BELLEFONTE, Pa. – An investigator testified Wednesday that threatening emails and calls about a witness who helped produce child molestation charges against Jerry Sandusky were not enough to make him fear for the man’s safety.
Anthony Sassano with the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office took the stand during the third day of trial in former assistant football coach Mike McQueary’s whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against Penn State.
“There was discussion, and no one expressed any concern,” Sassano told jurors.
McQueary claims he was damaged when the school put him on paid administrative leave after Sandusky was charged in 2011. McQueary had told authorities he saw Sandusky abuse a boy in a team shower a decade earlier, and proved to be a key witness at the 2012 trial that led to a 45-count conviction.
The university is defending its handling of McQueary, focusing on safety concerns as the scandal broke and led to the firing of then-head coach Joe Paterno, forced out the school’s president and even caused a riot-type disturbance near campus.
But Sassano says investigators concluded McQueary and the public were not at risk when Penn State played Nebraska a week later. Evidence in the trial has included threats against McQueary and vague warnings that something could happen at Beaver Stadium if he was there on game day.
“That’s what they have 200 cops for at the stadium,” said Sassano, who described McQueary as a linchpin in the investigation of Sandusky, and of two high-ranking administrators charged for their actions in response to how they handled McQueary’s complaint in 2001.
He said he counselled McQueary against making a public statement in the aftermath of the arrests, even though McQueary expressed dismay that he was being heavily criticized, including in anonymous and threatening emails.
“You don’t respond to these kooks or nuts out there who are threatening you,” Sassano said.
McQueary is seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.
He says he was defamed by a statement from the school’s president after Sandusky and two high-ranking administrators were charged in 2011.
His lawsuit also says McQueary was retaliated against for his role in the investigation and prosecution of Sandusky, and misled into thinking officials took seriously his report about Sandusky and the boy in a team shower.