Joe Paterno Hires Lawyer? Defense Attorney May Have Been Hired By Former Penn State Coach
According to a report by NBC News National Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff on Thursday, former Penn State Joe Paterno has reached out to a prominent defense lawyer.
On Wednesday evening, Paterno was fired from his position as Penn State football coach. In the wake of one of Paterno's longtime assistant coaches being charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over an 15-year span, the Penn State Board of Trustees relieved the 84-year-old coach of his duties. Although two other high-ranking Penn State officials face criminal charges for their roles in potentially covering up the alleged crimes of Sandusky, Paterno has thus far not been targeted by law enforcement.
During a press conference earlier in the week, Pennsylvania attorney general Linda Kelly admitted that Paterno was not then a target of the investigation. Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan, speaking during that same conference, conceded that Paterno had fulfilled his legal obligation by taking a graduate assistant's eyewitness account of abuse to his own superiors. Noonan, however, would go on to state that he felt Paterno fell short of fulfilling his moral obligations even he had protected himself in the eyes of the law.
"But somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child," Noonan said. "I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you're a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us."
With the law in mind, Isikoff reported that Paterno's camp had contacted prominent Beltway criminal defense attorney J. Sedgwick Sollers. If Sollers were to indeed be retained by Paterno it surely wouldn't be his first high-profile case, he once represented President George H.W. Bush during the Iran-Contra affair.
Shortly after the NBC report, Scott Paterno, Joe's son, denied that a lawyer had been retained.
As rumors continue to swirl and victims continue to step forward, it would seem likely that Paterno's ouster from the university does not end his connection to the scandal. Despite not currently being a target of the criminal investigation, it remains to be seen if any of the victims will pursue civil lawsuits against Penn State or any of the parties -- Paterno included -- who may have been able to halt Sandusky's alleged crimes.
Even if he has yet to seek legal representation, Paterno may certainly need to before this case is closed.