How Penn State officials buried suspicions about Jerry Sandusky

Posted: July 14, 2012

In May 1998, Gary Schultz scribbled two words that in hindsight look chilling.

"Other children?" he wrote.

Then a senior vice president at Pennsylvania State University, Schultz was reviewing a campus police report that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had showered alone with a young boy in the team locker room.

Even in the best light, Schultz concluded, the conduct was inappropriate. At worst, it was child sex abuse, and maybe not the first time.

"Is this opening of Pandora's box?" he wrote.

Schultz's handwritten notes were among the most damning evidence disclosed Thursday in the long-awaited report on what the most powerful men at Penn State, including former football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham B. Spanier, did about signs that Sandusky was sexually abusing boys.

Its conclusion: Not much.

Instead, the team of investigators headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found a paper trail suggesting that Paterno, Schultz, Spanier, and then-athletic director Timothy Curley discussed and worried about - but ultimately ignored - suspicions in order to avoid scandal, a decision that effectively allowed Sandusky to assault more children.

The records included 1998 notes that Freeh said Schultz tried to hide until recent months. Freeh's team also uncovered e-mails sent in 2001 in which the men used code words to describe Sandusky, his Second Mile foundation, and another complaint about a shower assault - and then scrapped their initial plan to alert state welfare officials.

Together, the information cast fresh doubt on the ex-administrators' assertions that they had no reason to suspect Sandusky or search for victims. The records also appear to undermine testimony by Spanier and Paterno that they knew nothing about the 1998 investigation.

Freeh stopped short of declaring their conduct criminal, leaving such decisions to law enforcement. But that the findings came hand-delivered in a scathing 267-page report from a prominent former federal judge and prosecutor might be hard for those authorities to ignore.

"The evidence clearly shows, in my view, an active agreement to conceal," Freeh said during a news conference at a Philadelphia hotel.

Last month, a Centre County Court jury convicted Sandusky of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period. Investigators and civil lawyers say there are more victims.

Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial next year on charges they failed to report Sandusky's 2001 assault on the second boy and later lied to a grand jury about it. Sources have said they also expect Spanier to be charged.

Curley's and Schultz's lawyers said Thursday that Freeh's report will not affect their cases. Both noted that his investigative team lacked subpoena power and could not interview some crucial witnesses, including Mike McQueary, the former assistant coach who testified that he reported the 2001 shower assault to Paterno, Curley, and Schultz.

"The result is a lopsided document that leaves the majority of the story untold," said Caroline Roberto, the attorney for Curley.

Spanier's lawyer, Peter Vaira, declined to comment.

Relatives of Paterno, who died in January, took issue with Freeh's conclusions. "Joe Paterno wasn't perfect. He made mistakes and he regretted them," they said in a statement. "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."

Paterno had denied knowing about Sandusky's 1998 shower assault, which was investigated by university police but not prosecuted until this year.

Curley's e-mails suggested he had briefed Paterno on that incident. In one, he told Schultz, whose office oversaw campus police, that he had "touched base" with the coach about the allegation. In another, Curley wrote: "Coach is anxious to know where it stands."

A month after it started, campus police closed the 1998 investigation and stashed the report in a file labeled "administrative information."

Schultz was relieved, according to his files. "I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us," he told Spanier and Curley in an e-mail, the report says.

Freeh said he was struck that none of the four men interviewed Sandusky about the report, "including the coach, who was a few steps away from his office."

At his news conference, Freeh walked a tightrope in describing Paterno. He said the coach left a "terrific" legacy but also might have made the worst mistake of his life.

"The facts are the facts," Freeh said. "There's a whole host of evidence here and we're saying the reasonable conclusion from that evidence is that he was an integral part of this active conspiracy to conceal. I regret that, based on the damage it does, obviously, to his legacy."

The records link the four men again after McQueary reported the shower assault in 2001, according to the report. Schultz had a university lawyer research child-sex abuse reporting and asked campus police if it still had the file on the 1998 incident, his e-mails show.

At first, the men agreed to report the complaint to state welfare officials, ban Sandusky from bringing children onto campus, and alert leaders at his nonprofit foundation.

But Curley then altered the plan, according to the report. "After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed are the next steps," Curley wrote in an e-mail to Spanier and Schultz. "I am having trouble with going to everyone."

He proposed offering Sandusky professional help and helping him inform the Second Mile.

The others agreed. In one of the most prescient 2001 e-mails highlighted in the report, Spanier wrote the others: "The only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed."

Spanier later told Freeh's investigators he meant it was "humane" to explain to Sandusky the reason they were taking steps against him.

According to the report, Curley told a lawyer for the Second Mile soon afterward that "publicity issues" were the reason Sandusky could no longer bring children on campus.

During testimony to the grand jury, Schultz denied knowing details of the 1998 police investigation into the assault in the shower. He also told the grand jury that the 2001 allegation "came across as not that serious."

Curley told the grand jury that he told Sandusky he was "uncomfortable" about McQueary's 2001 accusation and would report it to the Second Mile. Sandusky's lawyer has contended no one ever confronted his client with specific abuse claims. And the foundation concluded it was a "non-incident" that didn't affect it.

Despite being copied on the 1998 e-mails, Spanier told investigators that "the subject matter of a university employee in a shower with a child had never come up before" 2001. But he said was told Sandusky was "horsing around" and that he didn't learn about accusations of child sex abuse until last spring, the report asserts.

Attorney General Linda Kelly said the report would not impact her office's investigations or the forthcoming prosecutions.

"The Freeh report should prove helpful to decisionmakers, 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," she said.


Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774, at jmartin@phillynews.com or follow @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writers Jeff Gammage and Craig R. McCoy contributed to this article.

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