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Paterno contacts criminal defense lawyer, source tells NBC News

Former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky's Grand Jury indictment paints the disturbing portrait of a man who used his position to target and sexually abuse young boys over a long period of time. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports on the missed opportunities to stop Sandusky.

Joe Paterno has reached out to a prominent Washington criminal defense lawyer to represent him in the Penn State sex abuse case, a source close to the case told NBC News.

J. Sedgwick Sollers, who once represented President George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra affair, was contacted by Paterno's advisers on Thursday. But Sollers has not yet met with Paterno, and a formal retainer agreement has not been signed.

The longtime Penn State football coach was fired Wednesday night after disclosures in a grand jury report that one of his assistants informed him in 2002 about an alleged incident of sexual abuse by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno has not been charged with any crimes in the case. He has been described as a cooperating witness in the case. Two other university officials told by Paterno about the alleged incident were charged this week with failing to report Sandusky's conduct to legal authorities and perjury.

Sollers declined to comment Thursday night. He is the managing partner in the Washington office of King & Spalding, a major Atlanta-based law firm. A spokesman for Paterno said in an email that "no lawyer has been retained."

A source close to Paterno said that in addition to the investigations by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, the former coach is concerned about the likelihood of civil lawsuits by Sandusky's alleged victims and their families.   

Coach Joe Paterno's firing sent angry Pennsylvania State University students into the streets Wednesday night, where they showed support for the 84-year-old coach and tipped over a news van. NBC's Ron Mott reports.