Monday, November 22, 2021

'Mayor Of Maple Avenue' Told A.G. He Wasn't A Victim Of Abuse

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

On the tenth anniversary of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Sara Ganim is hosting a podcast where she claims that Shawn Sinisi, a previously unknown alleged victim of Jerry Sandusky's, was the first  alleged Sandusky victim to die as a result of that alleged abuse. 

"In so many ways, Shawn Sinisi was a textbook abuse victim: he was ashamed, confused, angry, unable to admit or discuss what had happened," Ganim says on the new podcast, The Mayor of Maple Avenue, which was Shawn Sinisi's nickmame. "He was a child who seemingly overnight went from a happy go lucky and outgoing kid to a quiet, distant, and then troubled young man."

"He began to escape his pain and bury his memories of abuse with drugs and alcohol," Ganim said. "He became an addict. And when his addiction led him down a darker path, he was given yet another label: criminal."

There's only one problem with Ganim's tragic story of abuse. Shawn Sinisi, who grew up in Altoona, PA, isn't around to speak for himself; in 2018, he died of an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl, at 26. But "during his lifetime," wrote Don Litman, a civil lawyer for Sandusky, to lawyers for the Sinisi family, Shawn Sinisi "unequivocally stated that he was not sexually abused by Mr. Sandusky."

So did Josh Sinisi, Shawn's older brother, who attended the Second Mile camps with his brother, and claimed that they stayed together overnight at Sandusky's house.

That's the story told in a trio of contemporaneous police reports from 2011 and 2012 emanating from the state attorney general's office that are marked "confidential." That's why Litman, who's defending Sandusky against a civil suit filed by the Sinisi family on March 12, 2021, has told the Sinisis, who are the featured guests on the Ganim podcast, that they are engaged in "publishing false and misleading information." So Sandusky's lawyer has called on the parents of Shawn Sinisi to cease and desist.

Litman, who referred a request for comment to Sandusky's criminal layers, has demanded that the Sinisi family take the podcast series off the internet "or we shall bring this to the attention of the Court and seek injunctive relief along with further consequences for such blatant misconduct."

Ronald  Carnevali, a lawyer for the Sinisi family, did not respond to a request for comment.

But those contemporaneous police reports have a lot to say.

On May 27, 2011, Agent Anthony Sassano of the state attorney general's office interviewed Shawn Sinisi at his home. 

In the Sandusky grand jury probe, Sassano was the lead investigator of a joint seven-member task force between the state attorney general's office and the state police that went out knocking on the doors of some 300 young men who had been participants in programs sponsored by The Second Mile, Sandusky's charity for wayward youth.

What the task force that worked under Sassano and then Deputy Attorney Jonelle Eshbach were looking for was victims of sex abuse, but they weren't very successful. 

On Jan. 4, 2012,  Sassano testified that the special task force had interviewed 250 men who were former members of the Second Mile charity, but they only found one man who claimed to be a victim of abuse.

According to a Penn Live story that was based on Ganim's "reporting" for her new podcast, "The Sinisis say that Shawn disclosed a small part of his abuse to detectives when Sandusky came under a grand jury investigation, but he was already mired in the underworld of drugs and addiction by the time the case went to trial. His mother said investigators told her it wasn’t worth pitting two brothers against each other."

The police reports, however, tell a different story.

What Shawn Sinisi Told Agent Sassano Of The A.G.'s Office

When Sassano went to see Shawn Sinisi on May 27, 2011, the then 19-year-old told the agent that he and his older brother Josh had attended the Second Mile summer camps annually for one week between 2004 and 2007, when he would have been between approximately 12 and 16, until Shawn "lost interest in the programs as he became older."

The programs at the Second Mile had been recommended to Josh Sinisi, who had "mental problems" similar to Attention Deficit Disorder by Josh Sinisi's counselor, Shawn Sinisi told Sassano, according to the police report.

Shawn Sinisi, then 19 years old, told Sassano that he and his brother stayed overnight at Sandusky's home seven or eight times, and that the two brothers "always were together in these overnight stays and summer camp stays."

