New Allegations That Penn State Failed To Act On Sex Abuse Claims

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Phoenix private investigator Paul McLaughlin alleges that he was abused by a Penn State professor for four years in the 1970s and 80s, when McLaughlin was a young teenager.

McLaughlin says that when he finally contacted Penn State officials to tell them about the events, he was rebuffed.

He was allegedly chastised by officials for trying to blackmail the school. He was also allegedly told by then- Penn State President Graham Spanier that Spanier was not interested in listening to a tape in which Professor John Neisworth allegedly confessed to giving alcohol to and engaging in various sexual acts with McLaughlin.

But McLaughlin says that when he approached the University, and its president Graham Spanier, he was told they weren't interested in extortion and weren't interested in listening to his tape. That conversation allegedly took place just days before Spanier was told about the allegations against football coach Jerry Sandusky. McLaughlin has since won two civil suits against the professor, a criminal case was dismissed.

The Beginning Of The Abuse

The abuse began, according to McLaughlin, at the hands of McLaughlin's neighbor, who was later criminally charged in the same case as Professor John Neiwsworth. McLaughlin says the neighbor brought him to Neisworth, who continued to abuse him on and off campus, in three different states, while he was between 11 and 15 years old.

McLaughlin has since won two civil settlements against Neisworth. He also pressed criminal charges in the state of Maryland in 2005 (one of the states where abuse had occurred, and the statute of limitations had not expired). However, the only tangible evidence McLaughlin offered, the tape, was not admissible in court since that state requires that both parties be aware that a recording is being made.

While McLaughlin says he has no idea whether there's any connection between the alleged abuse by Sandusky and his own abuse, he contends that his case is an example of a general  mentality at the school that dismisses the concerns, and in some cases, the safety, of non-students. He refers specifically to education school Dean David Monk.

"In a short statement he reiterates twice that I was not a student at Penn State, as if I didn't matter, because I was not a Penn State student," McLaughlin says.

McLaughlin says he has not heard from the school since 2002; nor has he heard from investigators into the Sandusky allegations. School officials say they have tried unsuccessfully to reach McLaughlin, and that the new president Rodney Erickson mailed a letter to McLaughlin Friday. The school says they are offering McLaughlin counseling, an offer which has been extended before.

Statement From Penn State University About McLaughlin's Case

This is from emails sent to Here & Now by Lisa Powers, Director of Public Information at Penn State University

Graham Spanier is no longer with the University and I don't know if he was ever contacted by Mr. McLaughlin. I checked and the office of the president has no record in their logs of a letter coming in to Dr. Spanier from Mr. McLaughlin. There is no record kept for phone calls Dr. Spanier would have received during his tenure.

Although Mr. McLaughlin was not a student at Penn State, we do know that Neisworth was a professor here during the time of the terrible incidents that have been reported. Dean David Monk has stated unequivocally that he has had no personal contact from Mr. McLaughlin at any point and was never offered access to a tape recording. He also never received a tape in the mail from Mr. McLaughlin. Dean Monk learned about the allegations from Mr. Neisworth shortly before the story appeared in the press in 2002. The dean did hear from a member of Mr. McLaughlin's family about the situation.

Upon learning of the charges, the university immediately moved to ensure that Neisworth's work at this campus did not involve children. It did not. Additional actions were considered, but when we learned of the allegations in 2002, law enforcement was already deeply involved. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Neisworth decided to retire from his faculty position at Penn State. Subsequently, the charges were dismissed against Mr. Neisworth. That prevented the university from taking any other action with either McLaughlin, who was not a student, and with Neisworth, who had already retired from our campus.

Mr. Neisworth taught in an online distance education program following his retirement from this college. He no longer teaches at Penn State.

President Erickson did receive a letter just last week from Mr. McLaughlin. A response from the University should be forthcoming.

We remain concerned about Mr. McLaughlin’s allegations and reiterate Penn State’s willingness to make counseling services available to him if he wishes to receive this assistance. In fact, our vice president for student affairs has attempted contact on several occasions, but has not had any luck in getting a response. We have been in touch with colleagues at a local university in Arizona to see if they might contact Mr. McLaughlin as well and go through the appropriate channels for counseling options.

Lisa Powers
Director of Public Information, Penn State University

We asked Penn State why Professor Neisworth is still listed as a professor emeritus on the school's website. She responded:

The emeritus title was granted after the charges were declared unfounded by police and the courts. It is common in academe to grant emeritus status — so he remains listed in our database as do our other emeriti faculty.He is not on campus and has not had an office since he retired. He no longer teaches here in any capacity.


  • Paul McLaughlin, Phoenix private investigator

This segment aired on December 16, 2011.


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