Nov 14, 2011 7:55 PM by Matt Stafford

Criminal charge for Paterno would have been more likely in CO

Many were shocked when the former long-time defensive coordinator of the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on charges related to sexual abuse of children. The fallout of the news extended to the University's iconic football coach, Joe Paterno, and an assistant coach who says he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a child in 2002 -- Mike McQueary. McQueary passed on what he had seen to Paterno, who moved it up the chain of leadership at the university, but it wasn't passed on to law enforcement. Paterno was fired on November 9th; McQueary was later placed on administrative leave.

Under Pennsylvania law, neither of the two is currently facing criminal charges, but if the scandal had taken place in Colorado they likely would be.

Pennsylvania law says someone who sees abuse "shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution." The head of the institution, public or private, is responsible for telling authorities.

Paterno did what he was supposed to when he told the school's athletic director.

Five other states have similar laws to Pennsylvania, allowing for indirect reporting of abuse to administrators instead of police; Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Dakota, and Virginia. Pennsylvania lawmakers are currently pushing for change.

"If my bill had been on the books then you would have seen more reports to the police, thus a greater likelihood that Sandusky would have been stopped a long time ago," Rep. Kevin Boyle - a democrat in the Penn. House -- tells NBC News.

In Colorado -- along with about two thirds of the country -- there's a list of people who must report abuse if they see it. One category on the list is any, "public or private school official or employee;" a category that Paterno and McQueary could have fallen into.

"They would certainly be on the list of people who are responsible to report as mandated reporters," says Wilene Lampert, director of Safe Passage -- helping abused children locally.

Lampert says it's shocking how often abuse goes unreported.

"Other types of crimes are immediately reported by everyone in the community; murder, robbery," says Lampert. "But that doesn't automatically happen when there is a crime against a child."

Lampert wants to see more to protect children. Two states have laws taking mandatory reporting of abuse a step further; New Jersey and Wyoming require all adults to notify authorities about abuse.

State Senator John Morse told News Five the deadlines for bill topics are coming up for the upcoming legislative session, so given how new this story is he would be surprised if any are working on a bill related to this -- but there could be. As for adjusting our local laws; Morse says he's not sure if that's necessary, but would have to look into the issue further to say for sure.

Lampert and Safe Passage work at educating mandatory reporters on what to look for and how to report abuse. You can learn more about their program by clicking here.

To see Colorado's law on mandatory reporting, as well as the list of jobs required to report abuse; click here.

Jerry Sandusky faces charges covering a 15-year span. If convicted Sandusky could spend the rest of his life in prison.


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