"Shawn indicated he did not know why Sandusky showed a special interest in him and/or his brother," Sassano wrote. "He indicated that Sandusky would tell him he loved him and occasionally gave him a kiss on the head. He indicated that he did not view these acts as sexual in nature."

On March 30, 2011, Ganim, then working for the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, published the first story that disclosed there was a secret grand jury of Sandusky under way, amid allegations that Sandusky was a serial sexual abuser of children. 

"He [Shawn Sinisi] indicated he never felt uncomfortable around Sandusky and would tell me if anything inappropriate had occurred," Sassano wrote. 

"He [Shawn Sinisi] elaborated that he [Sandusky] has a current legal charge of rape pending against him and if something was done by Sandusky, he would report it," Sassano wrote. 

But Shawn Sinisi wasn't claiming to be a victim. Instead, he was a booster of Sandusky.

"Shawn indicated he believes Sandusky is a great role model as he helps people in need," Sassano wrote.

What Shawn Sinisi's Older Brother Told Agent Sassano Of The A.G.'s Office

Four days after he interviewed Shawn Sinisi, on May 31, 2011, Agent Sassano returned to interview Josh Sinisi, then 23. 

Josh Sinisi told Sassano that he began attending Second Mile events in 2001, when he was a 12 year-old seventh grader, and stayed in the program until 2005 or 2006, when he was 16 or 17.

Josh Sinisi said he developed a "closer relationship" with Sandusky, and stayed overnight with his brother at Sandusky's house about a dozen times. Josh Sinisi said he used to attend Sandusky family tailgate parties at Penn State football games, and then go to the football games.

Josh Sinisi said that Sandusky used to throw footballs to him, and that they played Polish soccer together, and lifted weights.

As the task force typically did, Agent Sassano of the state attorney general's office proceeded to ask a bunch of leading questions.

"I asked him [Josh Sinisi] if Sandusky ever touched him physically in any way that made him feel uncomfortable," Sassano wrote, and Josh Sinisi "indicated no." 

"I asked if Sandusky ever tried to get him to take a shower with him at PSU, and if so, did he touch him and again he indicated no," Sassano wrote.

Josh "Sinisi indicated that if Sandusky had ever done touched him in a sexual manner, he would have let his mother know and he would not have tolerated it even at his younger age," Sassano wrote.

Not even the free publicity from Sara Ganim was beneficial for the state attorney general's investigation of Sandusky, when it came to Agent Sassano's interviews with the Sinisi brothers. 

Josh "Sinisi indicated he heard of the allegations against Sandusky in the news and that he does not believe they are true," Sassano wrote. "He indicated that Sandusky is a very generous and most positive person who helps people [kids] with problems. He indicated to this day, he has occasional contact with Sandusky via phone and considers him a friend."

That's the story that Josh Sinisi told, but it wasn't the story that Sassano was hoping to hear.

Agent Sassano Interviews Shawn's Brother A Second Time

On May 9, 2012, when the state attorney general's office was getting ready to prosecute Sandusky at trial, Sassano returned to visit Josh Sinisi again to see if he would tell a different story, as did so many of Sandusky's accusers after they had initially said they weren't abused.

But Josh Sinisi didn't change his story.

Josh Sinisi told Sassano that he first met Sassano at the Penn State swimming pool, where Sandusky was often "horsing around in the pool with a lot of the kids."

When he stayed over at Sandusky's house, Josh Sinisi told Sassano, he brought his girlfriend along, as well as his brother, Shawn.

"He [Josh Sinisi] aways felt very comfortable with Jerry Sandusky and also brought a lot of his cousins with him to go to games and hang out at the Sanduskys' house," Sassano wrote.

"He stated that after staying at Sandusky's house many, many times, he knows that Sandusky would have had ample opportunity to abuse him if he was so inclined to do so," Sassano wrote.

But, "He [Sandusky] never once tried anything out of line with Sinisi," Sassano wrote. Instead, Josh "Sinisi stated that Sandusky is kind of a grandfatherly, huggy type of guy and genuinely tries to encourage kids with his enthusiasm. His hugging and caring for the kids is never sexual at all."

