Mike McQueary Appears To Contradict His Own Grand Jury Testimony

Is the star witness in the Penn State case changing his story, or just trying to protect his reputation?

The Penn State child rape scandal just seems to get more odd as the days go on. As if the news of more victims and Jerry Sandusky’s bizarre interview weren’t enough, we now have the only actual witness to Sandusky’s molestation other than the victims appear to contradict what he said to the Grand Jury investigating the case:

Mike McQueary, the Penn State assistant football coach under fire for his reported lack of action in an alleged 2002 rape of a boy by Jerry Sandusky, said in an email to a former classmate that he stopped the assault in an athletic facility shower and discussed it with police.

In the email obtained by The Morning Call, McQueary wrote that he “did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police” following the alleged incident involving Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach, and a boy. McQueary also wrote that he “is getting hammered for handling this the right way or what I thought at the time was right.”

“I had to make tough impacting quick decisions,” McQueary wrote

Here’s the full email:

“I did stop it, not physically … but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room … I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police …. no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds … trust me. I am getting hammered for handling this the right way … or what I thought at the time was right … I had to make tough, impacting quick decisions.”

The problem is that this directly contradicts what McQuery told the Grand Jury, as this section of the report clearly indicates [apologies for the NSFW language, but I believe its necessary]:

On March 1, 2002, a Penn State graduate assistant (“graduate assistant”) who was then 28 years old, entered the locker room at the Lasch Football Building on the University Park Campus on a Friday night before the beginning of Spring Break. The graduate assistant, who was familiar with Sandusky, was going to put some newly purchased sneakers in his locker and get some recruiting tapes to watch. It was about 9:30 p.m. As the graduate assistant entered the locker room doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on. He then heard slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught. The graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him what he had seen. His father told the graduate assistant to leave the building and come to his home. The graduate assistant and his father decided that the graduate assistant had to report what he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno (“Paterno”), head football coach of Pemi State. The next morning, a Saturday, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno’s home, where he reported what he had seen.


“The graduate assistant was never questioned by University police and no other entity conducted an investigation.”

No mention of trying to stop anything, no mention of going to police. In fact, other than the initial report by the mother of Victim 1, there’s no evidence that any of this was ever reported to police. And yet, we now have an email from McQueary to friends on the PSU football program claiming that he had tried to stop Sandusky and went to police. This raises only a few possibilities:

  • McQueary forgot to tell the Grand Jury about stopping Sandusky and going to the police — this seems unlikely given how thorough and detailed the report is otherwise. Also if he went to the police, there would be a record somewhere and that would presumably have been mentioned in the Grand Jury report;
  • McQueary did tell the Grand Jury about stopping Sandusky and going to the police but it was left off the report — this seems unlikely;
  • McQueary lied to the Grand Jury — possible, but then he exposes himself to perjury charges;
  • McQueary is lying to his friends

It’s that last possibility that seems the most likely to me. As much as Joe Paterno and the rest of the University administrators who were involved in this mess, McQueary has been subject to a ton of criticism for what a lot of people view as a lack of courage and common sense on his part. He doesn’t want his friends and family to think he’s that kind of person, perhaps he doesn’t either, so he tells this story.

The problem for the prosecutors is that their star witness has now handed Sandusky’s attorney with a gold mine for cross examination that he will try to use to undercut McQueary’s credibility as a whole. It might not work, but it’s going to be a headache for the prosecution who already have to worry about how to protect the credibility of a witness that many people on the jury are likely to look on with suspicion to begin with because of his failure to act.

Like I said, this case just keeps getting odder by the day.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Policing, Sports, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:

    What McQueary needs to realize is that he has no friends, he has no privacy, and he has no future in football.

    Anything said to anyone can become public. McQueary trying to defend himself to a friend was stupid. He should put an end to e-mail, texting, phone calls (they can be recorded, or going into public). He would be wise to move to the west coast, change his name, and find something to do other than football.

