Former FBI director Louis Freeh responded to a new report commissioned by Joe Paterno’s family that claimed Freeh’s report of Paterno was “unfounded.”
The new report challenges Freeh’s conclusion that the late Penn State coach conspired to conceal child sex abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
An executive summary of the critique, released Sunday, said the ``observations'' of Paterno by Freeh in July were unfounded. Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, one of the experts assembled by the family's lawyer to review the report Freeh compiled for Penn State, called that document fundamentally flawed and incomplete.
On Sunday, Freeh responded to the critique with a statement of his own:
I respect the right of the Paterno family to hire private lawyers and former government officials* to conduct public media campaigns in an effort to shape the legacy of Joe Paterno.
However, the self-serving report the Paterno family has issued today does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report or alter the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report. Joe Paterno's own testimony under oath before the grand jury that investigated this horrific case is of critical importance. Mr. Paterno testified in 2011 that he knew from Michael McQueary in 2001 that McQueary had seen Sandusky "fondling, whatever you might call it -- I'm not sure what the term would be -- a young boy" in the showers at the Lasch Building. Mr. Paterno explained, "[o]bviously, he was doing something with the youngster. It was a sexual nature. I'm not sure exactly what it was. I didn't push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset." Years later, Mr. Paterno would explain to a reporter he chose to discuss the event with that he told McQueary, "I said you did what you had to do. It's my job now to figure out what we want to do."
As detailed in my report, the e-mails and contemporary documents from 2001 show that, despite Mr. Paterno's knowledge and McQueary's observations, four of the most powerful officials at Penn State agreed not to report Sandusky's activity to public officials. As made clear in the attachments to our report, on February 25, 2001, Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz agreed to report Sandusky's abuse to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. On February 27, 2001, these men agreed that reporting to DPW was not required, reasoning in the words of Graham Spanier that "[t]he only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it." The only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 and the agreement not to report on February 27, 2001, was Mr. Paterno's February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley regarding what to do about Sandusky. Again, this conversation was memorialized in the contemporary email, where Mr. Curley said "[a]fter giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday -- I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps." Curley's message continued:
I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved. I think I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell him about the information we received. I would plan to tell him we are aware of the first situation. I would indicate we feel there is a problem and we want to assist the individual to get professional help. Also, we feel a responsibility at some point soon to inform his organization and [sic] maybe the other one about the situation. If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing the organization. If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups. Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities. I need some help on this one. What do you think about this approach?
During the investigation, we contacted Mr. Paterno's attorney in an attempt to interview Mr. Paterno. Although Mr. Paterno was willing to speak with a news reporter and his biographer at that time, he elected not to speak with us. We also asked Mr. Paterno's attorney to provide us with any evidence that he and his client felt should be considered. The documents provided were included in our report.
Further, the Pennsylvania Attorney General specifically requested our staff not to interview Mr. McQueary so as to not interfere with the criminal prosecution of Sandusky. Nevertheless, we had access to sworn testimony by Mr. McQueary at the preliminary hearing as well as the Sandusky trial, where Mr. McQueary was thoroughly cross examined by several defense lawyers. Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz declined to speak with our staff on advice of their lawyers, despite our numerous interview requests.
Mr. Paterno was on notice for at least 13 years that Sandusky, one of his longest serving assistants, and whose office was steps away, was a probable serial pedophile. Mr. Paterno was aware of the criminal 1998 investigation into Sandusky's suspected child sexual abuse. Indeed, the evidence shows that Mr. Paterno closely followed that case. Later, in 2001, another one of his assistants, Mr. McQueary, directly reported to Mr. Paterno that Sandusky was sexually abusing a young boy in Mr. Paterno's Penn State football locker room. The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno purposefully ignored this evidence.
I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade. These men exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not even attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.
In the past months, Penn State has made a dedicated effort to reform the problems that led to Sandusky's ability to victimize children on the university campus. I trust that the changes and improvements that Penn State has put in place will help to build a constructive and protective environment where children will not again suffer abuse.
* In 1989, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh selected me from the thousands of federal prosecutors in the Justice Department to lead the investigation into the bombing murders of federal judge Robert Vance in Alabama, and NAACP leader Robbie Robinson in Georgia. Thornburgh then highly praised my investigative abilities, and the cases were successfully prosecuted. Thornburgh personally signed my certificate appointing me as a federal judge.
In addition to Freeh’s statement, Penn State University also issued their own response to the Paterno family’s claims:
-In November 2011, the Penn State Board of Trustees appointed former FBI director and federal Judge Louis Freeh to conduct an independent investigation of the University's response to the allegations of sexual abuse committed by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The goal of this investigation was to uncover facts and identify where failures occurred in the University's governance and compliance structure and to make recommendations to help ensure that such failures never happen again. This was an internal investigation into Penn State's response to the allegations.
It was not within the scope of Judge Freeh's engagement to review the actions, motives or functions of entities outside of our University community. This was an internal investigation into Penn State's response to the allegations, and that is how the University has utilized the report.
As a result of the investigation, 119 recommendations were made to Penn State in areas such as safety and governance. To date, the University has implemented a majority of those recommendations, which are helping to make the University stronger and more accountable. The University intends to implement substantially all of the Freeh recommendations by the end of 2013.
It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report.