Mike McQueary’s Choices

If football has anything to do with choices, then there’s no point in any discussion.  Joe Paterno is a legend in college football, and at Penn State.  But there is no separate set of rules to guide the lives of college football legends.

Two people witnessed Jerry Sandusky molesting children, though molesting appears to be too kind a word.  Raping a ten-year-old boy in the Penn State showers is another way to put it.  One witness, the janitor, now suffers from dementia.  The other was then-grad student Mike McQueary, former quarterback, coaching hopeful. A young man who was hardly equipped to deal with what he saw, but he knew he had to do something.

As the lowest man on the coaching totem pole, he went to the top.  He told JoePa, who sent him straight away to the Athletic Director.  Joe Paterno was an old man, but no better equipped to handle what happened than the kid.

With three games left to another great football season, Paterno has been fired by the Penn State Board, after having submitted his resignation after the end of the season.  The University president, Graham Spanier, is out as well, though nobody really cares since he doesn’t coach football.  Oddly enough, it leaves Mike McQueary on the sidelines.

In an ugly episode that has torn at the soul of a proud university, set off criminal investigations and ended the career of one of the sport’s most accomplished and revered coaches, McQueary has occupied among the strangest of positions: he could be the star witness in the coming criminal cases against senior officials at the university; he has become the target for widespread criticism for not having acted more decisively himself nine years ago; and he could well be on the sideline Saturday for the game against Nebraska, helping execute a game plan devised by the coach he once dreamed he might succeed. A Penn State victory would leave it in position to reach a major bowl game.

Students rioted at Penn State last night, following the announcement of Paterno’s firing.  Football is big there.  Sports are big there.  Even though Sandusky’s arrest on a 40 count indictment was only a few days old, the crimes alleged were ancient to Penn State students. 

This Saturday’s football game was far more real. If years had gone by since Sandusky anally raped a young boy at Penn State, couldn’t it all wait until the end of the season?  Wasn’t there some sort of investigation or legal process that could explain why everything needed to be kept under wraps until a bowl game?

The odd thing is that no one seems to question that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester.  While it’s only at the indictment stage, this piece of the story has been taken as a given.  No one should ever have to wonder what to do when a kid grad-assistant tells you that he saw another person raping a young boy, because this shouldn’t happen. But it did.

Even though Paterno is a coach, he’s part of the academy.  Granted, coaches are in a special wing of the academy, built for people whose intellectual prowess manifests in different ways, and who make millions of dollars for their prowess.  But still, there is an acknowledged, and accepted, duty that a college coach is supposed to put the welfare of students, of children, ahead of the sport.  At least, that’s the theory.

No one is suggesting that Joe Paterno be indicted for his passing Mike McQueary along to Athletic Director Tim Curley, who was indicted for lying to the grand jury about what McQueary told him.  However, scandals demand action, and the Board acted.  There was no threat that leaving Paterno as coach for a few more weeks would put anyone at risk, but there was a threat that the Board’s failure to act suggested that it failed to fulfill its duty.  The Board’s path was no clearer than Paterno’s almost ten years earlier.

And now Mike McQueary is the bad guy for having been the sole witness capable of telling the story.  He becomes responsible for what’s happening now to Paterno and to the Penn State Nittany Lions.  Certainly the football players did nothing to deserve to suffer, though some question whether McQueary’s going to Paterno rather than the police was sufficient.

The fiasco may have just become public, but happened in 2002.  A young man saw something no young man should ever have to see.  He told an old man, a legend even then, who passed him along to his technical superior because he was no more clear on what to do than anyone else.  And the superior engaged in allopathic triage, making the symptoms disappear without curing the disease, all in the hope that this would never be known.  Primary was the protection of the Penn State football program.

Paterno won’t be prosecuted because he committed no crime.  But his legendary career ended horribly, as allegedly did the virginity of young boys in the hands of Jerry Sandusky.  There is no established protocol for how to handle a situation like this, and the question remains what Paterno should have done in 2002, once he knew what no one ever wants to know.  The same question has to be asked of every person along the line. 

Many believe, as I do, that there is no crime more horrific than one committed against a child.  We demonize these criminals, and properly so. There is no word sufficiently bad to express the disgust of these animals.  To have done nothing more than pass McQueary off to Curley may have been no crime, but it was also an inadequate response of a human being, not to mention a putative educator.  No football game is more important.  No friendship is more important.  There is no hiding from Jerry Sandusky anally raping a young boy.