  2. pajarosucio says:

    It seems perfectly plausible for it to be left off of the grand jury’s summary. If every detail of the investigation made it on the summary it wouldn’t be much of a summary. For a case where not all of the facts are clear and there is certain to be more information to come out, people are in quite a hurry to reach ironclad conclusions.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Sounds to me like damage control.

  4. I tend to agree, but it’s the kind of contradiction that a defense attorney loves.

  5. Anon says:

    Is it possible that he did something like call the police department about what the proper procedure was to handle something that he saw, and was told (perhaps by just someone in charge of answering phones) that he should first speak to someone at the university?

    As to “stopping it”, that could perceived in a number of ways. For example, surely Sandusky did not keep raping the boy after he’d been seen. So, in that sense, McQueary stopped it.

  6. I’d love to hear that 911 tape

    McQueary: I just saw a guy raping a child in the Penn State locker room

    Operator: You know what you need to do? Go talk to Joe Paterno. Have a nice evening!

    Yea, I don’t see that happening.

  7. Anon says:

    Sure, if he said that. But what if he said, “I’m a student at Penn State. I saw something in the locker room that wasn’t right. What should I do about it?”

    Operator: “Can you say more specifically what you saw?”

    “Well, it was something of an inappropriate nature.”

    Operator: “Have you reported this to authorities at Penn State?”

    “No, not yet.”

    Operator: “At this point, it’s not clear that it’s a police matter. But if at some point you wish to make an official report, you may do so at the police station.”

    McQueary could call this a discussion with the police.

  8. Franklin says:

    If we’re playing guessing games, then my guess is that Sandusky stopped when he saw McQueary. This fits the evidence: the Grand Jury report says that Sandusky and the victim saw McQueary, and McQueary may now feel that “he made sure it stopped” because, well, it stopped immediately due to McQueary’s presence.

    Plus, wouldn’t it just make sense for Sandusky to stop when he’s been caught in the act?

  9. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug Mataconis:’ it’s the kind of contradiction that a defense attorney loves.”

    Tell me Mr McQueary were you lying then . . . [dramatic pause] . . . or are you lying NOW.

  10. MBunge says:

    @Anon: “McQueary could call this a discussion with the police.”

    Which would still be nothing but ass-covering. And it doesn’t cover his “discussions” with the head of Penn State university police.


  11. @Anon:

    He wasn’t a “student” he was a 28 year old man.

  12. @Doug Mataconis:

    A 28 year old man who was a graduate student at the time, so it’s a true statement even if somewhat misleading.

  13. mantis says:

    He wasn’t a “student” he was a 28 year old man.

    He is described as being a graduate assistant at the time. Graduate assistants are graduate students.

    The word “student” does not equal “minor.” I know an 80 year old woman who is working on her bachelor’s degree. She’s a student.

  14. @Stormy Dragon:

    Yea but I think just calling him a “student” makes it sound like he’s some meek 19 year old kid with a part-time job helping maintain the athletic facilities. McQueary was a Penn State star QB and he spent his post-collegiate career trying out for the Oakland Raiders and NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores. He was old enough to know right from wrong.

  15. @Doug Mataconis:

    I think just calling him a “student” makes it sound like he’s some meek 19 year old kid with a part-time job helping maintain the athletic facilities.

    Hence my “even if somewhat misleading”.

  16. mantis says:

    He was old enough to know right from wrong.

    Your implication that college students don’t know right from wrong is rather insulting.

  17. Anon says:

    Wait a second. I thought we were discussing different possibilities and the implications for the prosecution. One possibility, as Doug pointed out, is that McQueary is lying in a way that would present difficulties for the prosecution. I’m just wondering whether or not the e-mail could be technically true (by offering a hypothetical, wish-washy phone call to the police), and thus hopefully present less difficulties for the prosecution.

    Somehow, though, this seems to have veered off into discussing whether or not he did the right thing. For the record, I don’t think he did.

  18. Franklin says:

    Seeing as how the facts of what he did are currently in dispute, I’m not sure why we would need to be judging what he did.

  19. mike says:

    Well we don’t know if he is lying or guilty of anything, therefore there is only one solution. Let’s go with the Republication presidential candidates’ preferred interrogation method – waterboarding. Since it isn’t torture, according to them, we will just waterboard him pleasantly, the truth will flow out, and we can move on.

  20. rodney dill says:


    waterboarding. Since it isn’t torture, according to them, we will just waterboard him pleasantly, the truth will flow out, and we can move on.

    …or we’ll make him drink the water that’s left over after you boil hotdogs on the stove… I think that’s still an allowable enhanced interrogation technique.

  21. The Florida Masochist says:

    @rodney dill

    I recommend tying him up and then forcing him to watch Progressive Insurance commercials with Flo in them for twenty-hours. That will loosen his tongue.

  22. rodney dill says:

    @The Florida Masochist: I don’t know… I think Flo is kinda hot.


  23. Franklin says:

    Ugh, talk about makeup on a pig.

    /but then again, I tend to hate overdone makeup like her super-bright lipstick

  24. Jay says:

    Doug, I’m not sure if you read the entire grand jury report, but there is very little in the way of direct quotes. They also failed to interview ANY college cops and they do not say why. There are a lot of questions right now, but I don’t think it’s wise to read into the report as a way to infer answers.

  25. Daninflorida says:

    The Grand Jury Presentment is not a complete summary of all of the evidence and witness testimony. It includes only the information the AG wishes to present. In fact, the Grand Jury process is completely controlled by the AG or DA. It is possible that elements of McQueary’s testimony were intentionally omitted for strategic reasons known only to the AG and her staff. Not saying it’s true, but it is possible. As others have said, if McQueary is making this up it severely undermines his testimony. If he isn’t, the University Park police have some explaining to do. If the AG knows there was police contact, why did she say there wasn’t? More questions in an ever-changing story.

  26. Steve Verdon says:

    What, the police cover something up? Why I never….

    Admittedly, the notion that McQueary is lying to his friends is the answer with the highest probability, but given that police have been caught in cover ups and providing bogus evidence (e.g. the Duke case) I don’t think we should simply dismiss this possibility either…especially given that the powers that be on the PSU campus were involved.

  27. Eric Florack says:

    Sigh. I wonder about all this. First there are still little tidbits showing up in this case, which may change our perceptions, but based on what we know now, Ill point out in case any of you have forgotten, we had, just recently a trial over the death of another with what I will call “Star Power”… Michael Jackson… I said as regards his trial and the outcome…

    Certainly, we can see by his whack-job behavior, that Jackson was well beyond reason for a lot of years, but that point alone does not absolve him of his irresponsibility toward his health and the consequences of it. That irresponsibility was essentially reinforced by his star power. Let’s be honest enough to say that after the string of hits in the 80’s and early 90’s, the guy could spend an entire CD making artificial fart noises and nothing else, and his fans would be buying the things, talking about how talented he was, and that he was breaking new artistic ground, rather than simply breaking wind… and that brings me to the second point; Jackson is being held as innocent by his fans, since he was the star and could do no wrong.

    It seems a lock sure bet to me that Sandusky had gotten to that level of star power at PSU. So, people would have some serious difficulty trusting a report of child abuse from someone like McQueary . (And should I need to remind anyone, that Jackson himself had a thing for small boys?)

    It’s my guess that McQueary looked at the situation and recognized his far smaller… and easily replaceable… role at PSU, and balked at throwing away what he’d achieved… because he doubted… and perhaps correctly… that anything would ever be done about what he saw, so great was Sandusky’s star power at PSU. So, an appeal to a trusted authority figure… a desperate cry for help.

    There seems something in human nature that causes us to ignore the wrongs of those we hold high, those who ahve what I’ve been calling “star power”. I’m sure we each can point to other similar situations…. Bill Clinton, certainly, had is (rather irrational) defenders…. many of whom when called on such defense today, dance around or outright deny it.

    The pattern seems well-established. Doesn’t’ change the burden of guilt, but it does help identify what happened, here, I suppose.