Negotiations between Penn State and young men who claim they were abused by Jerry Sandusky have begun to bear fruit, with lawyers involved saying there will be more announcements of settlements in the coming days.
The school's trustees have set aside some $60 million to pay claims, and on Monday a lawyer working for Penn State said the one settlement so far should be followed by 24 more this week. Thirty-one young men have come forward to Penn State.
Attorney Michael Rozen said the pending agreements include most of the eight young men who testified last year against Sandusky, the school's former assistant football coach now serving a prison sentence for child molestation.
Penn State said little over the weekend in response to an announcement by the lawyer for one of the eight, “Victim 5,” that his case was fully settled and he expected payment within a month. The school is paying out the claims through its insurance coverage and from interest revenues on loans made by the school to its own self-supporting entities.
Rozen said all of the deals are expected to include provisions that give the university the right to pursue claims against the university's insurer, The Second Mile charity founded by Sandusky and The Second Mile's insurer.
Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in state prison after being convicted last summer of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Witnesses testified that he met victims through The Second Mile, an organization established to help at-risk children that ran camps and offered other services.
Rozen said the “value” of the claims depended in part on whether they happened after 2001, when top-ranking school officials were told by a graduate assistant about Sandusky with a child in a team shower, or before 1998, the earliest documented example of a Sandusky complaint.
“It's what did Penn State know and what duty did they have?” Rozen said. “What did they know, when did they know it, and what duty -- if any -- did they have to act, and to what extent?”
He said claims for abuse before 1998 also may fall outside the statute of limitations that put time limits on how long victims have to sue.
Although some lawyers have said they were interested in settlements that require Penn State to make changes that might prevent such abuse from re-occurring, Rozen said those matters have been eclipsed by the widespread reforms the university has adopted or begun since a series of recommendations were made last summer in an internal report.
“I don't think anybody could reasonably or rationally question the university's commitment to doing things differently in the future,” Rozen said. “This was about trying to redress harm caused to young men by this really bad person, Sandusky.”
He declined to say how much the 25 cases are settling for, or provide a range of the settlements.