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PSU Added as Defendant in Paterno Lawsuit

The family and estate of Joe Paterno and others suing the NCAA over the penalties levied against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal added the university as a “nominal defendant” in the lawsuit on Wednesday.

Joe Paterno in 1988
Rick Stewart, Getty Images

The amended complaint also provided new details about the difficulties Paterno’s son and another former Penn State assistant coach have had in finding work.

The lawsuit is not intended to punish Penn State, Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers said. Instead, the suit asks that the punishments levied against the school be thrown out.

“To be clear, we do not seek any monetary damages from Penn State, nor do we ask that the court order Penn State to take any action,” Sollers said.

The consent decree under which Penn State was sanctioned includes a fine of $60 million, a four-year post-season ban, a temporary reduction of football scholarships and the cancellation of 112 wins from the Paterno era.

In a statement, the NCAA said it intended to fight the lawsuit and stood by the consent decree.

“They have sued the very school they say they want to protect, asking for relief that Penn State itself has not sought,” said NCAA lawyer Donald Remy. “This is yet another step backwards and against all of the well-intentioned people who have made so much progress advancing the best interest of the university.”

A Penn State spokesman said the addition of the university as a defendant in the lawsuit was disappointing.

“Penn State will do its best to mitigate the expense, disruption to its operations and harm to its mission and interests, which are caused by the forced and unwilling inclusion of the university as a defendant in a dispute between private parties,” said Penn State spokesman Dave La Torre.

Sollers said the lawsuit is identifying Penn State as a “nominal defendant” because Penn State signed on to the consent decree. He said the concept was “well accepted in the law but not used often.”

The lawsuit claims the NCAA circumvented its own procedures and violated the rights of the plaintiffs in an effort to deflect attention from their own failures following the arrest of Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach under Paterno, on child sex abuse charges in 2011.

The judge in the case last month dismissed some elements of the lawsuit, allowed others to move forward and said the lawsuit’s breach-of-contract claims required Penn State’s participation because the lawsuit could affect its interests and contractual rights.

The amended complaint filed in county court near State College largely copies language from the original filing, made in May, but also includes a new section on how the matter has affected the employment prospects of Jay Paterno and William Kenney. Both were assistants under Joe Paterno before the university fired him shortly after Sandusky’s arrest.

Jay Paterno remains basically unemployed, the document says, while Kenney has joined the staff of Western Michigan University as offensive line coach.

During job interviews with professional and college football programs, the lawsuit said, Kenney was asked questions about whether he had ignored red flags about Sandusky’s behavior.

Jay Paterno applied for coaching jobs and sought work as a TV analyst, but now is unemployed beyond working as a freelance sports columnist.

Sandusky, 70, is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after being convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. He maintains his innocence and wants the state Supreme Court to take up his appeal.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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