor make something like this up? It doesn’t make any sense.

      Penn State Sex Scandal Jerry Sandusky Full Interview with Bob Costas

      3. 2002: “McQueary first told his father about the incident, then the next day informed Paterno, and then ten days later informed other university officials.” McQueary saw something that didn’t look right in the locker room in 2002.

      Then Aaron Fisher from the above post and the two news videos. About 8 or so minutes each.

      “Aaron was melting down in the office. And then the principal went on to explain that Aaron had said that Jerry had done something sexual to him.” – Aaron’s mom at 7:42 in

      Sandusky Case: Victim 1 Speaks

      “Here I am standing beside my mom crying (in the principal’s office), telling them, telling her, ‘Look, they don’t believe me. I knew they wouldn’t.’” – Aaron Fisher at 0:28 in

      This was before everything else that came after. There was no money and no motive.

      Sandusky Victim 1: Lonely Fight for Justice

      There is Aaron Fisher who is the first person who was a victim to say anything at all. There are three other prior, isolated incidents of a mom, a janitor, and a coach saying they saw bizarre or even more specific things.

      At line 25, on the bottom of page 15 to the middle of line 2 on the top of page 20, it seems very inappropriate and odd and then you get to the word, “lips.” I went from, “Okay this is all really off – “ and then the sinking, fearful, awfulness that this man is a pedophile. I was trying to think of ways that Matt Sandusky might have been lying.

      Sandusky trial transcripts – Centre County Government

      “Are you a pedophile?” “No.” “Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?” “Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? Sexually attracted?…I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. Um, but no.” – 7:12 in

      Penn State Sex Scandal Jerry Sandusky Full Interview with Bob Costas

      I think he wished he was dead in the 1998 conversation because he knows what he is and he can’t help it.

      “…one of the jurors said after the trial…he felt they got the decision absolutely right because when the verdict was read in court, your husband had no reaction.”

      Matt Lauer interviews Dottie Sandusky

      1. That janitor that saw a man performing oral sex on a boy, was actually interviewed by police and said repeatedly that it was NOT Sandusky! There was a tape made, and Sandusky’s incompetent lawyer did not use it (he may have been too overwhelmed to have seen it) — a clear case for ineffective council.

      2. McQueary’s testimony was given a decade after the actual event and his description has many different versions. Gladwell’s chapter is about how Ziegler provided evidence that McQeary waited over a month, before he went to see Paterno. Gladwell also didn’t mention that there was a job that just opened up that McQueary wanted.

        But, what’s really disturbing are email records between McQueary and deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach. McQueary complained that his words were twisted. Eshbach replied, “I know that a lot of this stuff is incorrect and it is hard not to respond, But you can’t.”

        1. His testimony was given about a decade after, but he called his dad directly after. I believe he let Paterno know in the following week or so. McQueary said in his testimony that when he called Joe Paterno, Paterno had said something initially like, “I’m not giving you the job.” Then McQueary informed him that that wasn’t why he was calling and that he needed to talk to him about something else. It’s not disturbing that he was saying his words were twisted. He wanted it to be right. In his testimony he explained everything again and the defense attorney, kept trying to twist his words again. He was trying to say something like there were really only two views instead of three. McQueary again corrected him stating again that it was three.

          On page 279 and 280 of this transcript with McQueary’s testimony, McQueary says the following to the defense attorney:

          “Yea. And let me make sure I’m clear, because I think what you’re getting at is I can’t tell you 1,000 percent, because I did not see a penis entering a rectum, but I do know that it was severely sexual, and I thought, and I – – let me compare it to something and give you a parallel, since you asked the question I just want to make sure I’m clear. If I’m a college student and I’m at a frat house, there is a big party going on and I walk into a room thinking it’s a bathroom, but it’s one of the frat brother’s rooms, and he’s in there and the lights are dimly lit and he’s on top of a girl and they’re making some sounds, but I can’t see his penis in there, but they’re making sounds and it looks like they’re having sex, I walk out of the room saying, “God, I just walked in on these people having sex and things.” Now, the lights were fully on. I saw them three separate times. They were naked. They were in a severe position with his front against that boy’s back. Absent of seeing a penis in a rectum, I think he was having sex with him, yes.”

