STATE COLLEGE, Pa (Reuters) - Like a scorned son air brushed out of a family portrait, a local artist on Wednesday literally painted over the image of disgraced former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky on a popular campus mural.
Michael Pilato, a local painter who created the “Inspiration” mural in 2001 to honor people he admired, said he received hundreds of emails asking him to remove Sandusky after the former assistant coach was charged with serial sexual abuse of young boys.
Pilato, who said he met Sandusky only once, hesitated at first because everyone is “innocent until proven guilty.” But Pilato said he read on the Internet the graphic grand jury report detailing the alleged assaults of young boys over nearly 15 years, and started to think about the victims.
“I got an email yesterday from one of the victim’s mothers saying simply, ‘Michael, can you please take Sandusky off the mural,'” he said.
So, on Wednesday morning he quietly climbed up a ladder and painted out the image of Sandusky sitting in a chair flanking legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.
He left on the mural the empty chair, and painted a blue ribbon to honor the victims.
Pilato said the painting, which stretches on a wall for nearly half a block, features a range of people, from his grandmother to a fly fisherman, and of course Paterno, who was forced to announce his retirement as a result of the scandal.
Asked if Paterno should have retired, he said: “I think it was something he had to do.”
Reporting by Pat Little; Writing by Greg McCune