Penn State University appears to have been well aware that Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator charged with 40 counts related to the sexual abuse of children in November, had a problem. A psychologist reveled that Sandusky was a likely pedophile back in 1998. This does open the university up to a number of potential lawsuits.
According to a piece by Louis Peitzman at Gawker:
Once the news broke, many were outraged by Penn State’s failure to act on allegations that Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing children. The latest piece of information is even more damning — a 1998 police report that includes testimony from a psychologist who concluded Sandusky “fit the profile of a likely pedophile.”
Psychologist Alycia Chambers also interviewed the 11-year-old boy Sandusky was accused of showering with. Her findings were included in a report that NBC News only just obtained.
Of course, a report by one psychologist indicating that Sandusky fit the profile of a likely pedophile doesn’t actually prove that Sandusky is a pedophile but, um, it sure doesn’t help.
This sort of thing indicates that it’s perhaps possible to hold Penn State liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
RICO allows law enforcement to change a person who is a member of an enterprise that has committed any two of 35 specific crimes with racketeering. While generally associated with crimes related to Mafia activity, the law act has been used in recent years to file lawsuits against Catholic dioceses (related to sexual abuse). RICO was also, somewhat controversially, used by the National Organization of Women (NOW) against pro-life activists in 1986.
The threat of a RICO indictment can compel defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges. RICO-related charges are relatively easy to prove in court; indictment under the act focuses only on patterns of behavior, not the actual criminal acts themselves.
Certainly it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to argue that various administrators and officials pay was tied to the success of the team, which would give them a very compelling reason not to come forward about what they knew about Sandusky’s behavior.