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Freeh Report Raises Critical Questions About Paterno And Spanier

Written by Scott Detrow, StateImpact Pennsylvania Reporter | Jul 13, 2012 3:19 AM

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report is devastating for Penn State.

“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” the former FBI Director said when he unveiled the findings. “Mr. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”

The investigation provides painstaking details of how top Penn State brass repeatedly ignored allegations Jerry Sandusky was assaulting young boys.

Read witf’s annotated copy of the Freeh Report here.

In 1998, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz found out police were investigating Sandusky for showering with a boy in the football team’s locker room. In a note, he wrote the behavior was “at best inappropriate, at worst sexual improprieties.” He jotted down two questions: “Is this the opening of pandora’s box? Other children?”

Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley paid close attention as police investigated the complaint, and made sure to keep head coach Joe Paterno and University President Graham Spanier in the loop. But all four denied any knowledge of the incident when they were questioned by a Harrisburg Grand Jury more than a decade later.

In 1999, Spanier approved a $168,000 retirement payment for Sandusky.

One year later, a Penn State janitor saw Sandusky assault another boy. He didn’t report anything because he and other janitors were afraid they’d be fired. Freeh says that was “extremely telling.”

“They were afraid to take on the football program,” Freeh said. “They said the university would circle around it. It was like going against the President of the United States. If that’s the culture at the bottom, God help the culture at the top.”

The most damning details come from the 2001 assault – that’s the one Mike McQueary walked in on, and then reported to Paterno. Schultz, Curley and University President Graham Spanier  were all told what happened. They all knew this was, at minimum, the second time Sandusky had been caught in a Penn State shower with a young boy.

And they decided to do nothing.

The report quotes an email Schultz sent to Spanier.  He writes, “after giving it more throught and talking it over with Joe” – that’s Joe Paterno – “I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.” He wanted to talk to Sandusky about the incident, but he didn’t want to talk to anyone else.

Here’s what Graham Spanier wrote back: “This approach is acceptable to me. …I am supportive ….The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.’”

Curley and Schultz – who didn’t talk to Freeh’s team -- are facing criminal charges for essentially covering up Sandusky’s assault, and then lying to a grand jury about it. Spanier did meet with investigators. He hasn’t been charged.

And while Paterno wasn’t on the email chain, Schultz said he talked to the coach about the situation. Paterno knew what was going on, and Freeh said the iconic coach should have stepped in. “He ran his football building. He clearly ran the Latch building. I think it’s a very strong and reasonable inference that he could have done something if he wished.”

Paterno’s family has released a statement, calling Jerry Sandusky a “great deceiver.”  “If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was,” it reads, “a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions.”

Penn State Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Peetz disagreed. “I think our reaction is that the clarity that’s come out of the report, which showed that 61 years of excellent service that Joe gave to the university is now marred.  And we have to step back and say, what does that, what does that mean?”

But the report blames the Board of Trustees, too, for not taking a more aggressive regulatory role. In fact, the report says the evidence shows “weaknesses of the University’s culture, governance, administration, compliance policies and procedures for protecting children.”

Freeh makes more than 100 recommendations. He wants Penn State to separate its human resources department from the administration’s financial branch, reevaluate the university president’s job description, and improve guidelines for reporting sexual assaults, among other changes. Penn State’s new president, Rodney Erickson, said the school is serious about making changes. “The question is really, were there particular aspects about the football program that allowed some of these things to continue on and we will, we will certainly look at that.”

Two big questions loom:

--Will Freeh’s findings lead to any additional charges against school administrators?

--Will the NCAA do with the new information, as it weighs whether or not to issue sanctions against the school?

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