From the noises he heard coming from a locker room shower to the moment he stood face-to-face with former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and a naked boy, Mike McQueary said, he never had any doubt he had witnessed something "way over the line and extremely sexual in nature."
But what the 37-year-old assistant football coach said later, to whom, and in what specific terms became the focus of a daylong preliminary hearing Friday for two university officials accused of lying about the story he told them.
"There's no question in my mind that I conveyed to them that I saw Jerry with a boy in the showers and that there were severe sexual acts going on," McQueary testified in his first public statements since Sandusky's arrest last month. "It was wrong and over the line."
State prosecutors allege Penn State's suspended athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz failed to report McQueary's alleged tale of sexual assault to authorities and then later lied to a grand jury about what they knew.
District Judge William C. Wenner ruled Friday that enough evidence existed to move their case to trial.
But attorneys for Curley and Schultz maintained that McQueary never told them the full extent of what he claimed to have seen on that March night in 2002. Had they had any idea, both would have taken swift action against Sandusky, said Curley's lawyer Caroline Roberto.
"Had he heard from Mike McQueary that this boy in the shower was being sexually sodomized or anally raped, he would have remembered that and done something about it," she said.
Friday's hearing began with more than two hours of testimony from McQueary, who has come under intense scrutiny since Sandusky's arrest on nearly 50 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys. It also provided the first detailed glimpse of the case from the point of view of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.
"I knew Mike was upset, and I knew some kind of inappropriate action was being taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster," he said.
Paterno, who is undergoing cancer treatments and recently fractured his hip, did not attend the proceeding. Prosecutors read statements he made before the grand jury last year into evidence but said they expect him to testify again during the case's trial phase.
And if Friday's proceedings are any indication, the fate of Curley and Schultz could hang upon what he says then.
In order to prove perjury, prosecutors must corroborate McQueary's tale. And while his father and the former head of the university police force also testified Friday, the legendary football coach was the only one in the room when McQueary told his story to Curley and Schultz.
McQueary told the court Friday that he had stopped by a campus football facility to drop off a pair of sneakers the night he stumbled upon Sandusky and the boy in the shower.
The defensive coordinator stood behind the child with his arms wrapped around the boy's hips, McQueary said. While McQueary - then a graduate assistant - never saw the genitals of Sandusky or the boy, he said, "they were as close as they could be."
"It was very clear that it looked like there was intercourse going on," McQueary told the court.
Eventually, he said, he peeked into the shower again, to find Sandusky and the boy separated.
"I know they saw me," he testified. "They looked directly into my eyes."
Under cross-examination, McQueary conceded he never reported the incident to police but went immediately to Paterno because of the "sensitive nature" of the situation. He said he did not describe the scene at the time in explicit details and avoided terms like sodomy and anal intercourse out of respect to the longtime coach.
"He was shocked and saddened," McQueary said, recalling Paterno's reaction. "He slumped back in his chair. He said, 'I'm sorry you had to see that. That's terrible. I need to tell some people about what you saw.' "
In his own testimony before the grand jury last year, Paterno recalled McQueary conveying that something "sexual in nature" had occurred between Sandusky and the boy. But prosecutors never specifically asked the head coach to describe in detail what he later told Curley or Schultz, according to the transcripts.
Instead, Paterno was asked whether he had conveyed "substantially the same information McQueary had told him." The coach replied that he had.
To hear Curley and Schultz tell it, though, McQueary's story had been substantially watered down by the time it came across their desks.
As far as he knew, Curley told the grand jury last year, Sandusky and the boy were "horsing around, they were playful, and that made [McQueary] uncomfortable," according to transcripts of his testimony. When asked specifically whether McQueary or Paterno had mentioned the word intercourse, he responded: "Absolutely not."
"The allegation came across as not that serious," he told the grand jury last year. "We had no indication a crime had occurred. I wasn't told what was really going on."
Those semantic differences will become key as the case heads to trial, said Roberto, Curley's attorney, because they influenced the ultimate decisions her client and Schultz made to bar Sandusky from bringing children to campus but not to take a case to police.
"The words are extremely important here," she said. "We need to have precision in the language."
But prosecutors insisted that Paterno's statements prove McQueary got his message across - and that, given Sandusky's history of sex-abuse allegations, the defendants should have been on alert.
Thomas R. Harmon - the former head of Penn State's police department - testified Friday his officers investigated another incident in 1998 involving allegations of Sandusky showering with a young boy. Charges were not filed in that case until last month, but Harmon told the court he discussed the case with Schultz at least four times.
Schultz, who oversaw the department, professed ignorance of that investigation in his testimony before the grand jury last year. When asked whether he was aware of a nearly 100-page official report on the probe, he responded, "Wow," according to transcripts.
Sandusky has maintained his innocence of all the charges against him. He waived his own preliminary hearing this week and is next due in court in March.