Josh Sinisi told Sassano "that he does not believe that these allegations are true and feels that this might be some attempt by these kids to get money from Penn State and Jerry Sandusky."

Josh Sinisi added that "he has never heard anyone speak about Jerry Sandusky in a negative way" and that Sandusky "always had a tremendous impact on a lot of kids."

Josh Sinisi also told Sassano that "Sandusky was a positive influence in his life to say the least. Sandusky set Sinisi on his life course and Sinisi feels he would have never gotten into college and would never bein the position he is in today without Sandusky's help," Sassano wrote. "He [Josh Sinisi] said that Sandusky was extremely influential in his life."

But that's not the story Sara Ganim is telling on her podcast.

According to the Penn Live story based on Ganim's reporting, "Years would pass before Shawn told his mother and a lawyer that he was sexually abused by Sandusky. Afraid of disappointing his family, who were fans of Sandusky’s mentorship for Josh, Shawn began coping by self-medicating, first with alcohol and marijuana, quickly escalating to hardcore drugs."

And now, according to Penn Live, Josh Sinisi has changed his story as well.

According to the Penn Live story, "Brother Josh, who was also in Sandusky’s orbit, said the convicted child molester used his good relationship with him to intimidate Shawn into being silent. It worked for many years. Shawn kept his abuse bottled up, instead turning to drugs to cope, starting at age 13."

Phil Lauer, a criminal defense lawyer who is representing Sandusky in his appeal of his conviction, "I was not aware of the Sinisi family ever coming forward in the previous ten years."

Sara Ganim's Story Of Abuse

"In the summer of 2019, I got a call from a woman who identified herself as Marianne Sinisi," Ganim said. "She wanted to talk to me about her son Shawn — and what had happened just a year earlier, when Shawn was found unconscious on the floor of a McDonald’s bathroom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shawn died that night of an overdose. He was just 26 years old."

"Marianne sounded somewhat frantic on the phone that day as she described what had happened to her youngest child," Ganim said. "She reached out to me to share her story, because Shawn had also been a victim. A victim of a man who is now one of the most well known serial pedophiles, Jerry Sandusky."

"Jerry Sandusky’s conviction was punishment for what he had done, and it ensured that he could not harm any other children, but it couldn’t undo the abuse — or the consequences and myriad of ways it would manifest in his victims’ lives," Ganim said according to a transcript of the first episode of the podcast posted online. 

"As someone who had followed the Sandusky story since the very beginning, I recognized immediately: that Shawn’s death marked a grim milestone — a fatality stemming from Jerry Sandusky’s abuse," Ganim said according to the transcript.

The Sinisi family is suing Penn State. The Penn Live story, based on Ganim's reporting, states, "Penn State had agreed to pay for Shawn to go to The Meadows, a treatment facility in Arizona with a sterling reputation . . ."

"What they [the Sinisi family] did know is that after just eight days in the rehab center, Shawn was told to leave. He was put on a plane to Pittsburgh, with no safe destination lined up for him."

"His family doesn’t know exactly what happened from there. He ended up at a McDonald’s and overdosed in the bathroom."

“Our poor Shawn,” his mother Marianne told Penn Live. “I felt like he wasn’t cared for at all ... not even leaving the planet."

In a Nov. 3rd press release, Meadowlark Media announced the new multi-episode podcast chronicling the Jerry Sandusky scandal that would be broadcast "on the 10th anniversary of his arrest."

'"The Mayor of Maple Avenue' is a multi-part investigative podcast with reporting by Sara Ganim," the press release states. 

"Sinisi died in 2018 at the age of 26 from an opioid overdose. He is the only one of Sandusky’s victims known to have died since the former coach was convicted on 45 counts of sexual child abuse."

The press release says the podcast is a "joint project between the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Pulitzer Center for Local Reporting."