          Sandusky trial transcripts – Centre County Government

          “Ziegler interviewed Sandusky from prison and debuted some of that interview live on the Today Show on March 25, 2013. Ziegler steadfastly maintains that Sandusky was a ‘chaste pedophile’ and committed no sexual acts with his victims.[31] Ziegler, who initially said he believed Sandusky was guilty of the crimes he was accused of, now believes that Sandusky is innocent.[32] Ziegler’s prison interview with Sandusky came under fire by the Paterno family. Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers released a statement, describing it as ‘transparently self-serving and yet another insult to the victims and anyone who cares about the truth in this tragic story.’”

          Why would a chaste pedophile be in a shower with a boy alone at night with his front against the boy’s back? Why would a chaste pedophile be in bed with a boy rubbing his back underneath his shirt? Why would a chaste pedophile not recall if his hand ever went below the boy’s pants? Why would a chaste pedophile bring young boys on overnight trips alone to hotels where there would be temptation?

          Joe Paterno is irrelevant.

          1. Ziegler has suggested that Sandusky might be a chaste pedophile, but he has NOT “steadfastly maintained” the notion. In podcasts, Ziegler has said he believes Sandusky to be asexual. He can’t find any evidence of Sandusky ever telling a sexual joke (rare for football coaches). No pornography was found — unheard of in such cases. Sandusky, by the accounts of people who know him, is a rather square, teetotaler, religious guy.

            Remember that Ziegler’s prison interview was before he came to the conclusion that Sandusky is innocent.

            1. Also, remember, Sandusky had low testosterone, which is why he had to adopt children. His medical records show he had very small to nonexistent testicles, which none of his accusers mentioned.

          2. Zigler has lots evidence that McQueary waited over a month. He also has a motive for McQeary cowtowing to prosecutors. He has evidence that McQueary was sending pictures of his penis to a woman hot his wife, through a penn State phone — He’s published the actual pixelated photos!

  20. Allan Myers who is “victim” #2 admitted he was #2 and denied anything happened. He wrote and signed a letter (actual photo of letter on stating same when Sandusky was arrested. This is the same “victim” who invited the Sanduskys to his wedding when he was a 20-something marine. (Photos also on This is the same “victim” who drove from his marine base in SC to attend Jerry Sandusky’s mother’s funeral. This is the same “victim” who asked Jerry Sandusky to stand in as his father at his senior high school football game. Yes, these are facts easily proven! This is the same “victim” who said he would never say anything bad about Jerry Sandusky. This is the same “victim,” among other “victims,” who is lying because they saw “what was at the end of the rainbow.”

    1. How far are you willing to go to fight to get Jerry Sandusky out of the pedophile unit of the prison he is in? What lengths are you willing to go to to see what you think is justice for him? These lying kids after the gold at the end of the rainbow. What’s your plan to get this one man, falsely accused of anal and oral sex, who admittedly rubbed one underneath his shirt and couldn’t confirm whether or not he had rubbed below the boy’s waistline or under his pants, showering with boys. Sleepovers with boys. Laying on top of them for 5 to 20 minutes. You seem awfully quick to dismiss anything the boys are saying and aren’t paying attention to what Jerry Sandusky has said himself. It makes me wonder if you yourself are a pedophile. The boys are definitely lying? Is that what you are saying. Definitely lying? Facts “easily” proven? Where is your evidence that they are definitely lying for the “gold at the end of the rainbow”?

      1. John Ziegler and reporter Ralph Cipriano were writing a long feature for Newsweek, that was spiked at the last minute. They were leaked all of the settlement documents. The trial accusers told different stories when it came time to get their money.

        They also had a fake accuser do a sting operation on the main lawyer.

  21. I finally finished this 333 page transcript and have a few more comments.

    Sandusky trial transcripts – Centre County Government

    Aaron Fisher – the first person to come forward when no money was involved or present. He just wanted it all to stop.
    Donald Fisher – Aaron’s grandfather
    Many Musser – hotel clerk
    Cynthia Burns – hotel cleaning person
    Jessica Dershem – worker at CYS
    Michael McQueary – graduate student and lower level assistant football coach
    Joseph Miller – coach or gym teacher or both

    I finished reading the transcript for the above people. They were all examined and cross-examined.

    I made a note of the following pages: 74, 88, 105, 109, 129, 135, 136, 138, 142, 159, 168, 170, 182, 184, 186, 192, 197, 230, 238, 239, 280, 307, 309. It’s really every word of every page.

