Former FBI director Louis Freeh has finally released the much-anticipated results of his investigation into the Penn State Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. The report, which was commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees and took over 8 months to prepare, paints a damning portrait of a Penn State football culture that empowered former assistant coach Sandusky to run amuck and prey upon young boys at will. The report is likely to permanently tarnish the legacy of Joe Paterno, once one of the most well-respected head coaches in the history of college football.
The report faults what it calls the “the four most powerful people at The Pennsylvania State University” – President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Paterno – for failing to protect children from a child predator who abused boys for over a decade, often on university property. All four are slammed for what Freeh characterizes as a “striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims,” exhibited by their failure to “inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.” The four were motivated by a desire to avoid bad publicity, which led them to conceal facts about Sandusky’s behavior from law enforcement, the university’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community and the public.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard of Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said at a press conference this morning. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
According to the report, the conduct on the part of Paterno and the other officials “empowered” Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse.
Just last month, Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse and is awaiting sentencing. His reprehensible crimes came to light last November, when Pennsylvania prosecutors charged him with sexually abusing boys he met through his charity, the Second Mile. Investigators revealed that in 2001 Mike McQuery, a graduate assistant coach at the time, had told Paterno that he had witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower at Lasch building. Paterno said he had informed university administrators, but admitted to taking no further action. Paterno and Spanier were fired by the Board of Trustees shortly after the news of Sandusky’s charges broke. Curley and Schultz resigned after being charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury investigating Sandusky’s crimes.
While Paterno was never charged, Freeh’s report makes it clear that his version of events was less than truthful. For example, Paterno had always maintained that he was unaware of a complaint made in 1998 by a mother who had discovered her son had taken a shower with Sandusky. Though police investigated, Sandusky was not charged at the time. Emails uncovered in the Freeh investigation call into doubt Paterno’s assertions that he knew nothing of the incident. In a 1999 email to Schultz with the subject line “Jerry,” Curley asked “anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.” The report states that “the reference to Coach is believed to be Paterno.”
The email directly contradicts what Paterno told a Pennsylvania grand jury when asked if he knew of any possible incidents involving Sandusky before 2001. “I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention – I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don’t know. I don’t remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor.”
Paterno also always maintained that he had no part in the decision not to report the 2001 shower incident to law enforcement authorities. But again, the emails tell a different story. According to the report, Spanier, Curley and Schultz agreed on Feb. 25, 2001, to tell the chair of the Board of the Second Mile about Sandusky’s conduct, report it to the Department of Welfare, and tell Sandusky to stop bringing children to Lasch building. But two days later, Curley emailed Spanier and Schultz to inform them that plans had changed: “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”
Rather than expose him for the predator he was, the actions of Paterno and the other three administrators allowed Sandusky, who retired in 1999, to be viewed as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future ‘visibility’ at Penn State, the report says. He was even given access to Penn State facilities, where he had use of an office. Up until the 2001 incident, Sandusky was allowed to bring children, some of whom he abused, onto campus. This exulted status allowed Sandusky to gain access to and groom his victims.
Freeh also blasts the Penn State Board of Trustees for allowing Paterno and the others to operate unchecked, and for failing in its oversight duties. Finally, the report faults the Penn State football culture and the importance the university placed on big-time college sports. At his news conference, Freeh pointed out that some university janitors had knowledge of disturbing conduct by Sandusky but didn’t take any action because they were afraid of the power of the football program and its equally-powerful coaching staff.
“If that was the culture at the bottom,” Freeh said, “imagine what the culture was at the top.”