Jury awards ex-Penn State assistant coach $7.3M in defamation suit

Mike McQueary, the whistleblower in the Jerry Sandusky case, was awarded $7.3 million by a Centre County (Pa.) jury Thursday following a two-week trial.

The jury of eight women and four men, including two Penn State employees, said after deliberating for nearly four hours that Penn State defamed and misrepresented the former assistant football coach for the role he played in the prosecution of Sandusky and the three administrators accused of covering up the widespread sexual abuse of minors.

"What Penn State has done to Mike McQueary is outrageous," his lawyer, Elliot Strokoff, said during closing arguments. "He should not have been a scapegoat in this matter, and certainly not for five years."

McQueary, who was a part of Joe Paterno's staff, wasn't retained by Bill O'Brien when the current Houston Texans coach took over the sideline in 2012. McQueary has a separate claim that his ouster was retaliation for whistleblowing, but that will be heard by Senior Judge Thomas Gavin in the coming weeks.

Lawyers for Penn State argued that McQueary's exit simply coincided with the staff shakeup. O'Brien, in a videotaped testimony, said he never considered McQueary for the job and said that it had nothing to do with the assistant's cooperation in the Sandusky case.

Rather, O'Brien had a list of assistants he wanted to bring with him to State College.

"There was nothing remarkable about Mr. McQueary's résumé," said Nancy Conrad, the lawyer representing Penn State. "He stayed at one school, under one head coach. He had not developed the contacts or the résumé to land a job in this competitive field of professional college football."

One of McQueary's longtime friends, Temple head coach Matt Rhule, said his former teammate was too unseasoned to be offered a job with the school in 2013.

The 42-year-old McQueary is jobless, divorced and lives with his parents in State College. The former quarterback says he's been unable to get a job since he was placed on paid leave. He has been the target of criticism, even threats, from some in Penn State's passionate fan base who blame him for tarnishing the football program's reputation. He also has been accused of not doing enough to stop Sandusky.

McQueary said he told Paterno and two administrators in February 2001 after witnessing Sandusky’s sexual assault of a young boy in a campus locker-room shower. Neither police nor child welfare authorities were informed.

"He happens to be a very good football coach," Strokoff said. "But much more important than that is that he is an incredibly decent and good person. ... Mr. McQueary has endured an awful lot in silence and with dignity."

Penn State has doled out more than $93 million in settlements connected to Sandusky's 32 accusers. The former assistant coach is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 minors.

While McQueary waits for a ruling on his retaliation claim, he still is expected to serve as a witness in the child endangerment case against former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and ex-vice president Gary Schultz.

"This is not a case about Jerry Sandusky," Conrad said. "Any harm that Mike McQueary has suffered ... is the result of his own failures."

Contributing: The Associated Press

USA TODAY


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