(Reuters) - A man whose 2001 sexual assault as a boy in a Penn State locker room shower by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky played a key role in the scandal that engulfed the university has come forward for the first time and plans to file suit against the university, his lawyers said on Thursday.
Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. The man, known as Victim 2, did not testify at the trial, but former graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary testified he had seen Sandusky assaulting a boy about 10 years old in the shower at the Penn State locker room.
A statement posted on the website of the Philadelphia law firm Ross Feller Casey LLP said the firm and two State College, Pennsylvania-based attorneys are representing the man.
“We intend to file a civil lawsuit against Penn State University and others and to hold them accountable for the egregious and reckless conduct that facilitated the horrific abuse our client suffered,” the statement said.
Sandusky awaits sentencing and faces up to 373 years in prison in a case that rocked the storied football program at Penn State, tarnished the legacy of its long-time coach Joe Paterno, and sparked a national conversation about child predation.
Victim 2 was one of only two of the 10 victims not to testify at the trial.
“Our client suffered extensive sexual abuse over many years both before and after the 2001 incident Michael McQueary witnessed in the Penn State Lasch building shower,” the Ross Feller Casey statement said.
“Penn State has now admitted and there is no longer any question that its top officials could have and should have prevented these acts,” the attorneys’ statement said in an apparent reference to the report on the scandal by former FBI director Louis Freeh released two weeks ago.
The Freeh report, which was commissioned by Penn State, concluded that several high-ranking Penn State officials had been alerted to Sandusky’s abuse and did nothing to stop it and decided against reporting it to proper authorities.
“Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of Victim 2 and other children is a direct result of a conspiracy to conceal Sandusky’s conduct and the decisions by top Penn State officials that facilitated and enabled his access to victims,” the statement said.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre said: “The University takes these cases very seriously but cannot otherwise comment on pending litigation. President (Rodney) Erickson and the Board of Trustees have publicly emphasized that their goal is to find solutions that rest on the principle of justice for the victims.”
Immediately after Sandusky’s conviction last month, Penn State invited all of his victims to enter negotiations to settle any claims they might bring against the university.
Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said: “Given our ongoing criminal prosecutions and investigation, we cannot comment.”
Two former Penn State officials - Tim Curley, former athletic director, and Gary Schultz, former university vice president - have been indicted on perjury charges, accused of lying to a grand jury investigating Sandusky’s abuse. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Sandusky’s arrest last year on child sex abuse charges engulfed the university and its once-proud football program in scandal and led to the firing of the university president and Paterno. Paterno, who had been Sandusky’s boss, died of lung cancer in January, about two months after he was fired.
Earlier this week the governing body of U.S. college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, fined Penn State $60 million, banned its Nittany Lions football team from post-season competition, slashed the number of football scholarships it may hand out and stripped it of 14 seasons of victories.
Reporting by Dan Burns; editing by Mohammad Zargham