    This is what Jessica Dershem had in her notes in the mandatory interview/questioning that CYS gave to Sandusky after Aaron had reported that Sandusky had been sexual with him. This is from page 138, line 15 to line 22.

    “Mr. Sandusky admitted to blowing raspberries on Aaron’s stomach. He admitted to having Aaron lay on top of him to crack his back, admitted to rubbing Aaron’s back underneath his shirt. When asked if his hands ever went below the waistline of his – -Aaron’s pants – – (double lines in transcript) he had stated he can’t honestly answer whether or not his hands went below his pants.”

    There should be no question about whether or not his hands went below his pants.

    Aaron and McQueary were both strong in their responses for the examinations and cross-examinations.

    As a side note, the defense attorney who cross-examined McQueary is apparently in prison for tax evasion and stealing from clients.

    “Former high-profile attorney Karl Rominger of Carlisle will now serve an additional 20 months in prison on federal tax evasion charges on top of the 5-and-a-half to 18 years he is serving for stealing more than $767,000 from clients.”

    After reading all of this, my view is that Sandusky is a pedophile and did the things to Aaron that Aaron is saying. There was no motive for him to lie. There was no money then and it is preposterous to think that all of the details from the hotel staff, to the school staff, to his family, to even what Sandusky admits to, are fabricated for some monetary scheme.

    1. Thanks for putting in the time. That makes me feel more comfortable (if that’s the right word) with the outcome of the trial.

      1. Well, I’ve read a lot of the transcripts, The Freah Report and listened to most of Ziegler’s podcasts and videos and I’m very UNCOMFORTABLE about the behavior of the press and prosecutors.

  22. I read the Frederick Crews review of Mark Pendergrast’s book at and was surprised that something that seemed this cut and dried might be wrong.

    In the comments, I found a podcast interview with Pendergrast, but the guy interviewing him turned out to be the real story about this case. John Ziegler’s a character straight out of 70’s era TV detective shows. He’s boisterous, like Carl Kolchak, logical and persistent, like Lt. Columbo, and struggling to do what’s right, like Jim Rockford.

    He’s a podcaster and documentary film maker, so he has the story remarkably well documented at his site:

    He has mountains of evidence and this is an incredibly interesting story about mass hysteria, moral panic, horrendous media reporting and injustice.

      1. The Penn State scandal involves both Paterno and Sandusky. Ziegler started out believing Sandusky was guilty and that Paterno was being unjustly demonized. After massive amounts of investigating, he concluded Sandusky was innocent.

        And he’s not alone in his conclusion. There’s lots of other prominent people who’ve reached this conclusion, including memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, pedophile expert Fred Berlin, reporter Ralph Cipriano, FIS agent John Snedden, Glen Beck, and prolific author Mark Pendergrast.

    1. This isn’t a “story” and it is not about Joe Paterno. This is and was about Jerry Sandusky. How did you get that confused? This is not about mass hysteria or media reporting. If you are focused on those, you are focused on the wrong things.

      1. +1, Ms Liz.

        O yeah. O yeah. =
        = “focused on the WRONG thingS.”

        Thank YOU, too, for your studying up and
        research ( above ). I am so tired of the
        Male – Privileged worrying about the
        consequences of their own behaviors.

        Including their years’ and years’ and years’
        worth of pre – criminal wrongdoings’ grooming
        – behaviors.

        Where in the hell, over and over and over,
        is that same AMOUNT of expended times’ and
        energies’ concerns for what they do TO …
        … EACH ONE … … of their victims ?!

        Where ?!


  23. Hi, I am.fascinated by the ambiguities in the Sandusky case and the prospect that an innocent man could be found so unequivocally guilty with the volume of evidence available on this subject…I was a child protection lawyer and am.interested in the case from a forensic perspective. I’ve looked at a lot of the material available online and am still finding so many grey areas. What I can state without hesitation, is that the reporting on the matter is categorically inconsistent and unprofessional. This article has a LOT of errors, as do most of the online materials.
    Eg. Victim 1 told his mother before the police and a number of other victims from the past told other people. The payouts were only discussed after multiple victims spoke out..
    And repressed memories are distinguishable from child sexual abuse cases where the victims never actually forget, but suppress and don’t want to talk about their experiences.
    Somebody needs to do a clean summary of the probable facts because if an innocent man has been convicted of such serious offences, it’s a level of injustice that needs to be addressed for the sake of society as a whole.

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