There must be a protocol, a path, that is clear and known to anyone claiming membership in this race.  You do not turn your head away from a child being raped. Not even if you’re Joe Paterno.  And not even if you’re Mike McQueary.  No, it’s not a violation of the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It is a violation of our obligation as human beings. That’s a damn good reason to lose a job.  Immediately.

I like football.  There is no game important enough to ignore that these men knew about Jerry Sandusky’s raping a young boy and did not do everything in their power to stop it and him.  Joe Paterno no longer has a choice.  Mike McQueary does. Where will he be on Saturday?

41 comments on “Mike McQueary’s Choices

  1. A Penn State Grad Student

    I would like to point out that Mike McQueary was a graduate student back then. Had he done anything more, his entire career would have been over before it even started, and the coverup probably would have still happened. I do not think it is fair to have expected Mike to destroy himself like that.

  2. Zach Mills

    ‘..(Mike McQueary’s) entire career would have been over before it even started, and the coverup probably would have still happened. I do not think it is fair to have expected Mike to destroy himself like that’

    I hope you don’t really believe that. if McQueary, an extreme coward at best by the way, had his mind go there in the moment after witnessing what he said he did than he is even more reprehensible than most probably (& rightfully) feel he is after reading the grand jury report.

    I haven’t the slightest idea how McQueary has lived with himself over the past near-decade.

  3. Greg

    I’m not so sympathetic towards McQueary. He was 28 years old at the time. He was not a kid. If a man is not “equipped to deal what he saw” at that age, he never will be.

    McQueary saw Sandusky (if the allegations are true) having anal sex with a 10-year old in the showers, and according to the indictment, he went back to his office and CALLED HIS FATHER, who told him to leave the building and go home.

    That is to say, McQueary saw Sandusky RAPING A CHILD and he RAN AWAY. He did not try to stop Sandusky. He did not call the police. He called his father, and the two of them decided that he should go away and do nothing.

    It seems to me that McQueary, much more than Paterno or either of the two administrators who have been indicted, bears the responsibility for what happened here. He is the only one who saw what happened. He had seen a rape, he says, and he knew that Sandusky had not been arrested. He should have been demanding to know why not.

  4. Dan

    He was a 28 year old man who didn’t even call 911. Never mind that he’s physically imposing enough to have topped it, probably by just yelling out hey, what’s going on in there.

  5. SHG

    Like you, I’m pretty much stuck on the moment when McQueary saw Sandusky raping a little boy. At that moment, there is only one thing in the world to do, and that’s stop Sandusky using whatever force is necessary, because I cannot imagine any other possible course of action.

  6. Greg

    In light of McQueary’s behavior, I wonder why the prosecutor was so eager to believe his testimony and to indict the two administrators. According to the indictment, McQueary testified that he described the rape to them and they testified that he did not. They testified that, in fact, they were not even aware that he thought he had witnessed a criminal act. For this testimony, they have been charged with perjury. (Paterno also testified that he was not aware that McQueary had witnessed anal sex.)

    Their testimony doesn’t seem implausible to me at all. Their first meeting with McQueary took place a week and a half after the incident in the shower. Who knows what exact words McQueary used in describing it to them, but I am certain that he did not say, “I saw Jerry Sandusky raping a 10-year-old and I ran away and did nothing,” which is in substance what the prosecutor wants us to believe. I imagine said something much milder and more ambiguous. It would be perfectly natural for them to assume that if the incident had been criminal (rather than merely inappropriate, or immoral, or distasteful), McQueary would have intervened at the time, or at least have called the police. Since the police hadn’t been called, it would be fair for them to assume that they were not working on a police matter. Everything about their actions suggests, not that they were engaged in a coverup (if you’re going to try to cover up a rape, you’re going to start right away, not two weeks later) but that they thought they were actually going beyond the strict legal requirements. There had been a previous investigation in which Sandusky had been found to have engaged in naked horseplay in the showers that was inappropriate but not criminal, and he had been warned not to do it again. They testified, and it seems consistent with their actions, that they thought McQueary was describing another similar incident.

