|Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno|
America has a history of sweeping stories about child sexual abuse out of the spotlight. But we already are seeing signs that the evolving Penn State scandal might be changing that.
Officials at The Citadel, another institution of "higher learning," revealed over the weekend that they had not adequately pursued allegations against a counselor at the school. Meanwhile, multiple news outlets are reporting that the Penn State scandal might expand to include charges that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky helped line up boys for sexual activity with wealthy university donors.
How ugly could this get? Are Americans finally prepared to face an issue that more or less disappeared when reports about the Franklin Scandal surfaced in the late 1980s?
The Franklin Scandal involved a child prostitution ring that had origins at orphanages in Nebraska and reportedly made its way to the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Investigative work by The Washington Times brought the story into the open. Craig J. Spence, a Republican lobbyist who reportedly arranged nocturnal tours for male prostitutes at the Reagan White House, was found dead in a room at the Boston Ritz Carlton in November 1989.
wrote a book called The Franklin Cover-Up The BBC produced a documentary called Conspiracy of Silence, and it was to air on The Discovery Channel in May 1994. The program was pulled at the last minute, and the Franklin Scandal largely fell from view in the United states. (See video at the end of this post.)
Will America come to grips in 2011 with a horrifying subject that it chose to ignore in the 1980s and '90s? Some early signals indicate the answer might be yes. Consider this report from Saturday about troubling activities at The Citadel:
The Citadel released details on one of its alumni, Louis Neal "Skip" ReVille, who faces charges including criminal sexual conduct with a child.
In 2007, the college received an allegation that five years earlier, ReVille invited two campers at The Citadel Summer Camp into his room to watch pornography. They did not touch each other, but engaged in sexual activity, the college said. . . .
The Citadel, in Charleston, South Carolina, said a review of ReVille's records at the time revealed no other complaints, and his file included a clean background check. He was a highly respected cadet and denied the accusation, the college said.
Four years later, Reville faces various charges, including criminal sexual conduct and committing or attempting lewd acts on a minor. He was arrested late last month.
The Penn State scandal already has brought down iconic head football coach Joe Paterno. But Mark Madden, a Pennsylvania sports columnist and radio talk-show host, says the situation at PSU might get worse before it gets better. Madden broke a story in April 2011 that a grand jury was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involving Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. Madden now says the story might grow to include charges that Sandusky "pimped out boys" for the pleasure of wealthy PSU donors. Madden says at least two journalists are looking into that angle. From a radio interview with Madden last week:
"I can give you a rumor and I can give you something I think might happen," Madden told John Dennis and Gerry Callahan. "I hear there's a rumor that there will be a more shocking development from the Second Mile Foundation--and hold on to your stomachs, boys, this is gross, I will use the only language I can--that Jerry Sandusky and Second Mile were pimping out young boys to rich donors. That was being investigated by two prominent columnists even as I speak."
Our nation has a history of abusing the weakest and most vulnerable among us--and it's not unusual for children to be targets, whether it involves sex or not. In fact, judges--those who stand atop our hallowed justice system--have been known to take advantage of children.
Remember the Kids for Cash Scandal of 2008? It involved Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, two judges in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre), who pleaded guilty to federal charges of accepting kickbacks from the co-owner and builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities. The judges took cash in return for contracting with the facilities and imposing harsh sentences on juveniles brought before their courts in order to ensure that the detention centers would be utilized.
How sick was this scheme? How far were two judges willing to go in order to make an alleged $2.9 million in kickbacks? From an article at the Web site of the Juvenile Law Center:
The conspiracy lasted from 2003 to 2008, involving as many as 6,500 juvenile cases and as many as 4,000 individual children. Over 50% of the children who appeared before Ciavarella did not have an attorney and 50 to 60% of these unrepresented children were placed outside their homes. Many of these children were sent to one or both of the two facilities involved in the alleged kickback scheme. The vast majority of children were charged with low-level misdemeanor offenses.
Perhaps the most complete account so far of the Penn State scandal was published over the weekend in the Harrisburg Patriot-News. The report states that opportunities to investigate and perhaps stop Sandusky's abusive actions go back at least to 1995. Ironically, that is one year after the Franklin Scandal documentary was pulled from The Discovery Channel. Reports the Harrisburg newspaper:
The earliest documented report of possible abuse at the hands of Sandusky is in 1995, when his now-legally adopted son was still a teenage foster child in his home.
The adoption file for Matt Sandusky, who had a different name at the time, contains letters of concern from his mother to children and youth officials and to a Centre County judge.
Matt’s biological mother, Debra Long, testified before the grand jury.
Matt, 33, is not one of the victims in the grand jury presentment, but he did testify before the grand jury.
Why did officials not act on concerns from Matt Sandusky's biological mother in 1995? The answer to the question is unclear, but Jerry Sandusky was a prominent coach in one of America's most respected college football programs. That probably explains why it took 16 years for the Penn State scandal to emerge. Also, it appears that Sandusky used gifts, threats, and connections to help keep his activities under wraps.
American elites have shown they can be creative when it comes to abusing children--and hiding evidence of their sordid activities. Perhaps the Penn State story will help cause scales to fall from the public's eyes--and bring justice to some elites who richly deserve it.
As sickening as the Penn State story already is--and it's likely to get worse--it probably will never reach the level of the Franklin Scandal. Here is the BBC investigative report that was pulled from The Discovery Channel in 1994: