Paternos issue report, challenge Freeh's findings

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2010, file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno leaves Beaver Stadium after his weekly NCAA college football news conference, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Pat Little, File)
February 10, 2013 4:04:43 PM PST
Joe Paterno's family released its response to Penn State's report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal Sunday, attacking Louis Freeh's conclusion that the coach hid sex abuse allegations against his longtime assistant

Read:
Louis Freeh Statement on Paterno response
Wick Sollers' statement on Freeh's reaction
Penn State's statement

ESPN VIDEO: Review of the Freeh Report

In a report commissioned by the family, former U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh said the investigation by former FBI director Freeh resulted in a "rush to injustice." That report, authorized by the university, found that Paterno and three former administrators covered up child sexual abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Those findings last July were unsupported by the facts, said the family critique released.

"The lack of factual report for the ... inaccurate and unfounded findings related to Mr. Paterno, and its numerous process-oriented deficiencies, was a rush to injustice and calls into question the credibility of the entire Report," Thornburgh was quoted as saying in the family's analysis, posted on the website paterno.com.

Months in the making, the report was billed as an independent analysis of the work by Freeh, who defended his report Sunday.

"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," he said in a statement issued through a spokesman.

The family's report concluded that observations related to Paterno in the Freeh report was unfounded, and were a disservice to Paterno, the university community and Sandusky's victims "and the critical mission of educating the public on the dangers of child sexual victimization."

The central claim that Paterno "was engaged in a conspiracy ... there's simply no basis anywhere in the report for that finding. That in my view renders the whole report of very little value," Thornburgh said in an interview with The Associated Press. "There's simply nothing in this record, in the Freeh report, that indicates he was involved in any way."

Freeh's findings also implicated former administrators in university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz. Less than two weeks after the Freeh report was released in July, the NCAA acted with uncharacteristic speed in levying massive sanctions against the football program for the scandal.

"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University - Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley - repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse," Freeh wrote in releasing the report.

The former administrators have vehemently denied the allegations. So, too, has Paterno's family, though a detailed counter-offensive began in earnest this weekend.

The family's findings said that Paterno never asked or told anyone not to investigate or report an allegation made against Sandusky 12 years ago, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2001.

Paterno also never asked or told anyone not to discuss or hide information reported by graduate assistant Mike McQueary about the 2001 allegation, the critique said, and followed university protocol in reporting information to superiors and left it to them to "to investigate and report as appropriate."

Thornburgh said he found the report at points to be inaccurate, speculative and fundamentally flawed about the role - if any - played by Paterno.

Appearing on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" program Sunday, Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers said it was too early to talk about legal action, though they were "evaluating all the legal options at this stage of the game."

Paterno's widow, Sue Paterno wrote in a letter Friday to former players that she sought a "full record of what happened."

The treatment of Paterno - fired over a late-night telephone call - as well as the handling of the Freeh report and the resulting NCAA sanctions by university leadership remain sensitive topics with some unhappy groups of alumni, ex-players and community residents.

Penn State said Sunday that Freeh was brought in to conduct an independent investigation of the school's response to the allegations, and not actions of entities unrelated to Penn State. Freeh offered 119 recommendations to strengthen governance and compliance, the majority of which have been implemented, the school said.

"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," the school said.

Freeh, in his report, said his team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed over 3.5 million emails and documents. The former federal judge said evidence showed Paterno was involved in an "active agreement to conceal" and his report cited email exchanges, which referenced Paterno, between administrators about allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.

According to Thornburgh's findings, Freeh's report relied primarily on about 30 documents, including three notes authored by Paterno, and 17 emails. Four emails referenced Paterno - none sent by the octogenarian coach who notoriously shunned modern electronic technology.

Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in October after being convicted last summer of 45 criminal counts. Prosecutors said assaults occurred off and on campus, including the football building.

His arrest in November 2011 triggered the turmoil that led to Paterno's firing days later. Under pressure, Spanier left as president the same day. Curley was placed on administrative leave, while Schultz retired.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have maintained their innocence.

Critics have said that Freeh's team didn't speak with key figures including Curley, Schultz and Paterno, who died in January 2012 at age 85. Spanier spoke to Freeh six days before the report was released July 12.

