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A 'Distraught' Joe Paterno Issues Statement, Hires Criminal Defense Attorney

by on November 12, 2011 2:20 AM

Two hours after he was fired on Wednesday night, Joe Paterno issued a brief, 112-word statement.

Not too long after that -- wearing powder blue pajamas, an oversized grey sweatshirt and socks -- and accompanied by his wife Sue, Paterno spoke for less than a minute to supporters and media outside his front door.

That was it from Paterno, for nearly two days.

Throughout Thursday and Friday, a steady stream of visitors, some of them friends but most of them students who made the three-block walk from campus, knocked on the Paternos' door to offer their best wishes.

Some brought flowers. Others cards and posters. A couple of well-wishers raked the heavy layer of leaves on the Paternos' front yard, most of it brush haven blown onto the yard from adjacent Sunset Park.

Two past presidents of Paternoville, the student-run encampment outside Beaver Stadium, were in State College on a long-planned visit from Houston and New York City. They trekked to the Paternos on Friday afternoon, carrying a five-pound bag of Gummy Bears -- Paterno's favorite candy -- and spoke for several minutes with Sue.

At best, though, Friday was definitely bittersweet at the house at the end of McKee Street, where the Paternos have lived since the late 1960s and where the 84-year-old Paterno has been since returning home from his last football practice on Wednesday night.

On Friday night, Paterno's son Scott spoke on behalf of his father, issuing a prepared statement. An attorney, Scott served as his father's ad hoc spokesman earlier in the week, when the coach's status was in limbo.

Since then, the former Penn State football coach has retained a crisis communications expert, Dan McGinn of Arlington, Va.'s TMG Strategies -- who no doubt directed the coach and his family to stay silent.

Paterno has also retained an attorney, J. Sedwick "Wick" Sollers, at the law firm of King and Spalding. A graduate of Princeton with a J.D. from Maryland, Sollers is the managing partner of King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office and a prominent criminal defense attorney. Along with Griffin Bell, Sollers represented former President George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra investigations.

Paterno testified in the Pennsylvania attorney general's investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child-sexual-abuse case. Paterno has not been charged with a crime and, in a press conference early in the week, Attorney General Linda Kelly said Paterno was not a target of the investigation.

However, Paterno is named in a grand-jury report about the matter. It says the coach learned of an alleged incident involving Sandusky, a young boy and a shower room in March 2002, then passed the information up the Penn State chain of command -- as required by law. Paterno apparently did not take additional action, though, statements by state authorities suggest.

PATERNO'S STATEMENT

Joe Paterno's statement, as delivered Friday night by his son Scott:

"I have been asked by my father to make a brief statement on his behalf.
"Like everyone who has watched this story unfold, my father is experiencing a range of powerful emotions. He is absolutely distraught over what happened to the children and their families. He also wants very much to speak publicly and answer questions.
"At this stage, however, he has no choice but to be patient and defer to the legal process. He cooperated fully with the Grand Jury and he will continue to cooperate with the investigation as we move forward.
"On behalf of my father, I have retained Wick Sollers at the law firm of King and Spalding. My father's desire is for the truth to be uncovered and he will work with his lawyers to that end. Going forward, Mr. Sollers has directed my father, our family and everyone associated with us to make no further public statements and to respond to no media inquiries. We will honor this request. Accordingly, all requests for comments or other information should be directed to Mr. Sollers."

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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