    Also, note the scummy trick of nabbing these defendants for not following child abuse reporting rules intended for grade school administrators, not university administrators. If not for these rules, no normal person would even imagine calling the police and saying, “I don’t have any personal knowledge of the facts, but I know somebody who told me that he knows somebody who saw a possible sex crime a week and a half ago – and I want to report that to you now.”

  7. A Penn State Grad Student

    I wish to clarify that I not defending McQueary’s actions or inactions. My point is that by accidentally witnessing a horrible crime, he was put in to situation that he was ruined either way.

    Yes, I too probably would have decked the guy the moment that I saw what was going on and called the police. McQueary was put into a very bad situation though no fault of his own. I do not believe that he had any options that would have saved himself, and that I do sympathize with. A graduate student can be ruined by the snap of a professor or administrators fingers.

  8. SHG

    Yes, McQueary didn’t ask to witness Sandusky rape a child.  Nor does a mom driving to pick up her child at school ask to be struck by a drunk driver and killed. Nor does a woman walking to her apartment from work ask to be raped.  There are more examples, if you need them.

    Life isn’t fair. Life gives us crap we don’t want.  Life forces us to make choices we would prefer not to make.  Tough nuggies. This one wasn’t even a difficult choice. There are much worse.

  9. Dan

    Why are you presuming that McQueary was “ruined either way?” Had he stopped a rape in progress, he might have been hailed as a hero?

  10. SHG

    Prosecute him for what? He’s committed no crime. And if you’re going to call for someone’s prosecution, at least get his name right.

  11. Rob Robertson

    Having never witnessed such a violent crime in progress, I don’t know how I would react. That being said, I can’t fault McQueary for reacting in a way that I think was wrong, because I wasn’t there. I want to give him a break, even though the consequences of his decision left a victim without assistance, and probably allowed a predator to continue his crimes. I can’t say I feel all warm and fuzzy about giving McQueary a break. I can’t help thinking that I (or one of my family) would want some understanding if I was in the same boat.

  12. SHG

    I’m thinking the same could said for the 10 year old boy being raped as McQueary watched, then walked away.

  13. John Neff

    I think McCreary’s failure to intervene was inexcusable but not criminal. He works in a culture where crimes committed by privileged persons can be ignored or covered up. It is not that difficult to find examples of that culture at other universities (not just in athletic departments). What will it take to stamp out that culture?

  14. DN

    I guess I get the McQuery hatred, and I hope that I have reacted in ways that I should have in situations where someone needed my assistance during my life. But in my mind, we all make mistakes, and when one does, moving forward to rectify it is all one can do. Yes, maybe a predator would have been off the streets sooner if McQuery had acted differently, but he still could be on the prowl if McQuery had done what I bet many, many people did; keep it to themselves. The janitor that saw something, his boss, the co-workers, nothing happened. A coach was told he was showing “wrestling moves,” nothing happened. There has to be multiple suspicious people who saw Sandusky show up with a new pre-teen at tailgates and bowl games, people had to know, his wife had to know, his adopted kids had to know; nothing.

    At 29, I was once enjoying a wonderful day hiking alone in a NC state park, wondering why it was so empty. As I entered the men’s room at lunch time, I learned that this way a pick up area for gay men. I turned and never walked so quickly in my life. I don’t know why, just a reaction, maybe millions of years of DNA making sure my anal area was not subjected. It was a gut instinct, I was sickened and high-tailed it. It bothered me for days, 20 years later, it still does. If I was a Vulcan, I would not have cared, but my physiology reacted. If McQuery reacted the same way, he tried to make amends. No one else did.

    There are lots of people who did not act well. The board fired Paterno when he was down, but could not get rid of him when they wanted to. The board was cowards. And many Americans stand by Jacko even though he was certainly running the same operation as Sandusky. Maybe number one hits makes you immune to the disgust.

    I have a feeling McQuery made a mistake for looking away for one day, but there are a lot of people who spent decades looking the other way.

  15. SHG

    Of course others failed to do right. In what way does that make Mike McQueary less responsible for his own actions?  As for your personal homophobia, I fail to see what that has to do with McQueary or anything else involved here.  The problem has nothing to do with homosexuality, but with pedophilia. They’re completely different.

