Paterno, three other Penn State leaders concealed abuse 14 years, report says

Louis Freeh gestures during his news conference in Philadelphia, on July 12th, 2012, to show how those employees on the lowest level, the janitors, were afraid to report what they saw of the Sandusky Scandal at Penn State. The Freeh Report is being released and Louis Freeh is set to issue his report on who knew what at Penn State about abuse by Jerry Sandusky. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Louis Freeh gestures during his news conference in Philadelphia, on July 12th, 2012, to show how those employees on the lowest level, the janitors, were afraid to report what they saw of the Sandusky Scandal at Penn State. The Freeh Report is being released and Louis Freeh is set to issue his report on who knew what at Penn State about abuse by Jerry Sandusky. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
Posted: July 13, 2012

Joe Paterno's family can accept that he "made mistakes," as they put it.

But they can't — or won't — believe what former FBI Director Louis Freeh alleged Thursday morning when he stepped up to the microphone inside the grand ballroom at Philadelphia's Westin Hotel.

Freeh, a former federal judge, said the revered late Penn State coach actively participated in a 14-year coverup involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a serial pedophile who raped boys while senior university officials conveniently ignored "more red flags than you could count."

"What's significant and shocking is that the four of them — the most powerful people at Penn State University — made a decision to conceal this information," Freeh said at a news conference that drew nearly 200 reporters.

The four men are Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January at the age of 85, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and retired Vice President Gary Schultz. The "information" was that Sandusky had sexually assaulted a boy in a locker-room shower in February 2001, which was reported to them at the time. The reason for the alleged whitewash, Freeh said, was shielding Penn State — and themselves — from negative publicity.

"Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest," Freeh said.

But the 267-page report by Freeh's investigative team, which reviewed more than three million documents and interviewed about 430 people, went beyond the quashing of the 2001 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary.

The eight-month investigation — distilled into a single bombshell document that was posted online Thursday morning — yielded damning contemporaneous evidence from 1998 that likely shatters any chance Penn State might've had of limiting its civil liability amid an onslaught of lawsuits from Sandusky's alleged victims. Lawyers say more victims will be coming forward.

The report includes an infuriating timeline of administration officials discussing Sandusky's behavior in notes and internal emails, but, ultimately, deciding to do nearly nothing. It's interspersed by terse descriptions: May 3, 1998, Sandusky assaults Victim 6 in Lasch Building shower … December 1999, Sandusky assaults Victim 4 at team hotel … August 2001, Sandusky assaults Victim 5 in Lasch Building shower …

Freeh concluded that Paterno and other university officials knew that Sandusky was accused of inappropriate contact with a minor as far back as 1998, when a woman reported to Penn State police that Sandusky had showered with her 11-year-old son on campus.

"Is this opening of Pandora's box?" Schultz wrote in his May 1998 confidential notes, according to the report. Schultz also wrote: "Other children?"

"The notion that there was no attention paid at the time is completely contradicted by the evidence," Freeh said of Paterno's knowledge of the 1998 incident. But, he added, "Nobody even spoke to Sandusky, not one of those four persons, including the coach, who was a few steps away from his office."

Three years later, when McQueary reported seeing Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the same shower, Spanier, Curley and Schultz originally decided to report that incident to the state Department of Public Welfare, but Curley changed his mind "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday," according to a February 2011 email in the report.

Even Penn State janitors witnessed or knew about Sandusky's sexual abuse of boys, yet failed to come forward because they thought they'd be fired, Freeh said. A person described as Janitor B said reporting Sandusky "would have been like going against the President of the United States in my eyes."

"I know Paterno has so much power," Janitor B told investigators. "If he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone."

Sandusky, 68, founder of the Second Mile charity for underprivileged youth, was convicted last month of 45 counts of child sex abuse involving 10 boys. Schultz and Curley are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failure to report abuse.

Paterno's family said in a statement Thursday that he hadn't known Sandusky was a child predator: "If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions."

The report significantly strengthens the position of attorneys representing Sandusky's victims in lawsuits and could expose Penn State to potential punitive damages. Some victims' lawyers said that they plan to use their subpoena power to show that the university and Second Mile were aware of his sexual abuse decades ago.

"The case, after today, is no longer one of ordinary negligence. It's one of out-and-out recklessness," said attorney Matt Casey, who is part of a legal team representing Victims 3, 7 and 10.

"These men facilitated this abuse, there's just no question about it. And they did it to protect themselves and their jobs and the university from bad publicity," Casey said. "These kids, for goodness sake, were victimized because of that. It's just a horrible, horrible story."

The report prompted Nike Inc. to announce Thursday that it would be changing the name of the Joe Paterno Child Development Center at the company's headquarters outside Portland, Ore.

"It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes," said Nike president and CEO Mark Parker.

All day, Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with people calling for removal of the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium.

But Paterno still has — and probably always will have — his staunch defenders.

Brian Masella, of Columbus, N.J., who played for Paterno in the mid-1970s, came away from Freeh's news conference feeling that Freeh should have "kept some of these opinions to himself." He said the report was unfair to Paterno because child sex abuse cases are dealt with differently today.

"Going back 10, 14 years ago, it was a whole different culture, not only here in Pennsylvania and State College, but in the entire country," Masella said. "There's a lot of things that happened like this everywhere, and I don't think that Penn State should be singled out. It's sensationalized because of Joe Paterno."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact William Bender at 215-854-5255 or benderw@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @wbender99. Read his blog, "Daily Delco" at philly.com/dailydelco. We invite you to comment on this story at www.philly.com/psucomments. Comments will be moderated.

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