Paterno’s family blasts Freeh probe, vows its own

Posted: July 17, 2012

Joe Paterno's family vowed Monday to launch its own probe of the late Pennsylvania State University head football coach's handling of child sex abuse allegations against his former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Meanwhile, attorneys for former university president Graham B. Spanier blasted the highly critical findings of Penn State's internal investigation, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

"His report contained numerous inaccuracies and reached conclusions that are not supported by the data," Spanier lawyers Elizabeth Ainslee and Peter Vaira said in a statement. "Mr. Freeh unfairly offered up Dr. Spanier and others to those insisting upon a finding of culpability at the highest level of the university."

The statements from Spanier's camp and Paterno's family came four days after Freeh's scathing assessment, which implicated the university president, the coach, and several other top administrators in a conspiracy to keep accusations against Sandusky quiet in an effort to avoid negative publicity.

Paterno's family members said they "vehemently disagreed" with Freeh's findings, and maintained that the late coach responded as well as he knew how when confronted with allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and again in 2001.

They have asked Freeh's investigators to preserve all records, notes, and other materials related to their probe and asked their attorneys to look for additional information that may help to clear Paterno's name.

"Mr. Freeh presented his opinions and interpretations as if they were absolute facts," the statement said. "We believe numerous issues in the report, and his commentary, bear further review."

Spanier's lawyers, meanwhile, questioned why federal investigators found no issue with the university president's conduct using the same set of facts.

"Dr. Spanier has for some time held a top-secret security clearance. . . . This clearance required a rereview after the Sandusky matter surfaced in November," they said. "At the conclusion of the investigation, the government reaffirmed Dr. Spanier's clearance."

According to his attorneys, Spanier has been working for the U.S. government on a special project related to national security issues since both he and Paterno were ousted from their positions in the wake of Sandusky's November arrest.

Current Penn State president Rodney Erickson praised Freeh's work Monday, calling his findings "heart-wrenching and difficult" to absorb. In a message to faculty and students, he said the university would continue to implement many of Freeh's suggested reforms.

"All of this will take time," said Erickson. "This is not the end of the process, nor will it be the end of a number of investigations on inquiries into the university. We will continue to cooperate fully."

The report's conclusions of a cover-up hinged on two incidents in which administrators became aware of allegations against Sandusky, who was convicted in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse.

The first came in 1998, when a mother complained to campus police that the assistant football coach had showered with her son. According to e-mails published last week by Freeh, Paterno, Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, a former vice president in charge of university police, kept close tabs on the course of that investigation. No charges were filed in the case.

Three years later, Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, told Paterno that he had spotted Sandusky molesting a boy in a football locker room shower. Paterno passed the message on to the others, but again the administrators decided not to take those accusations to outside authorities.

In one e-mail cited in the report, Curley advised dropping a plan to report Sandusky "after talking it over with Joe."

"To those who are convinced that the Freeh report is the last word on this matter, this is absolutely not the case," the Paterno family said.

Also Monday, Penn State spokesman David La Torre said that the university had revoked certain elements of Sandusky's retirement package, including free season tickets for life to football and basketball games as well as access to a locker, workout facilities, and an on-campus office.

La Torre said university trustees had made no final decisions regarding a statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, where Penn State's football team plays its home games.

Since the release of Freeh's report Thursday, university officials have come under pressure to take down the statue.

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

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