From the Chief

It's Open Season on Children in Pennsylvania

, The Legal Intelligencer

   | 4 Comments

In light of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Pennsylvania really needs to change its nickname from the Keystone State to the Child Abuser State.

The shameful moniker fits. After a decade that has already included the Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest sex abuse scandal and the Luzerne County judicial scandal featuring "kids-for-cash," how can anyone argue that it isn't a fitting label?

In all three instances, powerful people and powerful institutions failed to protect the most vulnerable and innocent in society: children.

In all three instances, authorities were made aware of harm or wrongdoing being committed, and did nothing.

In all three instances, people have made excuses for those in power who failed to act, either by failing to report or investigate, allegations of misconduct.

As with the previous two scandals, in the wake of the Penn State disgrace, there will be much hand-wringing and demonizing of a few, along with committees and panels appointed. Inevitably, recommendations will be made that will largely be ignored.

There will be a push to put more laws on the books and stiffen penalties, but those largely will be punitive and after the worst has already been done. We're not hurting for prosecutors bringing high-profile cases and getting convictions. But again, that's about seeking justice after the worst has happened, not about protecting kids in advance.

We, as a society in Pennsylvania, have failed to protect our kids.

Protecting children is not just about things like Megan's Law. It's having every citizen, regardless of job title or position, conditioned to understand that there is no higher duty than to protect the young.

If you see a 10-year-old boy, his little hands pressed against the wall, being anally raped in the shower, you call the cops. Not your dad or your boss. That's, of course, if you haven't already kicked the rapist's ass yourself.

I apologize for using the graphic language above with regard to the one alleged attack in the Penn State debacle, but we need to confront the ugly truth here. "Sexual assault," while hardly a cheery term, just doesn't deliver the awful gravity that the details do.

Some will argue: "That's Penn State, not everywhere else. That's what happens when football coaches and jocks aren't held accountable."

To which my scholarly retort is: Bullshit. Look at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Luzerne disaster. Religious and legal institutions also failed to protect kids.

The Penn State scandal hit me hard last weekend, leaving me sickened and angered. My father went to Penn State, and I was raised a Penn State and Joe Paterno fan. As a kid I joked that the chain of command I was supposed to follow went God, my parents, the pope, then Joe Paterno ... and actually Joe Paterno was number three.

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What's being said

  • Larry Hohol

    What the Penn State and Kids for Cash scandals have in common There is plenty Moral Failure to go around here. I rarely paint with a broad brush but the Legal Profession as a whole is right up there at the top of my list. I am a Luzerne County Native so the Kids for Cash scandal reignsÂ’ supreme in my short term memory. There was no error or mistake that allowed 6000 children to be illegally jailed by two BRIBED judges in Luzerne County. There was a complete corruption and abandonment of laws and morals by all participants. This includes the courtÂ’s oversight agencies, especially the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. These horrific acts against the children of Luzerne County were allowed to continue for years with both oversight agencies possessing detailed knowledge of these crimes and doing NOTHING to stop them. Huge, documented conflicts of interest such as the son of a retired Supreme Court Chief Justice owning the Kiddy Prison that paid bribes to the judges and the Chairman of the JCB being business partners (two businesses) with Kids for Cash, Judge Conahan, have been completely ignored. I am here to tell you that if the FBI had not stepped in when they did these crimes WOULD be continuing unabated to this very day no matter how loudly the citizens of Luzerne County screamed about it. Just like Penn State, powerful people knew of the evil and did NOTHING to correct this evil. Fear in many forms probably misguided many of those who should have taken action. Many have questioned what they would do if placed in the same shoes of those now scorned in both scandals. Without doubt, I know what I would have done and I know what I will continue to do. For over 30 years, I and a handful of other vilified citizens have been screaming from the rooftops about the corruption and moral decay of our judicial system. It is not just our children who are victims here rather these children are examples of just how all encompassing our moral demise has become. Attorneys are on the front lines and deal with this decay on a daily basis. Very few attorneys will ever, in their entire career file misconduct charges against any sitting judge in Pennsylvania regardless of the evidence they possess. As individual Attorneys I understand the pitfalls of such an undertaking but your Bar Associations are VERY powerful. To all of the good Attorneys out there, PLEASE HELP. To all of the bad Attorneys out there, start looking over your shoulder. We have had enough. Sign me: Larry Hohol-Author

  • Richard Matthews

    Good piece. Most of us will never come face with pure evil as that kid and the witness McQueary did in that shower. I'd like to think that were I in McQueary's place I would have bumrushed the pervert and whailed on him, but impossible to say. As a former "fellowshipped and stipended" grad student myself, I might have failed morally, miserably, like McQ did when he saw a "superior" in horrid action. Oh how McQ is wishing now that he had taken decisive, violent action at the biggest, most challenging moment of his life. I take it he was in shock, really, and the self preservation instinct was so strong he just got paralyzed. Calling his daddy instead of police seems cowardly, but it's a decision McQ has to live with the rest of his life. I've no doubt he has been tortured ever since, and is coming to Jesus now, as is Paterno for his shocking moral failing.

  • Need4Reform

    This is the most honest news article I have had the opportunity to read in a long time. What really disturbs me is the fact that Noonan was aware of the ordeal at Penn State and did absolutely nothing in response. That is scary.

  • Jeff Spangler

    The Penn State Board of Trustees has appointed a Special Committee to investigate how the University failed to protect the children from a serial rapist, and how to put controls in place to correct, detect and prevent further atrocities. The key to this Committee's success will be the independence and reputation of the law firm selected to do this important work. Having had some experience with corporate investigations of misconduct, I believe that the Board should select a firm from outside Pennsylvania's politically active lawyers with broad experience in these internal inquiries and a leader of national prominence. Most such firms are in Washington DC or New York City. The "usual suspects" firms in Pennsylvania do not have the cultural and political independence necessary to give their resulting conclusions and recommendations credence and acceptability.

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