This is a first for me on this blog. While I always write about books this is the first time I am writing about a book I have not read and don’t intend to read. That book is called The Most Hated Man In America by Mark Pendergast. Now under normal circumstances I would consider it bad form to write on something you haven’t actually read, and there is a good chance that Mr. Pendergast will show up on this very blog to tell me so and demand that everybody actually read his book. However, I have already read a blog post by Jerry Coyne, in which he seems to think having read somebody else’s article about the book is enough for him to write a blog post promoting its main thesis, so holding myself to Jerry Coyne’s standards I think that is good enough for me to call it utter and complete bullshit.
So here is the background. Mark Pendergast wrote a book about how he thinks Jerry Sandusky, a man convicted of over 40 counts of sexual abuse of young boys is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence against him. Then Skeptic Magazine published an article by Frederick Crews that summarizes the argument made in the book. This has of course been picked up by other “New Atheist” types. if you are not familiar what a “New Atheist” is, they are just like a regular atheist, except in addition to not believing in God they are morally despicable. Even Daniel Dennett, a philosopher associated with New Atheism who is usually considered an exception to the rule, fell for it.
As detailed in Crews’s article the main argument is that the ten alleged victims of Sandusky all have recovered memory techniques used before they testified. I’ll get to that later, but let me say here in the beginning that like Crews, Coyne and Dennett I find the idea of recovered memories highly dubious, and especially if hypnosis is involved. However, there have been allegations of recovered memories being a part of the prosecution of many pedophile priests, such as this case, and I don’t see these “skeptics” fighting the good fight to protect innocent priests from being railroaded by the justice system. Come to think of it I haven’t seen any of these guys that concerned about the 70% of the wrongly convicted who are people of color either. Funny how that works isn’t it?
So here is a rundown of the case against Jerry Sandusky before we even get to the case of recovered memory.
First, in 1998 Sandusky was investigated after a parent of a young boy complained about him showering with her son. A psychologist who was consulted on the investigation told the police that Sandusky’s behavior was consistent with the behavior of a pedophile. No evidence sexual abuse occurred was found, though this could be seen as typical “grooming” behavior from a pedophile, and Sandusky promised not to shower with boys in the future. Crews never mentions this in his article, nor Coyne in his blog, despite the fact that it shows that Sandusky continued to shower with boys even after being told that it was inappropriate by law enforcement and promising not to do it again.
Second, in 2000 James Calhoun, a janitor, witnesses Jerry Sandusky engaged in sexual activity with an underage boy and reports this to his supervisor and co-workers. Both Crews and Coyne misrepresent this evidence in how it was presented in court, either intentionally or unintentionally. By the time the trial began Calhoun was unable to testify because he suffered from dementia. The judge allowed hearsay testimony from another janitor because of this. Crews mentions that the janitor was mentally impaired, but doesn’t specify that this impairment happened well after having witnessed Sandusky molesting the boy. Basically, he invites the reader to imagine Calhoun as mentally disabled and an unreliable witness. Writes Coyne: ” The judge admitted 12-year-old hearsay testimony.” Coyne, like a number of “skeptics” has a history of pretending to be an expert in fields he knows nothing about Hearsay testimony is commonly allowed in court cases where the person is testifying on behalf of a person who is mentally impaired, deceased, or otherwise unable to testify.
Third, in 2002 assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky molesting a boy in the shower, reported it, and they did nothing. The account by Crews in the article contends that McQueary initially just said he had seen Sandusky with the boy in the shower and was concerned about it, but saw no molestation. The argument put forth was that McQueary changed his story later when the scandal heated up due to pressure from law enforcement. The problem with this is that McQueary already won a defamation law suit against Penn State because school officials claimed he had not told them initially that Sandusky was molesting the boy. Crews also make a big deal of McQueary not remembering the exact date of the incident, because most of us can easily remember the exact dates of any major incident in our lives even years after the fact, apparently. Let’s keep in mind that this is the second time a witness had seen Sandusky molesting a boy and years after he promised police to stop showering with underage boys.
This is all the case against Sandusky before you even get to the recovered memories. The investigation on Sandusky officially began when he was accused by a boy and his parents of sexual abuse. There was no recovered memory involved in this case at that point. Even if no further accusers stepped forward this is a pretty damning case against Sandusky. I just want to point this out before I continue.
Crews, in his article, shows a deep ignorance of sexual abuse and how victims typically behave. If this is any indication of what you can expect from Pendergast’s book then there is no need to read it. He attacks the victims for initially denying the abuse and continuing to have a relationship with Sandusky even though this is typical behavior for victims of sexual abuse. At one point Crews even attacks one of the victim’s mothers, saying she was out drinking at bars while her son was with Sandusky and even includes a picture. He writes that Allan Myers, who claims to be the boy who McQuery saw Sandusky in the shower with, vehemently denied the allegations and defended Sandusky. He forgets to mention that McQuery claims the boy he saw was about ten while Myers would have been fourteen at the time, leading prosecutors to doubt whether he was telling the truth. He also forgets to mention that Myers later testified against Sandusky when he attempted to get a retrial. The defense claimed that Myers changed his story because he got a settlement from Penn State even though he was THEIR witness.
In addition to this the article cites two “independent investigations”, one by a “conservative talk show host”, who we all know are known for their honesty. Basically, in order to believe that Sandusky is innocent you have to believe that his showering with underage boys was just “innocent fun” and that over a dozen people are lying for various reasons, but mostly because they want money and don’t care about sending an innocent person to jail. Oh yeah, and then there is the recovered memory business. Jerry Sandusky already had an appeal for a retrial and recovered memory was a big part part of the appeal.
Contrary to the claims of Pendergast, Crews, and Coyne, both alleged victims and therapists of the alleged victims claimed that no recovered memory therapy was used including hypnotism. The defense brought in an expert psychologist and her testimony was eviscerated by the prosecution.