“Sara’s powerful reporting details how Shawn spent 14 years bouncing between jail, rehab facilities, and homelessness," the press release says. "The endless roadblocks the young man and his family faced, as they attempted to overcome addiction and trauma, clearly point to a national rehab system in drastic need of overhaul.”

"The Mayor of Maple Avenue will debut Thursday, Nov. 4 (the 10th anniversary of Sandusky’s arrest and indictment), available on your podcast platform of choice, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify."

To get a response to this story, I emailed or tweeted Ganim, Meadowlark Media, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Pulitzer Center for Local Reporting, but did not receive a response from anybody. 

More Holes In Ganim's Story Of Abuse

There are a few more problems with the story that Ganim and the Sinisis are peddling.

If Shawn Sinisi was an alleged victim of Sandusky's, why didn't he come forward any time after Sandusky was convicted on June 22, 2012 until Sept. 4, 2018, when Sinisi died?

That's what 41 men did and 36 of them got paid a total of $118 million, or an average of $3.3 million each. But when Penn State was taking in all those claims, investigating nothing and writing some big checks, Shawn Sinisi wasn't on the list of alleged victims.

Why not? Why would Shawn Sinisi and/or his family miss out on the gold rush?

Instead, the Sinisi family filed a lawsuit two years after Shawn's death in Philadelphia in 2020 but waited until March 12th of this year to notify the defendants in the case about the civil complaint in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

The complaint is filed against Sandusky, the Second Mile, and Jack Raykovitz, former president, CEO and executive director of the Second Mile, and his wife, Katherine, who was the charity's executive vice president. In that lawsuit, Penn State is not listed as a defendant. 

In the 77-page complaint, the lawyer for the Sinisis reprises the entire now-discredited narrative of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, complete with the alleged anal rape of a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State showers that was an invention of the fiction writers in the state attorney general's office, and the alleged cover up conducted by top Penn State officials, which was the invention of the authors of the Freeh Report.

On this blog, I have printed an 8,000 word summary of what really happened in the case, compiled from thousands of pages of court records, and hundreds of pages of confidential records that are still under seal. 

It's a synopsis that thoroughly debunks the entire false narrative from start to finish. If you haven't read it previously, you might want to take a look. 

The typical routine of many of Sandusky's accusers was to initially deny they'd been abused. And then they'd hire a lawyer, undergo scientifically-discredited recovered memory therapy, and then they'd say that the doors of their minds had been opened, and now they recalled all kinds of abuse that they had apparently forgotten about.

But nowhere in the 77-page complaint filed by the Sinisis does it mention any recovered memory therapy undergone by Shawn. While the complaint claims that Shawn Sinisi was alone when he was abused by Sandusky, the complaint never mentions Josh Sinisi, Shawn Sinisi's older brother, who, according to the three police reports was always with Shawn whenever they attended a Second Mile event, or stayed over at Sandusky's house.

The Civil Claim Filed By The Sinisis Against Sandusky

The complaint does state that in the summer of 2000, Shawn Sinisi, then eight years old, attended a summer camp sponsored by the Second Mile that was held on the Penn State campus.

That's in stark contrast to Shawn Sinisi's interview with Agent Sassano, when he states that he began attending Second Mile events in 2004, when he was approximately 12 years old.

The complaint is also in stark contrast with older brother Josh Sinisi's interview with Agent Sassano, where he stated he began attending Second Mile events in 2001, when he was a 12-year-old seventh grader. 

But the complaint states that back in 2000, when Shawn was eight, that Sandusky "began to groom Shawn Sinisi to become a victim of his sexual assaults."

"During that summer camp, Sandusky would, among other things, swim in the pool with Shawn Sinisi and grope his genitalia," the lawsuit claims. The following summer, in 2001,Sandusky continued to sexually assault Shawn Sinisi, including while in the showers of the Lasch Building."

"Over the next several years, Sandusky continued to groom Shawn Sinisi, spend excessive time with Shawn Sinisi, purchase gifts for Shawn Sinisi and his family, and sexually assault and abuse Shawn Sinisi," the complaint states.

