Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Football [Print without images]

Thursday, February 2, 2012
Updated: February 3, 1:44 PM ET
AG blamed for Joe Paterno's downfall

ESPN.com news services

An attorney for former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky blamed the attorney general's "embellished" rhetoric for setting off the furious public outcry that led to the downfall of longtime coach Joe Paterno.

Karl Rominger said in an interview with abc27 News of Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday night that Paterno was the victim of an unwarranted media storm fueled by the attorney general's office and blamed prosecutors for making November's grand jury presentment against Sandusky so graphic it helped hound Paterno out of his job.

"We believe that the report was embellished, embellished for effect," Rominger told the TV station. "In other words designed to hurt Mister Sandusky publicly to whip up public foment against him and that Joe Paterno became collateral damage of that."

Division I's winningest football coach with 409 victories over 46 seasons, Paterno died less than three months after school trustees ousted him Nov. 9 in the wake of child sex abuse charges against the 68-year-old Sandusky.

The retired assistant is out on bail and awaiting trial on charges he committed a range of abuse against 10 boys over a 15-year period, including alleged sexual assaults on Penn State property. Paterno testified before a grand jury investigating Sandusky, and authorities have said he was not a target of the probe.

Paterno's family announced he had lung cancer more than a week following his dismissal.

"I firmly believe that the attorney general's office owes an apology to the public for throwing Joe Paterno under the bus by trying to trump up the charges against Jerry Sandusky," Rominger said.

The attorney general's spokesman dismissed Rominger's comments Wednesday night as not meriting a response.

State prosecutors requested Tuesday that Sandusky's trial be heard by jurors brought in from another Pennsylvania county because of pretrial publicity and Penn State's prominent role in its local community.

The attorney general's office also said it would give Sandusky the names of the 10 young men he is charged with having sexually abused.

"The unblinking eye of the press has been focused on a case which is without analogue or peer in the history of this commonwealth," wrote Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan in a court motion this week. "Perhaps an early 20th century Pittsburgh trial implicating Frick or Carnegie might have presented parallels; but truly, this case is necessarily unique."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.