NEW YORK — Convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky said he was unsure if former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno suspected he abused underage boys, and he maintained his innocence in interview excerpts aired on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday.
Sandusky, Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, brought down Paterno, who built a college football powerhouse and lost his job when the case became public in 2011. The university found Paterno failed to previously report Sandusky.
Paterno died 2-1/2 months later at age 85, with many fans protesting that he was unfairly treated.
Documentary filmmaker John Ziegler interviewed Sandusky for 3-1/2 hours as part of his effort to clear Paterno’s name. “Today” aired excerpts of the audio recordings, with Ziegler as a studio guest.
“If he (Paterno) absolutely thought I was (a child molester), I’d say no,” Sandusky told Ziegler. “If he had a suspicion, I don’t know the answer to that.”
The Paterno family attorney, Wick Sollers, called the release of the Sandusky recordings a “sad and unfortunate development” that only insulted his victims.
“The Paterno family would prefer to remain silent on this matter, but they feel it is important to make it clear that they had no role in obtaining or releasing this recording,” the statement said. “Moreover, they believe that any attempt to use this recording as a defense of Joe Paterno is misguided and inappropriate.”
A jury convicted Sandusky of 45 sex abuse charges for molesting 10 boys over 15 years, and a judge sentenced him to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Ziegler said he interviewed Sandusky earlier this month in person and on the telephone and that the two also exchanged letters. In a partial transcript posted on Ziegler’s website, Sandusky denied he sexually abused anyone.
“Yeah, I hugged them,” Sandusky said. “Maybe I tested boundaries. Maybe I shouldn’t have showered with them.
“Yeah, I tickled them. I looked at them as being probably younger than even some of them were. But I didn’t do any of these horrible acts and abuse these young people. I didn’t violate them. I didn’t harm them.”
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)