The Penn State sex abuse scandal took on a new aspect yesterday with the release of the internal investigation by former FBI Director Judge Louis J. Freeh, which determined that beloved head football coach Joe Paterno, university president Graham Spanier, and other top officials not only knew about Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of children, but actively tried to cover it up.
During a Thursday morning press conference at the Westin hotel in Center City, Freeh said that Spanier, Paterno, the university’s athletic director Timothy Curley and senior vice president Gary Shultz were more concerned about bad publicity than protecting those victimized by Sandusky. In fact, in the 2001 case that was reported by assistant coach Michael McQueary, university officials chose to expose the child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, the only person who knew the child’s identity. Freeh said no attempts were made to protect any of the children, except to ask Sandusky to keep the children he was allegedly abusing off the campus.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.
“Their callous and shocking disregard for child victims was underscored by the
Grand Jury, which noted in its November 4, 2011, presentment that there was no ‘attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2 or to protect that child or others from similar conduct, except as related to preventing its reoccurrence on university property. None of these four men took any responsible action after February 2001, other than Mr. Curley informing the Second Mile [charity] that Mr. Sandusky had showered with a boy. Even though they all knew about the 1998 incident, the best they could muster to protect Sandusky’s victims was to ask Sandusky not to bring his ‘guests’ into the Penn State facilities.”
Joe Paterno’s family released a statement prior to the release of the investigation that said the late head football coach was ordered to cancel a planned press conference on the Sandusky allegation by the university. The full story of what Paterno knew and the actions he planned to take in the case has not been told, they said. According to their statement, Paterno did not cover up Sandusky’s actions, and didn’t know he was a pedophile.
“When the Sandusky case exploded last fall, Joe’s first instincts were to tell everything he knew. He assumed the University would want to hear from him, but he was never given the chance to present his case,” the statement said. “He planned to hold a press conference, but University officials ordered him to cancel it. As this situation unfolded, Joe cautioned everyone not to jump to conclusions. He believed that a rush to judgment and a disregard for due process would ultimately result in conclusions that would not stand the test of time. To be clear, he did not fear the truth, he sought it. As much as anyone, he wanted to know exactly what Jerry Sandusky had done and he wanted to understand how it happened. The sad and frightening fact is Jerry Sandusky was a master deceiver. He fooled players, coaches, law enforcement officials, child service professionals, Penn State Board members, University leaders, neighbors, donors, staff and supporters of Second Mile and his family. Joe Paterno did not cover up for Jerry Sandusky. Joe Paterno did not know that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile. Joe Paterno did not act in any way to prevent a proper investigation of Jerry Sandusky. To claim otherwise is a distortion of the truth.”
But the investigation shows a different story.
The 267-page report is a blistering and detailed breakdown of the internal culture that existed and allegedly tried to cover up Sandusky’s behavior before his November 2011 arrest. Over a 15-year period, Sandusky sexually abused at least 10 boys and allegedly used his charity, The Second Mile, to find potential victims. He was convicted in June of 45 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault of a young child, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children. Sandusky is now behind bars and awaiting sentencing — which could result in life imprisonment. Spanier and Curley have been charged with perjury and failing to report abuse. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
According to Freeh, Spanier, Curley and Schultz repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse and Paterno was part of the cover-up. The investigation revealed handwritten notes and e-mails from Paterno that allegedly show he was involved with the decision by other top university officials not to tell child welfare authorities about the February 2001 incident that was witnessed by McCreary. Freeh said the university’s Board of Trustees also abrogated its oversight duties and failed to take any action against the serial pedophile.
“These individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the university,” Freeh said. “Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims. Some coaches, administrators and football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky’s behaviors, and no one warned the public about him.”
The investigation revealed that as early as 1998, university officials and law enforcement authorities knew about Sandusky. Several witnesses, including football coaches and other staff members, reported seeing him taking showers with young boys, but no one reported any of the incidents to their superiors. University police and the Department of Public Welfare did respond to a report by the mother of one of the victims regarding a possible sexual assault by Sandusky inside the Lasch Building on May 3, 1998. There were no indications that university officials interfered with the investigation but Spanier, Curley, Paterno and Schultz were kept informed.
The report showed that Shultz’s notes on May 5, 1998, about the incident asked, “Is this opening of Pandora’s box? Other children?” On June 9, 1998, Shultz and Curley emailed each other and Shultz said, “I think the matter has been appropriately investigated, and I hope it is now behind us.” A detective recalled interviewing Sandusky in the Lasch Building so as not to put him on the defensive. The detective warned him not to shower with any children and Sandusky said he wouldn’t. No criminal charges were filed against Sandusky and the investigation revealed that Paterno, Spanier, Shultz or Curley never spoke with Sandusky about the alleged incident.
“We want to ensure we are giving the report careful scrutiny and consideration before making any announcements or recommendations. We are convening an internal team comprising the Board of Trustees, University administration and our legal counsel to begin analyzing the report and digesting Judge Freeh’s findings,” said the university’s Board of Trustees in a press statement. “These top-line reactions will provide an overview of our process for developing and implementing a plan once we have studied the report and have a better understanding of what it means, and how we can implement findings to strengthen Penn State’s role as a leading academic institution and ensure that what occurred will never be allowed to happen again.”