By Devon Lash, Peter Hall and Tim Darragh
Of The Morning Call
12:12 PM CDT, July 12, 2012
Special investigator Louis Freeh said Joe Paterno and top Penn State administrators covered up child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky for more than a decade to protect the university.
“The evidence clearly shows, in our view, an active agreement to conceal,” Freeh, the former FBI director, said in a news conference in Philadelphia Thursday, after releasing the results of an eight-month investigation into Penn State’s handling of the allegations against Sandusky.
Top officials, including Paterno, were obligated under the Clery Act to report the incident to the University Police Department, according to the 266-page Freeh report which was released this morning and included interviews with more than 430 people and the reading of 3.5 million documents.
Yet for 14 years, Paterno and the most powerful leaders at Penn State exhibited a “total disregard” for the victims of child molester Jerry Sandusky, and “repeatedly concealed critical facts” to avoid bad publicity, according to the independent report. released this morning.
“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,” according to a statement by Freeh.
He added that he has no authority to recommend whether additional charges be filed. Penn State University President Graham Spanier resigned in the wake of the scandal. Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley both face trial for allegedly lying to a grand jury.
“I think it would be up to a grand jury and a law enforcement officer to determine whether it meets the elements of criminal offenses,” he said.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly acknowledged the Freeh investigation in a statement late this morning, but did not address if more charges would be pursued.
The Freeh report found Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley had heard reports of Sandusky’s actions toward young boys in campus locker rooms — including a 1998 criminal investigation that involved a young boy in the showers — and did nothing.
“None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity,” according to Freeh’s statement.
Freeh, who read a synopsis of the report and took questions from reporters, also said that despite the unusual circumstances of Sandusky’s retirement in 1999 at the height of his career, there was no indication it was linked in any way to the 1998 investigation of the boy who would become Victim 6 in Sandusky criminal case.
“He was paid a very large, unprecedented sum of money, $168,000,” Freeh said. “He was given not just emeritus status, but extraordinary access to the key and most sensitive parts of the university’s football program.
“However, there is no evidence that we have found that would indicate that retirement and all the elements that went into it were related in any way to removing him from the university, silencing him, whatever you want to describe.”
Relatives of Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January, have said Paterno did not cover up for Sandusky and said the scandal was not a “football problem.”
Freeh took exception to that statement, although he noted his team did not have the opportunity to speak with Paterno before his death from lung cancer in January.. but that Investigators were able to turn up documents and notes from Paterno.
“The coach clearly wants to be advised what is going on,” Freeh said. “The notion that there was no attention paid at the time is completely contrary to the evidence."
The Paterno family issued a statement this morning, saying that “the underlying facts as summarized in the report are almost entirely consistent with what we understood them to be.”
The statement went on to say, “the issue we have with some of the conclusions is that they represent a judgment on motives and intentions and we think this is impossible. We have said from the beginning that Joe Paterno did not know Jerry Sandusky was a child predator. Moreover, Joe Paterno never interfered with any investigation. He immediately and accurately reported the incident he was told about in 2001.”
Freeh’s invesitgation also had Paterno’s statement that he made about his conversation with former assistant coach Mike McQueary when the then-graduate assistant coach reported the February 2001 shower incident.
“Mr. Paterno’s quote was: ‘You did what you had to do. Now it’s up to me to decide what we want to do.’ I think that’s a very important, critical and telling statement,” Freeh said.
In a prepared statement, Freeh mentioned that exchange, adding: “Why would anyone have to figure out what had to be done?”
In the report, the evidence “shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s,” according to Freeh’s statement. “At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building,” the football team’s headquarters.
The report mentions that as Schultz was learning about repeated incidents of Sandusky bear-hugging boys while in the shower, Schultz’s confidential notes from May 5, 1998, conclude: “Is this opening of pandora’s [sic] box? Other children?”
