Penn State Settles With Some of Jerry Sandusky’s Victims
On Monday, October 29, the horrifying case that has consumed Penn State University came closer to completion. In recent years it has come out that Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, had waged years of systematic sexual abuse against young boys left in his care. To date, 32 young men have come forward with evidence of abuse: 6 have been dismissed and 26 have been deemed conclusive. While more are likely to come out, it was announced on Monday that these 26 men have concluded settlements with Penn State University.
The settlement dictates that approximately $60 million will be split among the 26 victims. That works out to about $2.3 million each, although some of that will obviously go to legal fees for each victim. As of Monday afternoon, 23 of the victims had signed their settlements and the others are still working on documentation but are expected to sign soon. A stipulation of these settlements is that the victims will not be able to sue anyone else, including Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, through which he became familiar with a large number of his victims.
Jerry Sandusky’s criminal case had concluded well before these settlements. On October 9, 2012, he was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison. At 69, he is almost guaranteed to spend the rest of his life incarcerated, and rightly so.
After the settlement was announced, the University President Rodney Erickson released a statement, saying “We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for those hurt by Mr. Sandusky, and another step forward for Penn State. We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.”
The finances that will pay for these settlements will not come from the University itself, but rather from various insurance policies that Penn State has in case there is ever a suit pursued against the University.
While this is another huge step forward in providing closure for the young men abused at Penn State University, the case as a whole is by no means over. Earlier this summer, a judge ruled to try former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, and former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley. These three men will be charged with various crimes related to the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s actions. These trials are still forthcoming.
These young men who were abused by a man whom they trusted had their lives irreversibly and horribly altered as children. In reality, there is probably no amount of money that can make up for what happened to them. Technically speaking, they may have been able to get more money in court. The idea of a settlement is essentially a type of game theory—both sides settle on a compromise that is low-risk, and low-reward as opposed to pursing a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
As The Atlantic pointed out after news of this settlement broke, it makes sense that this case was settled out of court, as many sex-abuse cases are. If this case were in court, the victims would have to testify to a room of people about their abuse, reliving the most traumatizing experiences of their lives.
But worse, they would also be subject to cross-examination, one of the tenants of our justice system. They would be subject to questions on their bias and opposing attorneys would probe them with the aim of poking holes in their stories. Essentially, they would be questioned thoroughly about what happened to them for the purpose of disproving the abuse they suffered. That is one of the main reasons why this case settled quickly, out of court, and for fairly cheaply. The goal was to put at least this part of this abhorrent incident to rest for those involved. As impossible as it seems, hopefully some closure will develop from the conclusion of these settlements.
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [drocpsu via Flickr]