It’s been 10 years since former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and indicted on multiple felony charges of sexual abuse against minors. The resulting national scandal nearly destroyed the Penn State football program and ended the career of legendary coach Joe Paterno in disgrace.
A new podcast from Meadowlark Media and Advance Local will recount the Sandusky saga through the story of Shawn Sinisi, one of the children who attended The Second Mile Camp that Sandusky founded to help underprivileged youth. Sandusky ended up finding many of his victims through the non-profit group.
Sinisi died in 2018 at the age of 26 from an opioid overdose. He is the only one of Sandusky’s victims known to have died since the former coach was convicted on 45 counts of sexual child abuse.
The podcast, titled The Mayor of Maple Avenue (after Sinisi’s nickname), will feature reporting from Sara Ganim, who broke the original story on Sandusky while working for the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Advance Local is the parent company of the Patriot-News.) Ganim, who recently left CNN, eventually won a Pulitzer Prize with the Patriot-News staff for their coverage of the scandal.
A joint project between the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Pulitzer Center for Local Reporting, The Mayor of Maple Avenue will include interviews with Sinisi’s parents and detail how the mental healthcare system failed their son.
“Sinisi went from being seemingly groomed by Sandusky’s now-defunct Second Mile charity football camp,” explains the announcement from Meadowlark Media, “to finding his way through a rehabilitation system that was poorly designed and ill-equipped to deal with young men suffering from sexual assault and abuse. On the surface, Sinisi had a drug addiction. But beneath the surface, he was deeply traumatized by Sandusky and spent over a decade desperately seeking the right kind of help.”
Meadowlark Media has introduced several podcasts and audio projects since launching earlier this year. In addition to The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz and the Le Batard & Friends network — with podcasts including Adnan Virk’s Cinephile, Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur’s The PosCast, and The Jim Brockmire Podcast — Meadowlark also features narrative podcasts such as the BBC’s Sport’s Strangest Crimes.
“Shawn Sinisi was an upbeat kid whose life unraveled after he attended a Penn State football camp,” said associate producer and PennLive vice president of content Burke Noel in the project’s official announcement.
“Sara’s powerful reporting details how Shawn spent 14 years bouncing between jail, rehab facilities, and homelessness. The endless roadblocks the young man and his family faced, as they attempted to overcome addiction and trauma, clearly point to a national rehab system in drastic need of overhaul.”
The Mayor of Maple Avenue will debut Thursday, Nov. 4 (the 10th anniversary of Sandusky’s arrest and indictment), available on your podcast platform of choice, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.