According to the report, Paterno was also involved in the decision not to report signs of Sandusky’s sex abuse in February 2001, after a warning from then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary.
Freeh said he could not elaborate on the conversation between Athletic Director Tim Curley and Paterno after which they decided not to report Sandusky’s actions to police. According to the report, Curley declined to be interviewed by Freeh’s investigators.
The decision not to report Sandusky to authorities in 2001 “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.”
Penn State University President Graham Spanier, who resigned in the wake of scandal, and Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz and Curley, who both face trial for allegedly lying to a grand jury, are also named in the report.
As Schultz was learning about repeated incidents of Sandusky bear-hugging boys while in the shower, Schultz’s confidential notes from May 5, 1998, conclude: “Is this opening of pandora’s [sic] box? Other children?”
Spanier, who acquiesced to Paterno despite misgivings, the report said, issued a statement through his attorneys Tuesday denying any knowledge of the allegations against Sandusky.
The report also takes the Board of Trustees to task for their lack of oversight.
Freeh said he found the reaction of the janitors who witnessed Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy in a football locker room shower in November 2000 among the most telling evidence of the university’s culture.
“What did they do?” Freeh said, noting one of the men, a Korean War veteran, said it was the most horrific thing he had ever seen. “They said we can’t report this because we’ll get fired.”
“They knew who Sandusky was … They were afraid to take on the football program. They said the university would circle around,” he said. “It was like going against the president of the United States. If that’s the culture on the bottom then God help the culture at the top."
“The board failed in its oversight of the senior officers of the university. They did not create an atmosphere in which the president and the senior officers felt they were accountable to the board,” Freeh said.
Even the janitors who witnessed Sandusky molesting young boy on campus were afraid to report what they saw for fear of being fired, according to Freeh’s statement said.
“In any corporate environment, public or private, the function of the board is to create an atmosphere of accountability where the officers who manage the day to day operations of the enterprise feel obligated to advise the board of serious matters on a timely and fulsome basis,” he said.
Some trustees felt their meetings were a “rubber stamp” process for Spanier’s actions and the board “failed to oversee properly his executive management of the worst crisis in Penn State’s history.”
Penn State’s Board of Trustees met behind closed doors early Thursday morning in a conference room at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in Scranton. They exited at 9 a.m. to read Freeh’s report, with newly elected trustee Adam Taliaferro saying he had “some reading to do.”
The university issued a news release moments later saying officials and trustees “have eagerly anticipated” the release of Freeh’s report.
“We expect a comprehensive analysis of our policies, procedures and controls related to identifying and reporting crimes and misconduct, including failures or gaps that may have allowed alleged misconduct to go undetected or unreported,” the statement read.
Penn State said it wants to ensure it is giving the report careful scrutiny and consideration before making any announcements or recommendations. It is convening an internal team of trustees, administrators and legal counsel to begin analyzing the report and digesting the findings.
The university will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. in Scranton, where they are holding their regular meeting.
Emails show none of the Penn State authorities aware of the Sandusky incidents attempted to determine if they were reportable under the Clery Act. The law is named for Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University freshman who was raped and murdered in 1986 in her dorm room. It was signed into law in 1990 after it was found that colleges and universities routinely failed to report campus crimes.
The report says “a risk management review might have resulted in the University providing contractual notice to its insurers about the incident, imposition of a general ban on the presence of children in the Lasch Building, or other limitations on Sandusky’s activities.”
The board hired Freeh’s consulting group in November to investigate the university’s response, a task that Freeh, a former prosecutor and federal judge, promised to undertake “leaving no stone unturned, and without any fear or favor.”
The Freeh team’s findings could have serious consequences for the university, which faces civil lawsuits by Sandusky’s numerous victims, an NCAA investigation of how the Penn State football program was managed and perjury cases against two former administrators.
The report also may affect how generations of Penn State football fans remember Paterno, who led the team for four decades before being fired after Sandusky was charged in November.