Former AG Thornburgh, Paterno team condemn Freeh report
Experts hired by Joe Paterno's family blasted the investigation that determined the late Penn State University head football coach aided a cover-up of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of children.
The family called the investigation deeply flawed in its 237-page report, “Rush to Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno.” Survivors, including widow Sue Paterno, released the report on Sunday as part of a media blitz and in response to the one university trustees commissioned last year from former FBI Director Louis B. Freeh's firm.
The Paterno response is “interesting and important for public relations purposes,” but will have little impact on pending legal proceedings, said Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at St. Vincent College. Those proceedings include a pending criminal trial for former school administrators accused of a cover-up.
Experts who produced the new report concluded there was no evidence Paterno participated in hiding Sandusky's activities or was even aware of them. They said Sandusky fooled Paterno and others.
“The Freeh report is a profound failure,” Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers said. “It isn't a little wrong on the minor issues. It is totally wrong on the most critical issues. That the (university) board and the NCAA relied on this report, without appropriate review or analysis, is a miscarriage of justice.”
Freeh said he stands by his conclusions and called the new report “self-serving.”
“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,” Freeh said in a statement.
Sandusky, 69, was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys in and around Penn State facilities and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. Paterno, who was fired shortly after Sandusky's arrest in November 2011, died of complications of lung cancer two months later.
The Freeh report became the basis for the NCAA's decision to revoke 11 years of Penn State victories and levy a $60 million fine against the school's football program. It found Paterno worked with then-university President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz to hide incidents in which Sandusky was reported to have showered with young boys in university athletic facilities in 1998 and 2001.
The family's investigators faulted Freeh for failing to interview Paterno, Curley and Schultz.
They said Freeh acted rashly in relying on two emails between administrators referencing “Coach” and “Joe” to infer that Paterno influenced decisions regarding Sandusky. They said lawyers for the administrators said Paterno never attempted to influence decisions about allegations against Sandusky.
The university paid $6 million for the Freeh report.
“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,” said Penn State spokesman David LaTorre, who called the Freeh report an internal document.
“It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report,” he said.
Sue Paterno is scheduled to discuss the report and her husband in an interview Monday with ABC's Katie Couric.
Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, one of the leaders of the Paterno-commissioned team, said on ESPN's “Outside the Lines” that Freeh's report had three basic defects.
“It is incomplete; second, it is full of inaccuracies; and thirdly, it fails to reach the kind of conclusions that (Freeh) or I would have insisted upon from our investigators. Much was overlooked. Much was misrepresented in the report,” he said.
The Paterno family's team also included former FBI profiler Jim Clemente and Dr. Fred Berlin, a sexual disorders expert with Johns Hopkins University.
Former Penn State and Steelers running back Franco Harris, who played for Paterno, hailed the new report.
“I do think it's important that people start to hear the other side of the story,” he said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.