Who's next, bin Laden?
We have seen a witch hunt, and Paterno, the man who in large part made Penn State a national university, has been tossed into a lake, hands tied behind his back.
And he's not coming up for air — not now, maybe not ever.
Penn State's over-reactive board of trustees, a spiteful Pennsylvania governor, hysteria fueled by a sometimes misleading media and of course Jerry Sandusky are principally to blame.
It is Sandusky, who if authorities are correct, is the one who deserves comparisons to the most heinous criminals of our time.
Paterno, who was ousted from his coaching job last week by the trustees, may yet deserve blame, but he deserved due process. Yes, the boys who were sexual assault victims (allegedly) of Sandusky didn't get due process and did not deserve what happened to them either, but Paterno's situation is a separate matter for action. A separate matter that is difficult for people to put aside because of the horrific nature of the charges against Sandusky.
But it should be. For punishing Paterno was a rush to judgment, and he's not even the alleged perpetrator, not charged with any crime or cover-up.
To be clear, I have prayed for the victims, not for Paterno. But … Paterno received no hearing, no interview, no chance to defend himself. There was no internal investigation, no further discovery. The employer caved to outside pressure and relied on a grand jury summary — a prosecutorial document designed to get convictions and to sway public opinion — to cut him loose.
In bouncing Paterno last week, John Surma, the vice chair of Penn State's Board of Trustees, said the trustees "do not yet know all the facts."
Exactly 51 seconds later, Surma, when asked why Paterno was let go, responded: "In consideration of all the facts …"
Talk about an oxymoron. Which one is it? Do you have all the facts or not? And if not, on what are you basing your decision?
Apparently, the trustees must not have had all the facts, because Surma, later in the same news conference, said the trustees do not have all the "actual facts and circumstances."
Let's not let the "actual facts and circumstances" get in the way of a knee-jerk reaction.
I will be accused of unjustly defending Paterno when I am not doing so. I am defending the process, saying to wait and see and let it play out.
I also will be accused of "not getting it." But get this: When "we don't know" and hysteria become the basis for doling out punishment, we're all in trouble. That's not a slippery slope; that's an avalanche crashing down on individual rights.
Shoot first. Get the truth later.
In this case, just get rid of someone who's given 61 years of service.
Unload him without examining his entire grand jury testimony, without interviewing the principals involved.
Without knowing exactly what Mike McQueary, the eyewitness to the 2002 alleged assault involving Sandusky, said to Paterno. Or if McQueary told Paterno in 2002 that police were in fact aware of the incident.