A judge on Wednesday awarded more than $5 million to a former Penn State assistant football coach over his treatment by the university following Jerry Sandusky’s arrest on child molestation charges five years ago.
Judge Thomas Gavin ruled in favor of Mike McQueary’s whistleblower claim , adding to a jury’s $7.3 million verdict issued last month for defamation and misrepresentation.
“Only when the ‘Sandusky Matter’ became public was Mr. McQueary subjected to disparate treatment and adverse employment consequences,” Gavin wrote. He said the decision to order McQueary to keep out of athletic facilities after placing him on administrative leave with pay “was the equivalent of banishment.”
The judge said McQueary was humiliated in several respects, including “being told to clean out his office in the presence of Penn State personnel, an action that suggests he had done something wrong and was not to be trusted.”
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McQueary has testified that in February 2001 he reported to then-head coach Joe Paterno and to two high-ranking administrators that he had just seen Sandusky, at the time retired as the school’s defensive football coach, sexually abusing a boy in a team shower. Those officials did not contact police, but when investigators began looking into new complaints about Sandusky nearly a decade later, someone suggested they interview McQueary.
McQueary has testified he heard sexually suggestive sounds when he went into the locker room late on a Friday night, then saw Sandusky abusing the boy in the shower. He did not physically intervene but said the two separated and he left the athletics facility, highly disturbed by what he had witnessed.
Gavin concluded that Penn State retaliated against McQueary. He said the university has never publicly acknowledged that McQueary’s reports to Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz were done following the school’s policy.
“Such recognition would have gone a long way toward reducing the opprobrium visited upon him and the resulting humiliation he suffered,” Gavin wrote.
McQueary has been a particular target for criticism over the past five years as strong feelings about the Sandusky scandal have divided the university community. He has not been able to find a job, either in the coaching field or even entry-level retail positions. He had been making $140,000 as an assistant football coach.
Sandusky was convicted of several crimes over the shower encounter McQueary witnessed, though he was acquitted of the most serious charge, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
A spokeswoman for Penn State said the school was reviewing its options. Messages left for McQueary and his lawyer, Elliot Strokoff, were not immediately returned.
McQueary’s lawsuit included claims for defamation, misrepresentation and violations of legal protections for whistleblowers. Jurors in the trial, held last month in the courthouse near Penn State’s campus, awarded him $7.3 million for defamation and misrepresentation.
Gavin’s ruling, which pertained to the whistleblower part of the case, granted McQueary nearly $4 million in lost wages. The judge also said he felt the jury’s decision was “insufficient and not binding,” so he added $1 million in noneconomic damages.
McQueary will also get a bonus issued to other coaches for the Ticket City Bowl he missed after he was suspended, as well as his legal fees and costs. Sandusky, 72, is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison and is pursuing appeals.