"Sandusky continued to invite Shawn Sinisi to events hosted by Penn State and The Second Mile; invited Shawn Sinisi to attend various sporting events as his guest, including Penn State, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Philadelphia Eagles football games; invited Shawn Sinisi to attend football camps hosted by Penn State and The Second Mile on various Penn State campuses; invited Shawn to his home in State College, Pennsylvania, where Shawn was encouraged to spend the night on numerous occasions; and invited Shawn Sinisi to Penn State athletic facilities in order to exercise and spend time with Sandusky."

"During these activities, Sandusky sexually assaulted Shawn Sinisi in various manners," the complaint states.

"As a direct and proximate result of the sexual abuse suffered by Shawn Sinisi at the hands of Sandusky, Shawn Sinisi began to utilize drugs and alcohol in order to manage and/or cope with the physical and emotional trauma, physical and mental pain, and other damages and injuries, as set forth above."

"Shawn Sinisi continued to utilize drugs and alcohol to manage and/or cope with the damages and/or injuries he suffered, as set forth above, until around or about September 4, 2018, when he overdosed on heroin and died," the complaint concludes.

"The death of Shawn Sinisi is a direct and proximate result of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Sandusky."

The Problems With Sara Ganim's Reporting

Ganim, who, at 24, won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on Sandusky, was the beneficiary of many leaks about the supposedly secret grand jury investigation of Sandusky, leaks that would forever poison Sandusky's reputation, and deprive him of his right to a fair trial.

Ganim reported on a prior 1998 investigation into another Sandusky shower incident that turned out to be unfounded. Somebody in the know had leaked to Ganim a police report from the prior 1998 case that had turned up no crime, a police report that was supposed to be expunged.

Who gave Ganim that police report? There's a short list of suspects, a few of whom were employed by the state Attorney General's office. 

In a 79-page diary compiled by former FBI Agent Kathleen McChesney, who was an investigator for former FBI Director Louis Freeh during his civil investigation into an alleged cover up at Penn State, McChesney recorded that one of the first documents that Freeh's investigators sought was a "1998 investigation report [that] has been provided," regarding the investigation of that first shower incident, a police report that was supposed to have been expunged.

On Jan. 4, 2012, McChesney wrote that during a meeting with investigator Anthony Sassano and another official from the state attorney general's office, she learned that the "1998 police report" was "out of sequence and filed in administrative rather than criminal." And that the Penn State police chief and the original investigator from the 1998 incident were the "only ones who knew."

McChesney recorded that the Freeh Group was going to notify deputy Attorney General Frank Fina that they wanted to interview Ronald Schreffler, the investigator from Penn State Police who probed the 1998 shower incident. After he was notified, McChesney wrote, "Fina approved interview with Schreffler."

Scrheffler became convinced that there was a leak in the state attorney general's grand jury investigation of Sandusky.

On March 12, 2012, the retired detective called Richard Sethman, one of Freeh's investigators.

What did Schreffler have to say? According to a confidential report from Sethman, the retired detective stated that "it has been clear to him from the beginning that there has been a leak of information in the attorney general's grand jury investigation of Sandusky."

How did Schreffler know that?

"In March of 2011," the report says, "Sara Ganim, a reporter for the Patriot News in Harrisburg came to his residence and asked pointed questions about the 1998 Sandusky investigation," Sethman wrote after his conversation with the retired detective.

"Ganim advised Schreffler that she had a copy of the Pennsylvania State University Police report. She made specific reference to what Schreffler had written in the report. Schreffler asked Ganim how she got a copy of the report but Ganim would not reveal her source."

Besides publishing grand jury leaks that permanently destroyed Sandusky's chances for a fair trial, Ganim also functioned during the secret grand jury probe of Sandusky as an official courier for the A.G.'s office. 

According to a brief filed by Sandusky's appeal lawyers, at a time when the grand jury probe was struggling to find victims, and in danger of expiring, Ganim "approached the mother of accuser 6," Deb McCord, according to the testimony of State Police Corporal Joseph Leiter, and gave McCord the name and phone number for an investigator assigned to the attorney general's office.

