Penn State silent on sexual extortion issues involving student athletes

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Unanswered questions

Shortly after the search warrants were unsealed, Spotlight PA sent the university and Penn State police detailed questions regarding its incident handling and investigation of possible crimes.

The university responded to questions the following day with a short statement providing few details about the status of the case or its handling.

Spotlight PA asked further questions, including requests for clarification of the statement, but the university said it would not provide additional information.

The outlet publishes its entire email exchange with Penn State, which includes the university’s full list of questions and answers.

In particular, Spotlight PA investigated whether everyone shown in the videos had been identified and informed of the alleged extortion plot.

In a statement, the university said campus police have been working since September 2021 “to attempt to identify both victims and suspects.” Penn State did not respond to questions about whether this work had been completed.

Penn State said in a separate statement that it “found no evidence to indicate that the sex acts depicted in the videos were not consensual.”

The university did not respond to questions about whether campus police have or plan to investigate potential crimes contained in the videos or images it obtained.

Based on the information provided in the search warrants, a number of state laws have potentially been violated.

Under Pennsylvania law, “selling, lending, distributing, transmitting, exhibiting, giving, or showing any obscene material to anyone 18 years of age or older is at least a first degree misdemeanor.” Pennsylvania law also makes it a third-degree misdemeanor for anyone to photograph or film someone without their consent while that person is fully or partially nude and in a place where the person would expect privacy.

The law considers it a separate crime for each victim, or if the same victim is photographed or filmed on separate occasions. More than one violation of the law makes the crime a second degree misdemeanor.

Spotlight PA asked if campus police could determine that no minors were involved in the shared videos or photographs. The university did not respond.

Penn State provided limited information regarding Title IX and Clery Act concerns.

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex in all federally funded educational institutions. Under Penn State’s Title IX policy, coaches and assistant coaches are mandatory reporters if they learn of a potential violation.

Penn State policy defines sexual exploitation as including “the non-consensual visual or audio recording of sexual activity; the non-consensual display or distribution of photos, images, or information about an individual’s sexual activity or private parts of their body,” among others.

Penn State said in a statement that “the appropriate entities within the University were properly notified in a timely manner, including the Office of Title IX and the Office of Athletic Integrity, among others.” However, the university did not respond to questions about whether a Title IX complaint had been filed.

The university would not respond to a follow-up request for a list of all offices that were notified, nor would it respond to a request to provide more specific information about when those offices were alerted to the situation.

The Clery Act, enacted in 1990, requires universities and colleges to report statistics on crimes related to sexual assault, burglary, hate crimes, domestic violence, harassment and bullying, among others. The law requires Penn State to send “timely warnings” to its campuses when violations of the Clery Act are reported.

The university said it “is not aware of any crime of record in Clery associated with this investigation, and a timely warning is not necessary.”

Spotlight PA has requested a copy of any information shared with students or student-athletes advising them of the situation.

Penn State would not provide the requested information.

You can send advice or questions about the case to Massey at [email protected] or 445-236-0562. See safer ways to reach it here.

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

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