Report on Penn State's handling of Sandusky case is due

Posted: July 12, 2012

Vindication, further incrimination, or perhaps something in between awaits Pennsylvania State University on Thursday morning, when an independent group charged with investigating the college's role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal is to release its highly anticipated findings.

After a seven-month probe, former FBI Director Louis Freeh is expected to unveil a report that will leave its mark on the legacies of top university figures, possibly expose missed warning signs, and perhaps answer the question that has lingered since the former assistant football coach's arrest last year:

Who at Penn State knew what, and when?

With his reputation in the balance, the family of the late head coach Joe Paterno issued Wednesday what was seen by some as a preemptive attack on the findings, which are expected to cast a critical eye on Paterno's involvement in the case. It came in the form of a letter Paterno wrote to players in the weeks before his death in January of lung cancer.

In it, the coach, soon after he was fired in the wake of Sandusky's arrest, balks at allegations of a cover-up and fervently defends his program's reputation.

"This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one," reads the letter, authenticated by Paterno's family. "Over and over again, I have heard Penn State officials decrying the influence of football. ... These statements are simply unsupported by the five decades of evidence to the contrary."

A Centre County Court jury convicted Sandusky last month on 45 counts of child sex abuse stemming from encounters with 10 boys, many abused on Penn State's campus.

But while the trial revolved on the often-graphic testimony of his accusers, Freeh's report is expected to focus on what Penn State administrators could have done - or, worse, failed to do - to protect them.

A 2001 report from Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who told Paterno he saw Sandusky molesting a boy in a locker-room shower, will likely be key to that analysis.

According to grand jury testimony, Paterno alerted athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, then a university vice president in charge of the campus police, to McQueary's allegations. They, in turn, told university president Graham B. Spanier.

In the end, all four men decided against reporting the incident to outside authorities. They would later testify that they were unaware of the sexual severity of what McQueary said he saw.

According to news leaks, evidence uncovered by Freeh's investigators has called those claims into question. Portions of an e-mail debate among Curley, Schultz, and Spanier surfaced this month allegedly showing the three at one point decided to report Sandusky. But the correspondence references a discussion between Curley and Paterno that changed their course.

While some have pointed to this as a "smoking gun" sign of a cover-up, representatives for Paterno and the other administrators have maintained that the leaked portions of the e-mails were taken out of context.

"The board promised a fair, transparent, and impartial process," the coach's family said in a statement. "These developments are a threat to their stated objectives."

Freeh's findings could affect the cases against Curley and Schultz, both of whom await trial on charges of perjury and failure to report abuse.

And for Spanier, who has not been charged with any crime, the report could more clearly define his role as a grand jury continues to investigate his actions in response to McQueary's allegations.

Sources close to the Freeh investigation have said the report delves deeply into the relationship Penn State's athletic programs had in influencing university policy as well as the campus' history of handling sex-abuse allegations involving students - issues that could echo across campuses nationwide.

In January, Freeh's group issued preliminary recommendations including changes to policies involving contact with minors and reporting abuse allegations. All have been implemented by Penn State's trustees. On Wednesday, the school announced new restrictions on access to athletic facilities, as Freeh recommended.


Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

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