We expected a blizzard of bad news from the Freeh report. What we got was an avalanche.
Much as the Jerry Sandusky trial confirmed our deepest fears that a child predator had been victimizing young boys in our midst, the Freeh report left little doubt that Penn State’s top officials hid that awful truth from the community, law enforcement and the university’s board of trustees.
For 267 pages, the Freeh report details how “a terrible tragedy was allowed to occur over many years at Penn State University, one in which many children were repeatedly victimized and gravely harmed.”
Despite daily statements from the late Joe Paterno’s family and the attorneys of former administrators Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, we stand by the Freeh report’s contention that these “four powerful men” put their own jobs and the reputation of Penn State above the safety of young children.
In releasing his group’s findings, Freeh, a former FBI director, said: “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. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
He added: “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.”
That arrest came last November, and was followed by charges against Curley and Schultz, and both Paterno and Spanier being removed from their jobs. That was just the beginning.
The Penn State trustees now must accept culpability, as the Freeh report showed a lack of urgency in getting to the bottom of the scandal once members were informed last spring of a grand jury investigation in Sandusky’s activities.
And The Second Mile must also face the music in this scandal. That organization’s former leaders and board members must be held accountable for Sandusky’s sins. As testimony showed in his trial, the ex-coach stalked, isolated and then assaulted young boys in the care of the organization he founded.
The Freeh report concluded that Second Mile leadership decided Sandusky’s 2001 sexual assault of a child in a Lasch Building shower was a “non-incident” that did not warrant action.
Penn State may yet face the wrath of the NCAA, the Department of Education, the Big Ten Conference and other agencies.
For sure, a slew of pending lawsuits will cost the university millions upon millions.
Paterno’s once-proud legacy is forever tarnished, football wins now overshadowed by terrible decisions and their tragic consequences.
Curley and Schultz are awaiting their trial on charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report Sandusky’s crimes.
Spanier has been cast from his throne as leader of the billion-dollar business that is Penn State.
Sandusky sits in the Centre County jail, awaiting sentencing.
And our community is reeling from yet another moment of horrific news.
Ultimately, these “four powerful men” personified and were among the architects of Penn State’s culture of secrecy.
It is a culture that, as we’ve learned, permeated every level of the university.
A janitor who saw Sandusky performing a sex act on a young boy in a campus shower chose not to report the incident. Like those above him, he feared for his job.
That 2000 victim was never identified, but his story is just one of many examples of what the Freeh report calls “callous and shocking disregard for child victims.”
“If that’s the culture at the bottom,” Louis Freeh said during Thursday’s news conference in Philadelphia, “God help the culture at the top.”
The culture at the top has been exposed for all to see.
As we struggle to wrap our minds around the horrors that have been brought upon this university and this community, God help us all.