Failing to Report - Knowledge can be criminal
By Joe Lodato
By failing to report the sexual abuse or assault on a child, of which he was aware, legendary Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, is poised to lose his job and may yet face more severe sanctions. This could have been worse in Tennessee. In Tennessee, this inaction would be a criminal offense and punishable under the law. " Any person required to report known or suspected child sexual abuse who knowingly and willfully fails to do so, or who knowingly and willfully prevents another person from doing so, commits a Class A misdemeanor." Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-615.
Paterno did report one incident of abuse, as related to him by a graduate assistant at the time, to his then Athletic Director Tim Curley. But neither Curley nor Joe Pa had notified the police, or local law enforcement or child protective services authorities in Pennsylvania. While Curley and Paterno have appeared to violate no applicable Pennsylvania criminal statute, the court of popular opinion has certainly condemned their respective silence. As stated above, lack of legal, or at least criminal, repercussions would not be the case had this incident occurred in the State of Tennessee.
Of further concern, is the question of whether the graduate assistant who witnessed the assault and reported it to Paterno would have been in compliance with current Tennessee law. I'm sure all involved with knowledge of the allegations and situations of the sexual assaults would have been well-advised to have consulted legal counsel at the time of the discovery and non-disclosures. If faced with a situation where you are aware of the criminal wrong-doing of another, it is best to consult with an experienced Knoxville, Tennessee criminal defense attorney to discuss your obligations and liabilities.