Freeh said he respected the family's right to conduct a campaign to "shape the legacy of Joe Paterno," but called the critique self-serving. Paterno's attorney was contacted for an interview with the coach, he said, and Paterno spoke with a reporter and biographer before his death but not Freeh's team. Paterno's attorney did provide documents.

Curley and Schultz declined numerous requests for interviews, Freeh said. They have been facing criminal charges since November 2011.

Freeh on Sunday cited grand jury testimony by Paterno in 2011 in which Paterno said McQueary relayed to him the 2001 allegation against Sandusky of a "sexual nature" with a child.

He referred to a key point in the July report in which he said the administrators drew up a plan that called for reporting Sandusky to state public welfare officials in 2001. Curley later write in an email that he changed his mind "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe," according to Freeh's findings.

Said Freeh on Sunday: "These men exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not even attempting to determine the identity of the child" in the 2001 allegation.

The Paterno family report said Freeh chose not to present alternative and "more plausible" conclusions about Paterno's actions. Their attorney, Wick Sollers, responded Sunday that Freeh didn't take the time to read the family's critique, or address accusations of procedural shortcomings.

Sollers said he met with Freeh's team and pledged full cooperation. Joe Paterno's cancer diagnosis prevented he coach from being interviewed, but son and former assistant coach Jay Paterno spoke with Freeh's group.

"A failure to consider the facts carefully is exactly the problem our expert analysis highlights," Sollers said. "Everyone, including Mr. Freeh, should take the time to study this report."

Besides Thornburgh, Sollers also brought in former FBI profiler and special agent Jim Clemente, described as a child molestation and behavioral expert; and Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychologist from Johns Hopkins Hospital whose profile lists him as the founder of the institution's Sexual Disorders Clinic. The analysis included information from lawyers for the former school administrators.

Freeh's report ignored decades of research and behavioral analysis over how to understand and investigate child victimization cases, the critique said, and expert analysis showed Sandusky "fooled qualified child welfare professionals and law enforcement, as well as laymen inexperienced and untrained in child sexual victimization like Joe Paterno."

According to the family review, Paterno's last written words before his death focused on Sandusky's victims.

"Good side of scandal - it has brought about more enlightenment of a situation (sexual abuse of young people) in the country," the Paterno family report said.

The NCAA improperly relied on the report and never identified a rules infraction based on Sandusky's crime, let alone NCAA jurisdiction over ensuring competitive balance, the family analysis said. An NCAA spokeswoman said the organization stood by its previous statements and declined comment Sunday.

A four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts were included among the sanctions, while 111 wins between 1998 and 2011 under Paterno were vacated. It meant Paterno no longer holds the record for most wins by a major college coach.

--
AP Radio correspondent Martin Di Caro in Washington contributed to this report.

-------

Penn State's statement:

In November 2011, the Penn State Board of Trustees appointed former FBI director and federal Judge Louis Freeh to conduct an independent investigation of the University's response to the allegations of sexual abuse committed by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The goal of this investigation was to uncover facts and identify where failures occurred in the University's governance and compliance structure and to make recommendations to help ensure that such failures never happen again. This was an internal investigation into Penn State's response to the allegations. It was not within the scope of Judge Freeh's engagement to review the actions, motives or functions of entities outside of our University community. This was an internal investigation into Penn State's response to the allegations, and that is how the University has utilized the report.

As a result of the investigation, 119 recommendations were made to Penn State in areas such as safety and governance. To date, the University has implemented a majority of those recommendations, which are helping to make the University stronger and more accountable. The University intends to implement substantially all of the Freeh recommendations by the end of 2013.

It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report.

--------------

Louis Freeh Statement on Paterno response

I respect the right of the Paterno family to hire private lawyers and former government officials* to conduct public media campaigns in an effort to shape the legacy of Joe Paterno.

However, the self-serving report the Paterno family has issued today does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report or alter the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report. Joe Paterno's own testimony under oath before the grand jury that investigated this horrific case is of critical importance. Mr. Paterno testified in 2011 that he knew from Michael McQueary in 2001 that McQueary had seen Sandusky "fondling, whatever you might call it -- I'm not sure what the term would be -- a young boy" in the showers at the Lasch Building. Mr. Paterno explained, "[o]bviously, he was doing something with the youngster. It was a sexual nature. I'm not sure exactly what it was. I didn't push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset." Years later, Mr. Paterno would explain to a reporter he chose to discuss the event with that he told McQueary, "I said you did what you had to do. It's my job now to figure out what we want to do."

As detailed in my report, the e-mails and contemporary documents from 2001 show that, despite Mr. Paterno's knowledge and McQueary's observations, four of the most powerful officials at Penn State agreed not to report Sandusky's activity to public officials. As made clear in the attachments to our report, on February 25, 2001, Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz agreed to report Sandusky's abuse to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. On February 27, 2001, these men agreed that reporting to DPW was not required, reasoning in the words of Graham Spanier that "[t]he only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it." The only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 and the agreement not to report on February 27, 2001, was Mr. Paterno's February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley regarding what to do about Sandusky. Again, this conversation was memorialized in the contemporary email, where Mr. Curley said "[a]fter giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday -- I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps." Curley's message continued:

I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved. I think I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell him about the information we received. I would plan to tell him we are aware of the first situation. I would indicate we feel there is a problem and we want to assist the individual to get professional help. Also, we feel a responsibility at some point soon to inform his organization and [sic] maybe the other one about the situation. If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing the organization. If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups. Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities. I need some help on this one. What do you think about this approach?

During the investigation, we contacted Mr. Paterno's attorney in an attempt to interview Mr. Paterno. Although Mr. Paterno was willing to speak with a news reporter and his biographer at that time, he elected not to speak with us. We also asked Mr. Paterno's attorney to provide us with any evidence that he and his client felt should be considered. The documents provided were included in our report.

Further, the Pennsylvania Attorney General specifically requested our staff not to interview Mr. McQueary so as to not interfere with the criminal prosecution of Sandusky. Nevertheless, we had access to sworn testimony by Mr. McQueary at the preliminary hearing as well as the Sandusky trial, where Mr. McQueary was thoroughly cross examined by several defense lawyers. Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz declined to speak with our staff on advice of their lawyers, despite our numerous interview requests.

Mr. Paterno was on notice for at least 13 years that Sandusky, one of his longest serving assistants, and whose office was steps away, was a probable serial pedophile. Mr. Paterno was aware of the criminal 1998 investigation into Sandusky's suspected child sexual abuse. Indeed, the evidence shows that Mr. Paterno closely followed that case. Later, in 2001, another one of his assistants, Mr. McQueary, directly reported to Mr. Paterno that Sandusky was sexually abusing a young boy in Mr. Paterno's Penn State football locker room. The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno purposefully ignored this evidence.

I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not even attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

In the past months, Penn State has made a dedicated effort to reform the problems that led to Sandusky's ability to victimize children on the university campus. I trust that the changes and improvements that Penn State has put in place will help to build a constructive and protective environment where children will not again suffer abuse.

* In 1989, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh selected me from the thousands of federal prosecutors in the Justice Department to lead the investigation into the bombing murders of federal judge Robert Vance in Alabama, and NAACP leader Robbie Robinson in Georgia. Thornburgh then highly praised my investigative abilities, and the cases were successfully prosecuted. Thornburgh personally signed my certificate appointing me as a federal judge.

--------------

Wick Sollers' statement on Freeh's response

Mr. Freeh's attack on the report this morning should trouble everyone who wants the truth on the Sandusky scandal. He criticizes a report he obviously hadn't had time to read and consider. And he refuses to address the critical factual and procedural failures in his own report, particularly his flawed conclusions which have only added to this tragedy.

The assertion by Mr. Freeh that somehow the Paterno family declined to cooperate with his investigators is an unfortunate distortion of the truth. I personally met with the Freeh team and pledged full cooperation. Joe Paterno's cancer diagnosis, treatment and subsequent death prevented him from being interviewed. But Jay Paterno was interviewed and I shared additional information available to me.

Being angry does not constitute a defense of poor work. A failure to consider the facts carefully is exactly the problem our expert analysis highlights. I encourage everyone, including Mr. Freeh, to take the time to study this report.

---------------

LINKS:

Summary

Full Report

Thornburgh Report

Clemente Report

Berlin Report

Paterno.com

Wick Sollers bio

Dick Thornburgh bio

Jim Clemente Bio

Dr. Fred Berlin bio

ESPN: Joe Paterno family releases report

Freeh Report


Load Comments