Paternos challenge Freeh report on scandal at PSU

By Genaro C. Armas

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10 2013 11:19 p.m. MST

The treatment of Paterno — fired over a late-night telephone call — as well as the handling of the Freeh report and the resulting NCAA sanctions by university leadership remain sensitive topics with some unhappy groups of alumni, ex-players and community residents.

Penn State said Sunday that Freeh was brought in to conduct an independent investigation of the school's response to the allegations, and not actions of entities unrelated to Penn State. Freeh offered 119 recommendations to strengthen governance and compliance, the majority of which have been implemented, the school said.

"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," the school said.

Freeh, in his report, said his team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed over 3.5 million emails and documents. The former federal judge said evidence showed Paterno was involved in an "active agreement to conceal" and his report cited email exchanges, which referenced Paterno, between administrators about allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.

According to Thornburgh's findings, Freeh's report relied primarily on about 30 documents, including three notes authored by Paterno, and 17 emails. Four emails referenced Paterno — none sent by the octogenarian coach who notoriously shunned modern electronic technology.

Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in October after being convicted last summer of 45 criminal counts. Prosecutors said assaults occurred off and on campus, including the football building.

His arrest in November 2011 triggered the turmoil that led to Paterno's firing days later. Under pressure, Spanier left as president the same day. Curley was placed on administrative leave, while Schultz retired.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have maintained their innocence.

Critics have said that Freeh's team didn't speak with key figures including Curley, Schultz and Paterno, who died in January 2012 at age 85. Spanier spoke to Freeh six days before the report was released July 12.

Freeh said he respected the family's right to conduct a campaign to "shape the legacy of Joe Paterno," but called the critique self-serving. Paterno's attorney was contacted for an interview with the coach, he said, and Paterno spoke with a reporter and biographer before his death but not Freeh's team. Paterno's attorney did provide documents.

Curley and Schultz declined numerous requests for interviews, Freeh said. They have been facing criminal charges since November 2011.

Freeh on Sunday cited grand jury testimony by Paterno in 2011 in which Paterno said McQueary relayed to him the 2001 allegation against Sandusky of a "sexual nature" with a child.

He referred to a key point in the July report in which he said the administrators drew up a plan that called for reporting Sandusky to state public welfare officials in 2001. Curley later write in an email that he changed his mind "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe," according to Freeh's findings.

Said Freeh on Sunday: "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" in the 2001 allegation.

The Paterno family report said Freeh chose not to present alternative and "more plausible" conclusions about Paterno's actions. Their attorney, Wick Sollers, responded Sunday that Freeh didn't take the time to read the family's critique, or address accusations of procedural shortcomings.

Sollers said he met with Freeh's team and pledged full cooperation. Joe Paterno's cancer diagnosis prevented he coach from being interviewed, but son and former assistant coach Jay Paterno spoke with Freeh's group.

"A failure to consider the facts carefully is exactly the problem our expert analysis highlights," Sollers said. "Everyone, including Mr. Freeh, should take the time to study this report."

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