The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 12, 2012

Pension cuts punish criminals' families

Daily Item

---- — The State Employees Retirement System has revoked Jerry Sandusky's pension in light of his conviction for sexually abusing young men he met through the charity he founded.

The crimes, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault, fall under the state's pension forfeiture statute, revised in 2004 to include sex crimes against students. Sandusky was earning an average of $101,787 when he retired. Since a 2004 cost-of-living adjustment, Sandusky's pension payment has been $4,908.17 a month. Sandusky's wife, Dorothy, was designated to receive half his pension in the event of his death, but the pension board revoked that, too.

The most well-documented abuse occurred after Sandusky retired from his position as an assistant football coach for Penn State. The pension system further found that because Sandusky continued to use his affiliation with Penn State and access to campus buildings to gain the trust of his victims, he was a "de facto" employee.

The pension system noted the former coach's numerous appearances on behalf of Penn State, and an agreement university officials signed to further the collaboration between university athletics and Sandusky's The Second Mile charity. It is a Solomon-like legal distinction that prevents Sandusky from saving his pension by arguing that he was not on the public payroll at the time of the crimes.

The move also effectively punishes Dorothy Sandusky for the crimes of her husband.

Dorothy Sandusky has steadfastly maintained that she was unaware of any wrongdoing by Jerry Sandusky. In a letter to the judge who sentenced Jerry Sandusky, she said that "as a mother and grandmother" she would have intervened if she had suspected that her husband was preying on the boys.

Many people believe that her claims strain credulity and that the loss of pension is an appropriate form of economic justice. Sandusky's family should not benefit financially from their relationship to Penn State. It is a relationship that brought shame upon an entire university and tarnished the legacy of iconic Coach Joe Paterno.

The families of convicts are a unique, and generally overlooked set of victims. They must cope with shame, a shattered family and, as in this case, a loss of income. Aggravating the penalty for convicts' families is problematic. Would it stop a predator to know that if he is caught, it will mean financial devastation for the family he leaves behind? Maybe that is something Sandusky ought to have considered long ago.