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Joe Paterno statue: Penn State brings down 'obstacle to healing' (+video)

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, Penn State officials removed the statue of head football coach Joe Paterno. He had been implicated in covering up the abuse.

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But he acknowledged being told of one instance reported in 2001 by Mike McQueary, at the time a graduate assistant in Penn State’s football program, who said he witnessed what looked like Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the team locker-room shower.

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In an independent report on the whole affair, former FBI director Louis Freeh wrote that Paterno was among a group of senior university officials who “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity … repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large.”

Along with Penn State President Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley, Paterno “never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest,” Mr. Freeh said in a statement releasing his report earlier this month.

“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” Freeh said.

The four former officials already had lost their jobs in the scandal. Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz await trial on charges of failing to report child abuse and lying to a grand jury. Former president Spanier hasn't been charged. Paterno's family, along with attorneys for Spanier, Curley and Schultz, vehemently deny any suggestion they protected a pedophile.

Some commentators and former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden had urged university officials to remove Paterno’s statue. At one point, a small airplane pulled a banner over State College reading, "Take the statue down or we will."

“The world will be watching how Penn State addresses its challenges in the days ahead,” university president Erickson said Sunday. “While some may take issue with the decisions I have made, I trust that everyone associated with our University will respond in a civil and respectful manner.”

“I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision,” he added. “Today, as every day, our hearts go out to the victims.”

Paterno’s statue was built in 2001 in honor of his record-setting 324th Division 1 coaching victory and his "contributions to the university."

As workers lifted the statue off its base, using a forklift to move it into Beaver Stadium early Sunday, 100 to 150 students chanted "We are Penn State."

IN PICTURES: Fallout from the Penn State scandal

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