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Paterno in a statement issued Sunday evening by his son, Scott, said he's troubled that someone he thought he knew may have harmed young people. Paterno said he and wife, Sue have devoted their lives to helping young people reach their potential.
"The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling," he said. "If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers."
Paterno referred to his grand jury testimony in which he testified that he was informed by an assistant coach in 2002 that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of the team locker room. Prosecutors have said Paterno had passed on the information to athletic director Tim Curley.
But Paterno said specific actions alleged to have occurred in the grand jury report were not relayed to him.
"It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report," Paterno said in the statement. "Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators."
Sandusky retired from his assistant's job in 1999. He is charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.
Curley and Gary Schultz, the university's senior vice president for finance and business, were charged Saturday with failing to report to state and county officials that a witness told them he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a naked boy in the locker room showers in 2002.
Schultz and Curley were both also charged with perjury. Lawyers for all three men have said they are innocent.
"I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold," Paterno said in the statement. "In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are."
A Hall of Famer, Paterno on Oct. 29 won his 409th victory, most among Division I coaches. Penn State was off this weekend and next plays Nebraska on Saturday in the home finale.
''If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters," he said. "While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred."