,Law ,Columns ,Opinion

Innocent until proven guilty: Common sense


For five years I have been writing a series titled “Rebuilding America.” The principles are based upon what I perceive to be sound, long-term solutions to problems.

Recently, however, due to the ludicrous and questionable decisions made by those representing us, I am beginning a new series called "Common Sense Chronicles."

My intent in the chronicles is to question the logic of decisions made by those in power or in positions of authority.

While I am not sure if another article about the travesty at Penn State will help, I am certain that the flawed logic of some of the responses to the crisis is a great place to start the "Common Sense Chronicles."

To create more victims, as a perverted means of righting the wrong inflicted on so many innocent children, is testimony to the stupidity, ignorance and flawed logic of those perpetuating these disgraceful solutions.

Imagine these headlines: "GM SUV owners banned for four years from automobile sales incentives"; or perhaps, "Future GM employees lose right to receive professional certifications."

Obviously, if the NCAA had been passing out sanctions for GM's recent recall of 249,000 SUVs instead of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, those headlines would be precisely what you would have seen.

I have read the Freeh Report and the NCAA Report and have read of the accreditation problems facing Penn State because of this Sandusky crime.

I am a CPA. My professional standards require me to be objective. Objectivity requires CPAs to be impartial, intellectually honest and free of conflicts of interest. CPAs are responsible to the public. I would suspect that a former FBI director, the NCAA and the accreditation bodies should also be responsible to the public.

In the Freeh Report, conclusions were drawn based upon the reading of emails.

A very wise judge once told me during a hearing in which I was serving as an expert witness, "That which is not written never happened." He was merely encouraging all parties to keep an open mind and to be professionally skeptical of what we read. Context and the spoken word were important as well.

Keep in mind that during the Freeh investigation, Sandusky was on trial, two Penn State officials were awaiting trial, one Penn State official had sued Penn State and Joe Paterno had passed away. One must question how any investigator could have reasonably come to any conclusion without interviewing five major parties to the case.

In the CPA profession, we have a responsibility to not opine without full disclosure concerning the limitations of our review.

It was clear to the jury that Sandusky was guilty. What is unclear is the culpability of all the other people involved in this case.

In the NCAA report and with the accreditation problems facing Penn State, leaders in their infinite wisdom believe it is acceptable to punish students who had nothing to do with the Sandusky travesty. It seems insane that the court of public opinion would feel that justice has been served by removing scholarships from those who had nothing to do with the problem.

In the event that the academic accreditation problems are not solved at Penn State, federal funding for deserving students and faculty members will be halted. The insanity of such disciplinary actions against the innocent is palpable.

Even in death penalty cases, our nation has found a substantial number of people wrongfully convicted. So to convict someone in the court of public opinion, let alone to punish the innocent, without all the facts is disturbing and mind-boggling at best.

Apparently, we have two courts in this nation: the legal system and the court of public opinion.

A number of years ago, a famous U.S. businessman made the comment that you can have enough profits but can never have too much reputation. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion is more than happy to destroy someone's reputation without any judicial proceeding.

Now is the time for each and every one of us to stand up and help those young people who were hurt by these disgusting vile acts against them. It is also crucial that we stand together and right a wrong against the very group of students who have been punished because it was politically expedient to do so by the NCAA and the accreditation body.

So, in the words of the "Common Sense Chronicles," it makes no sense to punish the masses for the sins of a few. It also makes no sense to create more victims to this horrible Sandusky tragedy in order to merely strike back. Punish those who committed the act, not the students who merely attended the university.

Just as child abuse is disgraceful, so is vengeance.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret.), served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan. He specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and nonprofit organizations. Reach him at FRYAN1951@aol.com and follow him on Twitter at @fryan1951.