Report: Paterno, PSU officials in 14-year cover-up

July 12, 2012: Louis Freeh addresses the media in Philadelphia about his report on the coverup of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
July 12, 2012: Louis Freeh addresses the media in Philadelphia about his report on the coverup of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 13, 2012

The independent panel investigating Pennsylvania State University's role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal has determined that the school's top leaders, including legendary football coach Joe Paterno, tried to cover up the abuse for 14 years.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who led the investigation, discussed the findings of the panel's 162-page report at a news conference this morning.

The 162-page report is available at www.philly.com/freeh

"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," said former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who led the investigation, "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

Naming Paterno, former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, a university vice president once in charge of the campus police, Freeh said they "never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."

"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 . . . repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large," Freeh said.

But Freeh said the trustees should not be spared criticism.

"In this matter, the Board - despite its duties of care and oversight of the university and its officers - failed to create an environment which held the university's most senior leaders accountable to it," he said.

Paterno's family issued a statement defending the late coach and saying they needed time to digest the report in order to comment on it in full.

"One great risk in this situation is a replaying of events from the last 15 years or so in a way that makes it look obvious what everyone must have known and should have done," the statement said. "The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept. The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn't fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events. Sandusky was a great deceiver. He fooled everyone - law enforcement, his family, coaches, players, neighbors, University officials, and everyone at Second Mile."

Second Mile was the charity Sandusky founded in 1977 to help troubled youth and through which he met his victims.

"Joe Paterno wasn't perfect," the family's statement said. "He made mistakes and he regretted them. He is still the only leader to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. To think, however, that he would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic. If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions."

"I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Paterno," Freeh said. "But the facts are the facts. He was an integral part of an active effort to conceal."

Allegations in February 2001 from Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who told Paterno he saw Sandusky, molesting a boy in a locker room shower, were at the center of the investigation. Sandusky was Paterno's assistant and the football team's defensive coordinator.

Freeh said correspondence uncovered in March indicated that university officials considered reporting Sandusky to the police.

"After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities," Freeh said. "Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.

"Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child's identity, about what McQueary saw in the shower . . . "

Among the report's allegations:

- Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz were aware of a 1998 investigation launched by campus police after they received a complaint of Sandusky showering with a young boy. They all told a grand jury last year that they did not recall that incident. In an e-mail to the others, Schultz asked "Is this opening of pandora's box? Other children?"

- While Freeh's investigators found no evidence that Sandusky's retirement in 1999 was connected to the investigation a year earlier, he was awarded a compensation package that included a $168,000 lump sum payment and perks that found "ways for [Sandusky] to continue to work with young people" through Penn State."

- When Sandusky offered to identify the boy in the shower to administrators, they said they did not wish to know and that it could "expose the victim to additional harm."

- Spanier "minimized the seriousness" of an ongoing grand jury investigation when briefing university trustees last year. Those statements came only after several trustees had repeatedly asked for a briefing. And at the time, he and former university counsel Cynthia Baldwin opposed hiring internal investigators. "If we do this, we will never get rid of in some shape or form," she reportedly wrote in an e-mail.

Trustees, attorneys for several of Sandusky's victims and alumni groups said it may take several hours for them to digest the report's findings before they are ready to discuss them.

The report is the product of a seven-month investigation commissioned by Penn State trustees and is expected to leave its mark on the legacies of Paterno and other top university figures. Freeh said investigators reviewed 3 million documents and conducted more than 400 interviews during the probe.

A Centre County jury convicted Sandusky on 45 counts of child sex abuse last month stemming from encounters with 10 boys, many of whom were abused on Penn State's campus. But while the former assistant coach's trial hung on the often graphic testimony of his accusers, Freeh's report was supposed to focus on what Penn State administrators could have done - or failed to do - to protect the victims.

The four university officials cited by Freeh testified before a grand jury that they were unaware of the sexual severity of what McQueary said he had seen in the shower.

Curley and Schultz are both awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failure to report abuse, Freeh's report could ultimately hurt their cases.

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

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, whose office is continuing its investigation of the scandal, praised today's report, saying it "should prove helpful to decision makers, the Penn State community and the public-at-large in understanding how this disturbing situation developed, as well as how to prevent it from being repeated in the future."

"Today's release of the Freeh report will not hinder the continuing work of our statewide investigating grand jury, nor will it impact ongoing criminal prosecutions," she said in a statement.

Gov. Corbett, who was attorney general when the Sandusky investigation began, said it would ne premature to comment on the report until he read it.

Attorneys representing Sandusky's victims, also are bound to boosted by the report's findings in possible future civil suits against Penn State.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing a Sandusky accuser whose case was not part of the criminal trial, said the report, while promoting transparency, did not go far enough, only covering allegations dating back to 1998.

"While we applaud that an investigation has been done by an inscrutable source with impeccable qualifications and there are important revelations and painful truths revealed, we are seriously concerned that it is far from the whole truth which makes it a half truth which could also lead to a half lie," Anderson said in a statement.

The foster mother of the witness known as Victim 10 said, "It's just sick. This all could have been avoided." she said.

She was surprised Paterno didn't do more.

"I thought he would be more like the honest Joe, the good guy," she said.

But the behavior of all four Penn State officials was shocking, she said.

"I just didn't think they would do that, cover up like that," she said.

In January, Freeh's group issued a series of preliminary recommendations including changes to policies involving contact with minors, reporting abuse allegations and security of campus facilities. All have since been implemented by Penn State's trustees.

Freeh's firm has been paid million of dollars since Penn State's trustees commissioned him to lead the investigation, a university spokesman said.


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

We invite you to comment on this story at http://www.philly.com/psucomments . Comments will be moderated.

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