Why “Skeptics” Defending Jerry Sandusky Is Ludicrous

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 Atheisttypes.  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.



4 Replies to “Why “Skeptics” Defending Jerry Sandusky Is Ludicrous”

  1. Great takedown. This is how I remember it unfolding. I cannot fathom why Coyne et al think he is innocent with all the collaborating evidence.

  2. I think part of this is that skeptics sometimes look at individual pieces, and note where one should be skeptical, but then scale that up, instead of properly applying Bayes’ to realize that each new piece of evidence requires that they update. Each new piece of evidence has to change our probability that he is guilty towards him being guilty, and with the incredible amount of evidence in this case, even if there are individual cases where skepticism may be warranted, you need a lot of evidence to counter it.

  3. The fact that you got the McQueary year wrong fits perfectly with how many times McQueary has also changed his story about what happened and the time in which it happened.

    And that changed account was the basis for the trial, which was corroborated by individuals that were listening to that testimony and had read the grand jury testimony. They also were suing the school for millions of dollars and didn’t have to produce any actual evidence to support their claim, and did it anonymously.

    In order to believe he’s innocent you have to see that McQueary is a money-grubbing liar (which he’s proven he is), that being a creep that showers with someone doesn’t make you a molester, and that people with in fact lie that they were victims for millions of dollars(Yeah, that never happens…). And as for how you say they wouldn’t lie for fear of sending an innocent man to jail, all their lawyers have to do is suggest that “Well, I mean, he most probably preyed on at least someone based on the number of claims looking for money, so don’t worry if you can’t remember it perfectly or at all. You’re getting a monster off the street.” All the while the lawyers are just seeing dollars.

    The failed talking points of this article, that gets years and many other facts wrong, is telling if the general public’s ignorance to the case. It has simply become a virtue singalong parade of who can prove they hate a child molester more, all the while referring to changed testimony, unreliable victim statements, a lack of evidence, and obvious media bias looking for clicks by creating a media storm to tie this to a football icon as facts when they are shaky and agenda-filled opinion looking for hundreds of millions of dollars.

    You are great evidence of the problem with the case, as you didn’t even read the article or book you wrote about here and justified it by saying someone else did it. Sadly telling about the stupidity that’s led to the accepted inconsistencies that were simply mere opinion in the case as now solid facts.

    1. There is some discrepancy over when the event took place, between a window of roughly December 2001-March 2002. There is nothing about the Sandusky investigation and trial that suggests law enforcement and prosecution did anything out of the ordinary but people who defend Sandusky claim that this is some insane miscarriage of justice. The admission of “hearsay testimony” is one example. Its completely normal for a judge to allow it in a case like this, but it is brought up repeatedly as some aberrant decision by the judge.

      “being a creep that showers with someone doesn’t make you a molester, and that people with in fact lie that they were victims for millions of dollars(Yeah, that never happens…).”

      It simply is not normal behavior for an adult man to shower with underage boys who they are not even related to. It is definitely not normal to defy law enforcement and keep doing it after parents complain. Lets pretend that Sandusky is innocent for a second. Isn’t he a colossally idiotic person? Sure being an idiot doesn’t mean you should go to jail for the rest of your life but there are many, many cases in the Innocence Project that would be far more worthy of somebody’s time than this one. The point is Sandusky acted like a pedophile and then he got accused of being a pedophile. What a coincidence! His son also got arrested for sexual assault. What another coincidence! I don’t have a single person in my whole family who has been arrested for sexual assault and the Sandusky family has two. No criminal prosecution is absolutely perfect in terms of evidence unless the person was caught on tape or committed a crime in front of a dozen eyewitnesses, but this case has a pattern of behavior, two third party eyewitnesses and multiple victims. As for people getting money, do you think victims should not be awarded settlements on principle? I ask this because this seems like circular logic. They got a settlement so they were lying. If we use that logic anybody who sues for anything is lying.

      “The failed talking points of this article, that gets years and many other facts wrong, is telling if the general public’s ignorance to the case.”

      McQuery got the date wrong initially. That’s it. Where are these errors you mention? I even mention in this blog post McQuery got the date wrong at first. So what? If you asked me about an event that happened last year I would probably get the date wrong.

      “You are great evidence of the problem with the case, as you didn’t even read the article or book you wrote about here and justified it by saying someone else did it. Sadly telling about the stupidity that’s led to the accepted inconsistencies that were simply mere opinion in the case as now solid facts.”

      Now this is an accidental irony calling me stupid because you claim I didn’t read the article about the case. Not only DID I read the article but I quote from it extensively in this blog post, suggesting you didn’t actually read the post. The Skeptic Magazine article is presumably an accurate summation of the arguments based on the book, and it is meant to promote the book. If I find the arguments made in that article less than compelling, then it stands to reason I would find the arguments in the book less than compelling.

      My reasons for writing this and not reading the book have to do with Jerry Coyne writing a blog post promoting the thesis of the book, but having not read the book. He also obviously did not read the transcript of the appeal decision, which I did. The court denied Sandusky an appeal because they came to the conclusion that the recovered memory case was largely based on quote mining of statements made by the victims and their therapists. That was the hunch I had after reading the Skeptic Magazine article and the court decision confirmed this. If a person has to quote mine in order to make their case, it is a safe bet I can dismiss their whole argument.

      I would be happy to read the book if there was anything in the Skeptic Magazine article that wasn’t just a bunch of distortions and logical fallacies. The magazine article made not a single good point, so it is safe to say the book doesn’t have much to offer. Once again, the whole point of the magazine article was to represent the argument made in the book. This appeal that everyone must read his book by Mark Pendergast is really about him making money. His book was rejected by every major publisher, meaning they didn’t think it made a good case either. I have a lot of evidence that Mark Pendergast’s book is a big pile of shit, so I dismiss it. I haven’t read every 9/11 truther book, or anti-vaxxer book either, and I dismiss their arguments without having read them for very similar reasons. In addition to this, I know somebody who did review Mark Pendergast’s book, and they said after they gave it a bad review they were harassed and had to block a lot of people online, including the author. So that is what I would have to look forward to if I reviewed the book.

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