An e-mail alerted me to the USAToday story that went to press on October 7th regarding the Pennsylvania Attorney General's probe into the actions of Central Mountain High School in the Sandusky case.
As I read the story, it was surprising to find out that CMHS Principal Karen Probst's call to Clinton County Children and Youth Services was to not just alert officials about an incoming complaint about Sandusky, but an attempt to diminish the credibility of Aaron Fisher and his mother, Dawn Hennessy.
This is the first new information in the case since we heard Frank Fina state there was no evidence to support Joe Paterno's role in a cover-up. However, the probe at CMHS could reveal more new information than the USAToday article reported.
While the article went on to not only detail the foot-dragging by CMHS regarding Fisher's complaint, it also highlighted some of the other well-known unusual activities of Sandusky that the school ignored, including:
-- Sandusky devoted unusual attention to boys at school who were involved with The Second Mile;
-- Sandusky removed children from class to counsel them;
-- Vice-Principal Turchetta retrieved children from school activities to see Sandusky;
-- Truchetta testified Sandusky acted "clingy and needy" when students broke off relationships with Sandusky and that Sandusky's behavior was suspicious.
The stories of the other children at CMHS may likely provide one of the keys to understanding why the investigation took so long.
Most people familiar with the case are aware of one other boy, F.A., who was referenced in the grand jury presentment as being subject to the unwanted non-sexual touching and tickling by Sandusky. F.A. reportedly stayed at Sandusky's home one time and at the same time as Fisher.
But who were the other boys that Sandusky took out of class and what happened to them?
The Police InvestigationAccording to public records, the police investigation into Fisher's complaint was first undertaken by Troopers Cavanaugh and Akers in December 2008. Neither man testified at the trial nor did their names appear as potential witnesses for the prosecution. Allegedly, they did not identify any victims from CMHS who knew Aaron Fisher.
In February 2009, Cavanaugh and Akers were replaced by Trooper Lear. Lear did not testify at the trial nor did his name appear on the list of potential witnesses for the prosecution. Allegedly, Lear did not identify any victims from CMHS who knew Fisher.
In June 2009, Trooper Scott Rossman replaced Lear. Rossman testified at the trial and was caught making false statements under oath. Allegedly, like the other officers who interviewed Aaron Fisher, he did not identify any other victims from CMHS who knew Fisher.
One of the reasons that the police failed to identify possible victims is that they relied on Fisher to point out the other children. According to Fisher's book, Silent No More, the police did not obtain any records from The Second Mile regarding participants in their program until January 2011 - 25 months into the investigation.
But there is more to the story.
According to Mike Gillum, the state trooper who typically investigated sexual abuse incidents was officer Patterson. Gillum was surprised when Akers and Cavanaugh showed up to interview Fisher and he suspected something was not quite right about their assignment to the case. While they may be fine law enforcement officers, it is highly likely that they were not trained to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse and did not recognize that some of Fisher's friends may have been victims.
Inconsistency of Testimony and Peer PressureIn 1998, there was as group of about six to eight boys who were frequently seen with Sandusky and five of them testified to varying levels of abuse at the trial. The inconsistency of testimony is easily explained by the research on compliant victim behavior, which states that compliant victims will deny, downplay, or exaggerate the abuse they suffered, often in an attempt to satisfy the investigator's or evaluator's expectations. More often that not, however, when a group of children have been abused, the offender uses bonding, competition, and peer pressure from within the group to keep the children from disclosing abuse. To wit:
The offender may use peer pressure to control his victims, and the children will enforce the rules on each other. No victim wants to be the one to ruin it for anyone else or embarrass others, and each victim may think he or she is the offender’s “favorite.” All these techniques simply capitalize on the developmental needs of children of different ages.
I suspect, just as in 1998, there appears to have been a similar group of children/minors at CMHS who were in contact with Sandusky in the 2003 to 2008 time frame. Sandusky became a volunteer assistant football coach at CMHS in 2003, which was a least a year prior to him meeting Aaron Fisher through The Second Mile camp in 2004. Fisher also testified that he was with Sandusky and a group of boys at the Blanchard Dam and other places.
Missing the Signs of Child Sexual AbuseThis passage from page 73 of the NCMEC & DOJ Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis provides some valuable insights on child molestation that I suspect were not known to the police investigators:
It is easy to be judgmental toward victims when you look at only the end product of their seduction.
At the beginning of the relationship the child is looking for friendship, emotional support, a job, or just some fun. The lowering of sexual inhibitions is usually done so gradually and skillfully the victim does not realize he or she is a victim until it is too late. It may begin with simple affection such as a pat, hug, or kiss on the cheek. In addition to being part of the seduction process, such activity can also be sexual acts themselves. Sexual activity can begin with conversation about sex. This might include “dirty” jokes and encouraging children to share their sexual attitudes and feelings. The activity can progress to fondling while wrestling, playing hide-and seek in the dark, playing strip poker, swimming nude in the pool, drying the child with a towel, massaging an injury, giving a back rub, tickling, playing a physical game, or cuddling in bed. Some offenders may have no interest in progressing beyond such acts. They are not a means to an end, but an end in themselves as their preferred sexual activity.
This passage contained many of the behaviors that the victims of Sandusky testified about at the trial and grand jury. It cannot be understated that those behaviors were mentioned to trained DPW and CYS caseworkers in the 1998 case and were somehow not considered signs of sexual abuse. It appears those signs may also have missed with F.A. and possibly others in 2008 and 2009 during the initial stages of the investigation.
There is no question that the Kane/Moulton investigation needs to review the records of the police interviews of the CMHS children (if the records still exist) to determine if signs were missed or if there were simply no disclosures from the children involved.
Finally, the investigation needs to determine if any later abuse could have been prevented.
Fisher, Others Not ProtectedThe November 2011 grand jury presentment reported that Sandusky had called Fisher 61 times from January 2008 to July 2009. If there were any calls between January 2009 and July 2009, those calls would provide evidence that the Clinton County CYS was not diligent in ensuring that The Second Mile put a plan in place to prohibit Sandusky from having contact with Fisher and other children.
According to the Public Welfare Code, Pa. 055§ 3490.56 (b) and (e), Clinton County CYS should have required the The Second Mile to put a protection plan in place during the investigation and after Sandusky had been indicated. This plan should have prevented Sandusky's access to all children, not just Aaron Fisher from November 20, 2008 forward.
Given that Sandusky did not retire officially from The Second Mile until September 2010 - nearly two years after he was indicated for abusing Aaron Fisher, this was a clear violation of the Public Welfare Code and also requires follow-up investigation by the Attorney General.
If there were others abused after November 2008, and it appears that was the case with Victim 9, whose dates of abuse on the original Bill of Particulars were 2005 to 2009 and the amended Bill of Particulars confirm that abuse continued into December 2008, then Clinton County CYS and The Second Mile could be charged with endangering the welfare of children.