Newly uncovered emails in the Jerry Sandusky case show that Penn State officials were on the verge of blowing the whistle on him -- but changed their minds after talking to coach Joe Paterno.
The missives, obtained by CNN, seemingly contradict the late Paterno's claim that he alerted higher-ups to a report of Sandusky showering with a boy and had nothing to do with the matter after that.
They could also spell trouble for a trio of university bigwigs: Athletic Director Tom Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, who have been charged with perjury, and former college president Graham Spanier, who was forced to resign after the scandal broke.
Tom Kline, a lawyer for one of the molestation victims, called the emails "shocking" and told CNN they showed a "concerted, conscious, collaborative effort" to keep Sandusky's crimes a secret from authorities.
The emails were sent in 2001, two weeks after assistant coach Mike McQueary found Sandusky and a boy in a shower - and three years after another shower incident.
They reveal that Penn State administrators planned to alert Sandusky's Second Mile charity and the state Department of Public Welfare, but dropped that idea after consulting with Paterno.
"After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps," Curley wrote to Schultz and Spanier.
The officials even acknowledged in the emails that not raising the red flag about Sandusky's conduct could land them in hot water "down the road."
But Curley expressed support for getting "professional help" for the defensive coordinator.
"I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell them about the information we received and tell them we are aware of the first situation," he reportedly wrote.
Spanier said he was "supportive" of that approach, according to CNN.
"The only downside for us is if the message isn't heard and acted upon and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," he wrote presciently.
Penn State never reported the troubling allegations to law enforcement. The emails seem to contradict Curley's claim he didn't know about the 1998 shower incident, since he appears to refer to it. They also fly in the face of Paterno's claim that he wasn't involved in a coverup. The legendary Nittany Lions coach, who was fired after the allegations became public, died of lung cancer in January.
Sandusky was convicted last week of abusing 10 boys for years. His adopted son has since come forward to say he was repeatedly molested, starting when he was 8 years old.