Ganim, according to the brief, had a message for McCord:

"Debra, it's Sara from the Patriot. I just want to pass along this agent's name and number. The Attorney General has expressed interest in helping you."

At Sandusky's trial, rather than have Ganim testify in court, the prosecutors from the state attorney general's office admitted in a legal stipulation that Ganim had acted as a messenger for the state attorney general's office by contacting McCord.

Another Bogus Ganim Scoop

In 2017, Ganim, then working for CNN, struck again with a highly prejudicial scoop that was the result of another leak. 

Ganim claimed she had obtained a one-page police report about the 1998 shower incident that "bolsters evidence" that the late Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, "knew years before Jerry Sandusky's arrest that his longtime assistant might be abusing children."

The one page Pennsylvania state police report from 2011, supposedly obtained from a source, Ganim wrote, is "described here for the first time." The report, which she never published, supposedly "lays out an account from whistleblower Mike McQueary," who was telling Paterno about the since-discredited story about the rape in the showers of a 10-year-old boy.

"Paterno allegedly told McQueary in 2001 that the claim against Sandusky 'was the second complaint of this nature he had received," according to the police report, which was written after Sandusky's arrest 10 years later," Ganim wrote.

"Paterno, upon hearing the news, sat back in his chair with a dejected look on his face," the report states, adding that McQueary "said Paterno's eyes appeared to well up with tears."

As somebody who's read a lot of police report, those are some pretty dramatic flourishes. 

Here's the rest of the story, as reported by Ganim:

"Then he [Paterno] made the comment to McQueary this was the second complaint of this nature he had received about Sandusky," the report states, citing McQueary's recollection."

The police report also noted, Ganim wrote, that Paterno allegedly told McQueary that Dottie Sandusky, Jerry's wife, had told Sue Paterno, Joe's wife, that "Jerry doesn't like girls."

Ganim's 2017 scoop was immediately denounced as false by both the Paterno family and Sandusky's wife.

"Well CNN published a lie from Sara Ganim," tweeted Scott Paterno, a lawyer who defended his father during the Sandusky scandal. "Sue [Paterno] never said that Dottie [Sandusky] told her anything and this was categorically denied before publication."

"To be clear Sara Ganim and @CNN is using triple hearsay to get clicks and it's false. And enough is enough."

"To my knowledge we were not contacted by Sara Ganim for a response," Dottie Sandusky wrote. "If we had been, I would have told her that this is old news which actually exonerates both Joe and Jerry."

"The incident in question is the 1998 [shower] episode which, according to [Former Penn State Athletic Director] Tim Curley's testimony, Joe knew was fully investigated by the D.A. and determined to be unfounded," Dottie Sandusky wrote.

"I never said that Jerry doesn't like girls and the factual record, including at trial, makes that extremely obvious to anyone not invested in this entire fairy tale."

To sum up, this month marks the tenth anniversary of Sara Ganim's report of the illegal grand jury leak of the grand jury presentment that contained the false allegation that Jerry Sandusky had been by seen a lone witness raping a 10-year-old boy in the showers, a leak that set off the whole media firestorm over the alleged sex abuse scandal at Penn State.

And on that tenth anniversary of that sorry event, Sara Ganim has taken it upon herself to provide for all of us a fresh example of how, when it comes to Jerry Sandusky, her reporting can't be trusted.

2 comments

  1. Hey Mr.C! The idiot progressive DA in Milwaukee recently had the balls to admit that letting a violent bail jumping sex offender out on chump change bail allowing said sex offender to perpetrate a massacre was a bad idea - do you think our own let em' out larry will learn anything from that?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why was Ganim chosen, why not a more seasoned well known journalist? Was she more easily manipulated? Was she unaware about leaking grand jury testimony? Would the investigation have gone differently had there been no leaks?

    Did any of the State Police who went looking for victims benefit financially? Did any of them receive a promotion or salary increase?

    Fina should be sitting in jail, Ganin should testify against him.

    ReplyDelete

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