  16. John Burgess

    As a grad student, McQueary had already had several years’ experience as both an NFL and NFL-Europe pro. Any pro NFL player–except maybe the kicker–should be able to physically stop an elderly man from sodomizing a little boy.

    He had the muscles; he didn’t have the strength of character. Instead, he appears to have been worried about his career, not a little boy.

    Stories are now running that the Penn State board of trustees has asked that McQueary be removed from the sidelines of this weekend’s game. They don’t appear to be ready to fire him.

    He should quit before they have to make that decision.

  17. Lurker

    I’ve never witnessed a sex crime but I’ve been a grad student. Th grad student’s relationship to his advisor is not an employee-employer relationship. It’s the relationship of a vassal to his liege, or the relationship of a “made man” to his capo. The grad student owes allegiance to his professor and to the research group.

    Even if McQueary had taken bold action and stopped the rape, immediately calling the (campus) police, the most likely result would have been McQueary ending up in jail, arrested for assaulting a colleague. Then, his professonal career would have been over.

    Reporting a senior colleague of one’s department for anything would have been no better. It is such bad form that one’s academic future is likely to be over, even if the report proves to be correct. It’s absolutely sure that if you ruin the life of a professor’s senior protegé, you will be destroyed also. A board of inquiry is going to find a fault in you, too, regardless of the purity of your actions and morals. And even the slightest sign of official disapproval will destoy the grad student’s career prospects.

    Of course, the morally correct way is to do what is right. However, McQueary did simply what at least 80 % of people do in the corresponding situation: nothing. His act is no more or less reprhensible than being a secret police informer in a totalitarian state.

  18. SHG

    Even if McQueary had taken bold action and stopped the rape, immediately calling the (campus) police, the most likely result would have been McQueary ending up in jail, arrested for assaulting a colleague.


    However, McQueary did simply what at least 80 % of people do in the corresponding situation: nothing.

    Perhaps (ignoring the arbitrary percentage), but this justifies nothing. “I’m no worse than most others” is not the bar by which people are judged.  This is a facile and pathetic rationalization for the failure to behave like a human being.

  19. AH

    If an employee at Dairy Queen saw a co-worker commit a crime, he wouldn’t report it the district manager of Dairy Queen. He would call 911 and report it to the local police department.

    Where does this attitude of treating universities (or corporations or the Catholic church) like quasi-governments come from. The witnesses should have immediately called 911 and reported to the local police; period.

  20. Angela

    McQueary IS A COWARD,PERIOD, he was 28 years old at the time, a BIG BOY who could of wiped that shower room floor with Sanduskys naked body (that perverted puke!)after beating the ever loving snot outta him. Listen its simple, you look you CLEARLY SEE A 10 YEAR OLD BOY being sodomized by a 58 year old man. Now imagine this poor little boy and what hes thinking ” OMG THANK GOD THERES SOMEONE HERE TO HELP ME!!!!!” only to watch this man MCQUEARY WALK AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now for as quote un quote Mcqueary states he was distraught……………BULLSHIT! HE NEVER LEFT THE BUILDING right after seeing that!! noooooooo he walks down the hall and goes to his office and calls his DADDY!!! TO ASKS WHAT TO DO……….ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? ASK WHAT TO DO??? Hes on the phone asking daddy what to do, in the meantime down the hall in the shower this POOR LITTLE BOY IS STILL BEING RAPED YEAH LET SANDUSKY FINISH HIS PUTRID ACT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IS THIS FOR REAL???? Yeah lets go call daddy THAT OTHER IDIOT THAT TELLS HIM TO GET OUT OF THE BUILDING…………AND THIS IDIOT LISTENS TO THE OTHER IDIOT AND LEAVES KNOWING THIS POOR BOY IS STILL IN THE SHOWER BEING RAPED! HOW DO YOU DRIVE AWAY KNOWING YOU JUST LEFT THAT???? It doesnt take a rocket scientest to figure you go in that shower room get the little boy outta there and then BEAT THE EVERY LOVING SHIT OUTTA SANDUSKY THEN CALL THE COPS LET HIM EXPLAIN WHY HE JUST GOT THE SNOT BEAT OUT OF HIM AND WHY HES LAYING NAKED ON THE SHOWER ROOM FLOOR AND THERES A NAKED 10 YEAR OLD THERE TOO THEN GET THE CHILD TESTED FOR SEIMON AT THE HOSPITAL AFTER HAVING HIM CHECKED OVER AND CARED FOR AND FIND SANDUSKYS DNA ON HIM, LET HIM EXPLAIN IT ALL. MCQUEARY COULD OF STOPPED THIS ALL RIGHT THEN AND THERE, ITS SIMPLE YOU CANT BE WRONG BY DOING RIGHT.. WORRIED ABOUT YOUR JOB……..PISS ON THAT…….i’LL TAKE JAIL FOR 200 ALEX……LOCK ME UP I DONT CARE ATLEAST I KNOW I SAVED THE LITTLE BOY….do right and worry about the consiquences later! THRE IS NO EXCUSE FOR IT PERIOD! i could of been 18 years old and would of known what to do if i saw that! and if anyone that doesnt agree, kiss my ass I pray YOU NEVER HAVE SOMEONE LIKE MCQUEARY AROUND WHEN YOU OR OR GOD FORBID YOUR CHILD IS IN TROUBLE AND THEY WALK AWAY WITHOUT HELPING!!!we have fine young men and women younger than 28 in the military fighting for us THANK GOD THEY DONT WALK AWAY FROM THE JOB OF PROTECTING US. HAPPY VETERANS DAY!!!

