But in a statement released Monday, Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers described the leaks as "selective" and suggested they were deployed to tar the reputations of the late coach and others.
He called upon the Attorney General's Office and former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who discovered the correspondence earlier this year as part of an independent investigation commissioned by Penn State, to turn over the e-mail exchange and any other records related to the case.
"It is clear that someone in a position of authority is not interested in a fair or thorough investigation," the statement read. "Given the seriousness and complexity of this case, everyone should be demanding the full truth, not just carefully selected excerpts of certain e-mails."
The e-mail discussion involving former university president Graham B. Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, and ex-vice president Gary Schultz took place two weeks after graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported seeing Sandusky sodomizing a boy in a locker room shower, a decade before Sandusky's arrest on 52 counts of child sex abuse, and well before the molestations of at least three of the former defensive coordinator's victims.
Though Paterno did not write any of the leaked missives, he is referenced in them as having weighed in on the debate.
Paterno "was never allowed to see the files and records that are now in question," Sollers said in his statement. "However, numerous pundits and critics are exploiting these disconnected and distorted records to attack Joe Paterno."
As described in a CNN report Friday, the e-mail chain began with a message sent by Schultz on Feb. 26, 2001, suggesting the administrators sit down with Sandusky, report the accusation to his youth charity the Second Mile and notify state child abuse investigators.
Curley allegedly responded the next day, writing that after "talking it over with Joe" he felt they should speak directly with Sandusky, ban him from bringing children onto the campus, and then decide whether to notify outside authorities based on his response.
Spanier, according to the television network, agreed calling Curley's approach "humane," though he worried that it could leave the university "vulnerable."
All three men would later tell a grand jury they were never made aware of the severity of McQueary's allegations, saying they were under the impression that it amounted to little more than "horseplay."
CNN said Friday it had not seen the e-mails but quoted from them extensively, citing two anonymous sources. The Inquirer described a more limited version of the same exchange in stories last month, also based on information from sources familiar with their contents.
Curley and Schultz were arrested last year on charges of lying during their grand jury testimony and failing to report the incident to police. Both have maintained their innocence.
Their lawyers said the e-mails demonstrate the thoughtful consideration they gave to how to respond to McQueary's allegations.
Spanier has become a recent target of the ongoing grand jury investigation. His attorney declined to comment Monday. But sources close to the former president also said the e-mail exchange had been leaked without context.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted last month on 45 counts of child sex involving 10 boys he met through the Second Mile, which he founded for underprivileged youth. He remains in the Centre County jail awaiting a sentence expected to send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @jeremyrroebuck.
We invite you to comment on this story by clicking here. Comments will be moderated.