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The "e-mails" in their current form don't change anything

I've tried to resist writing anything about this, but people insist on continuing in their moronic ways (NOW you want the death penalty, really?) so I'm going to write this here. People have insisted that the CNN e-mails, despite not saying anything incriminating about Joe Paterno, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paterno was implicit in a cover up. And because Paterno was implicit in a cover up, that changes EVERYTHING and PENN STATE IS GOING DOWN!!! Lack of proof aside, even if that is true, it's a completely asinine stance to take as the e-mails in their current form don't change anything. In fact, even if Paterno is proved to have tried to cover this up, it shouldn't change anything. Here's why:

Back in November-January, when facts were hard to come by and things were still so very uncertain (TOTALLY unlike now...), those seeking the moral high ground decried Joe Paterno for not doing more or "following up." During that time, and having been a mandated reporter in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I specifically said that I would be MORE disappointed in Joe if he followed up than if he didn't. I think, now, you can all understand why.

Paterno had no legal or moral responsibility to follow up and it's uncertain whether Curley went to him or he went to Curley. Regardless, we can assume that Curley changed his mind after talking to Joe Paterno. While I find it impossible to believe Paterno said something to the effect of, "Tim, let's just sweep this under the rug... I'm actually in favor of Jerry preying on little boys and to tell anyone about it would probably hurt the football program," let's, for the sake of argument, pretend that's exactly what he said.

In the event that Paterno did actually say that, he would still not be legally / morally / any other -ly responsible for this situation not getting to the police / Department of Welfare. Since it's been shown on BSD many times, I'll say that low-level mandated reporters CAN go to the police themselves. However, both schools and law enforcement officials have a tendency to discourage that and it is 100% true that low-level mandated reporters are NOT required by law to go to the police. They only NEED to report up the chain of command until it hits the "designated reporter" or the "head of the institution:

Title 23: Domestic Relations, section 6311:© STAFF MEMBERS OF INSTITUTIONS, ETC. — Whenever a person is required to report under subsection (b) in the capacity as a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, that person shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge. Upon notification, the person in charge or the designated agent, if any, shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made in accordance with section 6313. This chapter does not require more than one report from any such institution, school, facility or agency.

It appears that the Commonwealth has taken down this part of the law (I presume because they plan to change it) but you can find it here. If someone can find it from the state again, that'd be cool. (There's also section (b) here which pretty much says the same thing)

Because Paterno chose to or was asked to follow up, for some reason the plan changed. Legally (and legally only, not morally) there is no culpability for Paterno. Once he heard the report from McQueary and reported it further, it was the responsibility of Curley to report it on. Since Schultz got dragged into this, I'm going out on a limb and guessing that the designated reporting is in his domain. If that's the case, Spanier should have never been notified, but if not, then reporting it to Spanier, the "person in charge of the school" is as far as it could have gone. Either Schultz or Spanier were legally bound to file a report with the Department of Welfare. Even if Paterno went to them directly and said, "Guys, please don't get Jerry in trouble. If you do, I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down!" it wouldn't have mattered if either Schultz or Spanier did his job.

This is why people are discouraged in following up. It's entirely possible that Spanier / Schultz / Curley / Paterno felt like they didn't have enough evidence or reason to file a report, but if Spanier truly said that he feared legal repercussion down the road, that seems unlikely. Since Spanier had that knowledge, NOTHING Paterno said should have mattered AT ALL. Short of a low-level mandated reporter saying "I'm sorry, I totally made it all up and filed a completely erroneous report," there's no "taking back" what was said. There are literally hundreds of incidents of mandated reporting where people say, "Oh, but I don't want to get that person in trouble," or "I really don't want the person to know I filed this report." It simply doesn't matter. Once that report is filed, it goes up and up and up until it goes out or it doesn't. And whether it goes out or it doesn't, the low-level mandated reporter legally has no say in that.

Now, I'm not trying to defend Paterno here. I think we all know that he had more pull than your every day Joe-schmo. Some might even argue that he had more pull than Joe Schad. But the end result is this: there is only one person who can be legally blamed for that report not getting out. I'm not sure who it is, but I know it isn't Joe Paterno. Does that absolve Paterno of guilt? No, probably not. But let's not pretend that anything has changed from last week when we all figured that if anyone was to blame, it was Curley, Schultz, or Spanier. If at this point last week someone was saying, "Wow, those guys at the top deserve to burn, but I certainly don't think that Penn State should deserve a death penalty" that should continue to be that person's stance today. Nothing has changed.

If you don't want to be fair to Joe and to Penn State and to the football program, you're still left with this. Even if Joe Paterno had done the most morally reprehensible thing possible by intentionally perpetuating Sandusky's awful actions, it still wouldn't have mattered as the law supersedes the desires of a football coach.

And, if you want to be fair to Joe and to Penn State and to the football program, you'll wait until the rest of the e-mails are made public, you'll have a better grasp of what happened, and you'll place the legal blame where it belongs.

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