  21. Angela


  22. Angela

    Yeah, I am a mother of 4 so I guess you can understand why I am really worked up. These poor victums I pray for them daily. And although they are adults now, one has to wonder how bruitally this all effected their lives. Im so angry, Sandusky is out on 100,000 bail, BOT is paying Curley and Shultz’s legal fees, Mcqueary still has a job, ITS REDICULOUS. This onion is only going to get “stinkier” as the layers get peeled away. This runs deep, and I cant even imagine how many more victums will come forward, how much more of the COVER UP will come out…. and how much more will SECOND MILE come out with what they knew. I FOR ONE WILL BE GLUDED TO MY TV once proccedings begin.

  23. Outraged

    So, if you’re a graduate student (of legal adult age, and most are) at Penn State, then basic, but apparently not so common decency doesn’t apply to you, right?


    You (28 years old, maybe…McQueary’s age?)worry instead about your own hide and run away from the crime instead of trying to rescue a defenseless little boy and then call the police. …and run home to Daddy instead to merely tell about a little boy probably still getting raped by that male coach even as you’re relating it all to Daddy, right?

    You are exactly what is wrong with your university, its disgusting athletic department, disgusting board of trustees, and its disgusting students such as yourself. You also everything that’s wrong with the world.

  24. Mel Holden

    Angela, my thoughts exactly. I put myself in the little boys shoes, and what must have been going through his mind, then he sees McQueary and thought he was about to be rescued. Then the guy walks away.
    And then McQueary and Sandusky work together for nearly 10 years?! How can McQueary have seen Sandusky sodomizing that boy, and still worked along side him? Wouldn’t McQueary have assumed Sandusky had done it before, and would do it again? Didn’t McQueary see Sandusky bringing boys to the games, see Sandusky driving away with them?

    And what bothers me the most is that there are I think 8 victims, but is that really the number? I’m guessing 8 is maybe a 1/4, but who knows. People who do crimes, they generally get away with far more than they ever get caught at.

    Only one person knows how many boys Sandusky abused, Sandusky himself, and he’s claimed he’s innocent.

    I think about the messed up lives these boys have gone on to live, think they’re ever going to trust an authority figure? Think they don’t have inner rage they need to let out? How many have gone on to abuse other kids and are possibly serving time in prison.

    Honestly, we’re never going to know how many boys got treated this way. And I wonder how many other men were Sandusky’s cohorts, thinking themselves above the law, and sexually abusing other boys.

  25. Mark Bennett

    “McQueary was put into a very bad situation though no fault of his own. I do not believe that he had any options that would have saved himself, and that I do sympathize with.”

    “Had he done anything more, his entire career would have been over before it even started, and the coverup probably would have still happened. I do not think it is fair to have expected Mike to destroy himself like that.”

    “he was put in to situation that he was ruined either way.”

    “However, McQueary did simply what at least 80 % of people do in the corresponding situation: nothing.”

