The family of the late Joe Paterno is once again vehemently defending his reputation after it was reported that the former Penn State football coach knew as far back as 1976 that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had molested a child.
Penn State also responded to the Paterno family complaints Friday, saying records from 40 years ago aren't available to evaluate the claims made by a boy that he told Paterno of Sandusky's actions. The university also contended that the allegations were not proven facts.
The allegations were in a court document related to an insurance case involving Penn State and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Co. It contained references that Paterno was informed of sexual abuse by Sandusky in 1976, 1987 and 1988, Pennlive.com reported.
Later Friday, NBC News reported that as many as six former assistant coaches at Penn State witnessed "inappropriate behavior" between Sandusky and boys, going back as far as the 1970s. It is unclear whether any of the coaches reported what they saw to their superiors before the scandal became public in 2011.
Sandusky was sentenced to 30-to-60 years in prison in 2012 after being found guilty on 45 counts of child molestation.
"The university has no records from the time to help evaluate the claims," Penn State said in a statement. "More importantly, Coach Paterno is not here to defend himself. Penn State does not intend to comment further, out of concern for privacy, and due to the strict confidentiality commitments that govern our various settlement agreements."
Paterno died in January 2012 of lung cancer at age 85 approximately two months after being fired as football coach. His reputation was tarnished when it was learned he failed to notify police in 2002 when he was told that Sandusky had molested a young boy inside the Penn State football complex.
Paterno's family regularly defended his legacy after his death and are doing so again after the latest allegation.
"Because of a single sentence in a court record of an insurance case, Joe Paterno's reputation has once again been smeared with an unsubstantiated, 40-year-old allegation," the family statement began. "In response to this allegation and the subsequent media hype, the Paterno family is demanding a full public review of the facts.
"From Day One, Joe Paterno and his family have called for an objective and total pursuit of the truth with a full respect for due process. In 2011 and 2012 Joe Paterno was subjected to an unprecedented rush to justice by Louis Freeh and the NCAA. Time has proven that the Freeh report was deeply flawed and the unprecedented punitive actions of the NCAA were unjustified. Over the past 4 1/2 years, numerous allegations that were taken as fact when they were initially communicated have been proven false. It is in this context that the latest claim should be viewed.
"The reckless, all-out rush to accept accusations as legitimate without a full fair review of the facts cannot be allowed to happen again. Fighting shadows and rumors on issues that are this significant is a disservice to everyone who cares about the truth. We do not fear the truth, we embrace it. And we will not allow a repeat of what happened before. We challenge anyone with evidence of misconduct to come forward and present their allegations in a process that allows a full, fair review of the evidence. We will stand by the facts, but we will never accept veiled accusations presented in a context where they cannot be objectively reviewed and analyzed.
"If anything has been learned from the Sandusky tragedy it should be that rushed investigations do incredible harm. For once, a fair process should come before conclusions are reached."
Paterno's actions are again under the microscope one day after Sandusky, 72, was granted a hearing to prove his claims that prosecutors lied and withheld evidence in the case in which he was convicted.
Pennsylvania judge John Cleland on Thursday set the hearing for May 20 and said it would "provide the defense with an opportunity to prove" the allegations. Sandusky's defense team is seeking the dismissal of charges or a new trial.
Solicitor general Bruce Castor, a legal constituent for the district attorney's office, told reporters that Sandusky's allegations aren't valid claims.
"Mr. Sandusky has nothing but time on his hands and thus can claim anything he likes," Castor said. "Proving those claims is an entirely different matter, however."
After the court hearing, Pennlive.com reported that one of Penn State's insurers maintained "in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU's Head Coach Joseph Paterno that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky."
In addition, unnamed Penn State assistant coaches reportedly witnessed "inappropriate conduct" between Sandusky and children in 1987 and 1988, and a 1988 case reportedly was called to the attention of the school's athletic director.
In the insurance case, Penn State is trying to recoup more than $60 million it has paid to settle dozens of civic claims related to Sandusky.
Paterno's lack of action in 2002 created a firestorm before the school fired him in 2011.
Then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary said he witnessed Sandusky molesting the child and said he informed Paterno of the attack. Paterno waited a day before contacting school authorities and police were never notified of the sexual assault.
The NBC report said one former Penn State assistant coach witnessed an incident involving Sandusky in the late 1970s. Three other former assistant coaches allegedly saw inappropriate conduct between Sandusky and boys in the early and mid-1990s.
"You won't believe what I just saw," one of those three coaches said entering a room filled with Penn State football staff, according to source used in the NBC News report.
A lawyer representing one of the former assistants denied his client saw any improper behavior from Sandusky. A second coach declined to comment. A third could not be reached, and the name of the fourth was not disclosed to NBC News.