Posnanski left KC last year, upgrading from Kansas City Star columnist to Sports Illustrated scribe. Also last year, Joe Po started working on a book about Joe Pa. So it was only fitting that Posnanski would have a few public words about Paterno, to whom he’d likely begun to feel close. But after the events of last year, Posnanski can no longer write a sunny look at a beloved coach in his twilight years. For this souring of narrative, the sportswriter can blame the allegations of child rape on Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach under Paterno.
In 2002, a graduate assistant reported to Paterno that he’d seen Sandusky raping a boy in the showers of the Penn State locker room. Paterno called his bosses but didn’t call the cops — and didn’t stop associating with Sandusky. When this came to light, in November 2011, the school’s board fired Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier.
Posnanski’s obituary for Paterno is short and flowery and gives the coach a pass. "I asked Paterno, at one point in that last month, if he hoped that people would come to see and measure his full life rather than a single, hazy event involving an alleged child molester,” he writes. “ ‘It doesn’t matter what people think of me,’ he said. ‘I’ve lived my life. I just hope the truth comes out. And I hope the victims find peace.’ ”
Fifty-two criminal charges and 10 victims add up to a lot more than “a single, hazy event.” So it’s a good thing crime isn’t Joe Po’s beat, because here in the metro, January has turned into a parade of accused predators.
In Grain Valley last week, a teacher named Matthew Nelson was charged with first-degree child molestation and first-degree sodomy. The tearful 33-year-old was perp-walked in handcuffs out of the police station, for the benefit of TV cameras. The parents of at least four boys, between the ages of 7 and 9, went to police earlier this month after their children reported that Nelson had touched their private areas over and under their clothing during movie viewings and reading times in his classroom at Prairie Branch Elementary.
In Blue Springs, soccer coach Richard Burroughs has been accused of child molestation and sodomy for allegedly touching two girls, ages 11 and 12, at his home. One of the girls reported that Burroughs, 43, had put his hand down her pants during a sleepover with Burroughs’ daughter. The other girl reported that Burroughs wanted to show her something on his computer and rubbed his hand across her chest. Burroughs was arrested January 26. He has denied the allegations.
On Monday, Steven Miller of Overland Park pleaded guilty in federal court to taking photos of himself sexually abusing a 3-year-old boy in 2003. The 30-year-old is facing 15 years in prison.
And then there’s Cole Larson of Raytown. He was sentenced Monday to seven years in federal prison without parole. The 31-year-old pleaded guilty in September to downloading about 2,000 images of child pornography and to making child porn himself.
Meanwhile, the trial date of Bishop Robert Finn, who authorities say waited five months to report suspicions of child abuse by a priest, was set last week for September 24. That gives Finn plenty of time to lock down Posnanski for a quick bio.