PHILADELPHIA — 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, outlined the findings of the panel’s 162-page report in prepared remarks released in advance of a 10 a.m. news conference in Philadelphia.
The report is available at www.philly.com/freeh.
“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” Freeh said.
Naming Paterno, former Penn State President Graham 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 — Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — 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,” the former FBI director said.
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 top university figures, including legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
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.
Allegations in 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.
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.
But 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 had seen.
Already, evidence uncovered by Freeh’s investigators has called those claims in to question. Portions of an email debate between Curley, Schultz and Spanier leaked earlier this month allegedly show the trio had at one point decided upon reporting Sandusky. The correspondence references a discussion between Curley and Paterno that ultimately changed their course.
And while many observers have pointed to this as a smoking gun sign of a cover-up, representatives for Paterno and the other administrators have maintained the leaked portions of the emails were taken out of context.
“What cannot be disputed … is that select emails intended to smear Joe Paterno and other former Penn State officials have been released, testimony from witnesses highly critical of Joe has been revealed and purported conclusions condemning the culture of the football program have been widely disseminated,” the coach’s family said in a statement Tuesday. “The board promised a fair, transparent and impartial process. These developments are a threat to their stated objectives.”
For Curley and Schultz, both awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failure to report abuse, Freeh’s report could ultimately help or hurt their cases.
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.
But beyond those principal players, Penn State alumni, college football fans and universities across the nation will also be reading closely.
On Wednesday, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an alumni group that has heavily criticized university trustees in their handling of the Sandusky case, issued a 95-item checklist of additional issues it hopes the Freeh report addresses.
Attorneys representing Sandusky’s victims, too, will be paying close attention. Future civil suits against Penn State involving Sandusky’s crimes could succeed or fail based on Freeh’s findings.
“I’m going to be looking for . . . full and complete disclosure,” said lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who represents the young man identified in Sandusky’s trial as Victim 4. “It’s going to be convenient for the university to release certain information but to hold back on some of the details concerning potential information that could expose them to liability.”
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 millions of dollars since Penn State’s trustees commissioned him to lead the investigation, a university spokesman said.
©2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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