Legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno encouraged a teenager sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky to drop his accusations when the victim reported the crime to school officials, according to an interview published on CNN.com .
The allegations come days after a report detailing new court documents revealed Paterno may have known about the abuse as early as 1976 . These new claims allege Paterno knew as early as 1971, the earliest allegation yet made public and decades before any official action was taken
The victim, whose anonymity was protected by CNN, told the network he was hitchhiking as a “troubled” 15-year-old boy when the then assistant linebacker coach picked him up and offered him beer and marijuana. Later, he told CNN Sandusky attacked him in a Penn State bathroom.
The next day, his foster parents reportedly notified school officials without telling the young victim, who then found himself on the phone with two school officials, who identified themselves as “Jim” and “Joe.”
“I made it clear there were things done to me that I just can’t believe could have been done to me and I couldn’t escape. I said, ‘I’m very upset and scared and I couldn’t believe I let my guard down.’ They listened to me. And then all hell broke loose,” he told CNN. “They were asking me my motive, why I would say this about someone who has done so many good things.”
He said he recognized Joe’s voice was Joe Paterno, noting “I’ve heard that voice a million times. It was Joe Paterno.”
CNN said it also spoke to other friends of the victim who confirmed the victim confided in them as early as 1972, including the claim Paterno encouraged him to keep quiet about his allegations.
“Joe Paterno’s life has been scrutinized endlessly the last four and a half years,” a statement from Paterno’s family lawyer, provided to CNN, reads. “The facts that have emerged have repeatedly confirmed that he acted appropriately…The suggestion that Joe Paterno participated in the call described is in direct conflict with the facts as we know them and contrary to the way he lived his life.”
The school told the network it lacked records old enough to confirm the allegations.