    This—that the justifiability of sacrificing a 10-year-old boy for the sake of one’s career is seen as arguable, that the “ruin” of having to find another career is considered somehow equivalent to the moral ruin of allowing a child to be raped—helps explain why we still have a TSA.

    Nobody ever taught McQueary to stand up and fight for what is right; even at 28, he was told by his father to walk away from injustice. I’m curious: What are those of you who feel that there might be some justification for McQueary’s inaction teaching your children?

  26. SHG

    Phil Ochs keeps running through my head, and as much as I hate to harp on the same themes (as you know I hate to repeat myself), I can’t help but think we, as a society, are becoming farther removed from any personal moral responsibility toward our fellow man with every new model BMW, every new iteration of the iPhone, every glorious and self-serving new toy. 

    It’s been happening for a very long time, and it continues.  The difference between now and Kitty Genovese is that it’s become an ingrained and accepted part of our social fabric.  There couldn’t be a more horrible test than this.

  27. Mark Bennett

    I’m hesitant to throw this away here instead of making it a blog post, but as usual there is a Princess Bride quote that applies:
    Humperdinck:I tell you once again, surrender!

    Westley: It will not happen.

    Humperdinck:For the last time, surrender!

    Westley: Death first!!

    Buttercup: Will you promise not to hurt him?

    Humperdinck:What was that?

    Westley: What was that?

    Buttercup: If we surrender and I return with you, will you
    promise not to hurt this man?

    Humperdinck:May I live a thousand years and never hunt again.

    Buttercup: He is a sailor on the pirate ship Revenge. Promise to
    return him to his ship.

    Humperdinck:I swear it will be done.

    Once we’re out of sight, take him back to Florin and
    throw him in the Pit of Despair.

    Count Rugen:I swear it will be done.

    America has become a Buttercup Nation.

  28. June

    “Had he done anything more, his entire career would have been over before it even started…” !!!!! Not “fair to have expected Mike…”!!!! Bingo!! There it is – the core lack of character that supports such an atrocious ninny. McQueary was a 28-yr-old, 6’5”, 250-lb-plus former quarterback!!! His inaction in the moment defies human instinct, is inexplicable, unconscionable. I’ve seen scrawny little 4-year-old girls meet the moment with more clarity & guts. His career???!!! You must be joking! McQueary is nothing but a slimy, self-serving, gutless mamma’s boy.

  29. Steven J Fromm

    McCreary response was pitiful. In that moment, he needed to yell, scream, do anything to get that animal off the child. That moment is where he failed as a human being. Then he failed when he called his father; my word, run to get help for the boy; get campus police, call the police, but do something. How can someone respond the way he responded; there is no excuse.

  30. Mark

    Plausible scenario:

    McQueary sees the rape in progress. The victim and perp see him. McQ runs away and calls daddy. Daddy says get out of there. come to my house. McQ tells dad the unvarnished truth. Dad says we need to report this but we have to water it down or you’ll look like a POS for running away from a child rape in progress. So we’ll meet with Joe P. and tell him a watered down version. This will cover your ass if the victim goes to the authorities and fingers you as a witness. So McQ tells Paterno about the ambiguous horsing around, P tells the administrators above him. They take appropriate action based on the watered down version. It wasn’t a five alarm red alert to call the cops. Just steer Jerry away from opportunities to be a bit inappropriate. Had Paterno and the others heard the unvarnished truth of what McQ saw they would have called the cops immediately and let the chips fall. The grand jury finds McQ’s testimony very credible but not the testimony of the AD and Finance Director. But here’s why I think they are wrong. McQ is obviously a self-seeking coward in the first place. His subsequent actions are consistent with this, even to the point of telling the grand jury the truth about the locker room rape. When McQ was subpoenaed by the grand jury he didn’t know what they already knew; didn’t know if the victim had already come forward and ID’ed him as the witness that ran away. So McQ talked it over with dad and decided to spill the beans to the grand jury and avoid perjury charges. The admin guys who testified would be looking at the same uncertain situation and would have the same motivation to tell the truth. McQ would know that he could say he told P and Admin the gory details of the rape but they would not be able to prove that he didn’t so the grand jury would likely believe him and not them.

    The prosecutors’ star witness is McQueary. As such, ALL his testimony must be supported by the prosecution lest his credibility suffer on the rape testimony. Thus the perjury charges on the two administration guys.

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