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Tim Brant on Sports: Let the justice system work

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Tim Brant on Sports, a weekly commentary on the world of professional and college sports, will run every Tuesday on WJLA.com.

Former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky is charged with sexually abusing eight boys. He was arrested Saturday and released on $100,000 bail after being arraigned on 40 criminal counts. Anyone with a conscience agrees that sexual abuse is a heinous crime. The fact that Sandusky is accused of abusing minors, seems to make it even worse.

It's unconscionable if it's true. I think anyone with a moral compass agrees. But we do have a judicial system and Sandusky will be tried in a court of law. If he's guilty, he'll be punished and the grand jury certainly believes there is enough evidence for trial.

Now, the national media spotlight has turned away from Sandusky and focused on Joe Paterno. There seems to be a lot of attention on the squeaky clean reputation of Penn State and how it has been tarnished.

One report stated,"Paterno wasn't charged, but if Sandusky is guilty, Paterno would be guilty-...". Didn't we learn anything from the Duke Lacrosse trial?

The grand jury report shows that a graduate assistant told Paterno that he had witnessed something horrible and Paterno immediately reported it to his supervisors and told them to investigate and get to the truth. Did Paterno know more than that? How much was he told and in what depth? According to attorneys, Joe Paterno was technically correct in his approach to this situation; he reported it to his superior.

Sunday, for the first time since the indictment of his former assistant broke, Paterno publicly addressed the situation:

“If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can’t help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.

“Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential. The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers

“As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.

“I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold. In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.”

The Sandusky grand jury report is bad enough without implicating others without all the facts. Let's allow our judicial system time to work. In the Duke Lacrosse players case, how many people convicted those players before their trial?

We can't have a system which says we are guilty until proven innocent. We have to be presumed innocent. The media has to be careful about leaning toward sensationalism rather than solid journalism.

I have known Joe Paterno since the 1970s. I have gotten to know him as a person and a friend. I sure hope he did the right thing. Morally, ethically, not reporting allegations of sexual abuse of children to the authorities after it was clear that the superiors he had reported it to did nothing is significant? That's blurred.

We all have our own moral compass and have to live with it. Certainly, life is dictated by the choices you make. But legally, Paterno has not been charged and he is not a suspect in any legal wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Penn State is planning Paterno's departure.

I have a daughter who graduated from Penn State. She never met Jerry Sandusky and she still believes PSU is a great institution of higher learning.

Let's agree Sandusky is charged with horrible crimes. Now let's watch the system work.

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