Sue Paterno defends husband; report countering Freeh investigation coming Sunday

mdawson@centredaily.comFebruary 9, 2013 

— Sue Paterno on Friday blasted the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh that labeled her husband part of a cover-up and previewed the release of the long-in-the-works review of the document, which tarnished the legacy of the legendary Penn State coach.

“I am here to tell you as definitively and forcefully as I know that Mr. Freeh could not have been more wrong in his assessment of Joe,” Sue Paterno wrote in a letter to Penn State Nittany Lion lettermen that was released publicly by former Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson on his website.

“The Freeh report failed, and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events.”

The Paterno family’s report will be released at 9 a.m. Sunday on the website Paterno.com, according to the one-and-a-half page letter signed by Sue Paterno and emailed to the football players.

Scott Paterno, Sue and Joe Paterno’s son, wrote Friday on Twitter that ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” will convene a panel of the people who authored the Paterno familiy’s report. The show will air at 9 a.m.

Sue Paterno said she and her husband hoped the investigations by Freeh, the Attorney General’s Office and even The Second Mile charity that Sandusky founded would provide the truth. But that has not happened, she said.

She said Sandusky’s crimes were “heartbreaking” and that she prays for the victims each day. But, she said, Freeh’s report was a disservice to them.

“To claim that this ill-considered and rash process served the victims and the university is a grave error,” she said. “Only the truth serves the victims. Only the truth can help prevent this sort of crime from occurring again.”

Sue Paterno criticized the university’s trustees, saying they panicked after the Freeh report’s release in July and endorsing its findings without question. The trustees were in meetings in Scranton this summer when the report was unveiled.

Penn State called Sue Paterno “an important and valued member of the Penn State community,” according to a statement released Friday.

“We have and continue to appreciate all of her work on behalf of the (u)niversity,” the statement said. “She has touched many lives and continues to be an inspiration to many Penn Staters.”

The letter from Sue Paterno constitutes the most the widow has said publicly since her husband was embroiled in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. Joe Paterno was fired over the phone by Penn State trustee John Surma on Nov. 9, 2011. His firing was announced during a late-night press conference that led to a downtown State College riot.

Paterno’s health deteriorated as he battled lung cancer, and the longtime coach died Jan. 22, 2012, from complications of the cancer. The family held three days of public memorial services that culminated in a funeral procession around campus and on College Avenue.

Nearly seven months after his death, Paterno was bashed in the Freeh report, which suggested Paterno and other university leaders knew that Sandusky showered with young boys more than a decade ago and did not do anything about it.

In the letter, Sue Paterno fought Freeh’s characterization of her husband, saying Joe Paterno was a “moral, disciplined and demanding man.”

“Never — not once — did I see him compromise his principles or twist the truth to avoid bad publicity or protect his reputation,” she wrote. “He was also scrupulously honest, rigidly moral and absolutely unafraid of the consequences of doing the right thing.”

The Paterno family’s report, numbering some 150 or more pages, is expected to be a line-by-line indictment of the Freeh report. The report was led by the Paterno family’s lawyer, Wick Sollers.

The release of the letter by Robinson, who is now a fullback for the Seattle Seahawks, confirmed what had been suspicions this week that the Paternos were getting ready to strike back against the Freeh report, a move the family had promised after the Freeh report’s release in the summer.

That started with news that Katie Couric would be doing an interview with Sue Paterno in State College. That interview will be shown Monday during Couric’s talk show, “Katie,” which airs locally at 4 p.m. on WATM.

In her letter to the players, Sue Paterno did not summarize the counter-report she commissioned, only saying her experts’ findings “unreservedly and forcefully confirm my beliefs about Joe’s conduct.”

Freeh and his investigators, based at the Henderson Building on campus, interviewed more than 400 people and reviewed millions of pages of documentation. Freeh’s investigation turned up emails among university leaders Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, some of which suggest that Paterno was in the loop.

The Paterno family has vehemently denied that and criticized the report for not interviewing Curley, Schultz and other key witnesses, such as Mike McQueary, who testified he saw Sandusky in a campus locker room showering with a young boy in 2001.

After the report was released, speculation began building that Penn State would remove the Paterno statue alongside Beaver Stadium, and people from all over drove to State College to get pictures, say prayers or pay respects.

During the predawn hours of July 22 — 10 days after the report’s release — the bronze statue was dismantled.

A day later, the NCAA took Freeh’s findings and used them as the basis to levy unprecedented penalties against Penn State, including a $60 million fine, a 4-year bowl ban and erasing Paterno’s 111 wins from 1998 to 2011.

Sue Paterno, a mother of five and grandmother of 17, said her family’s motives are not to restore Paterno’s wins or bring the statue back from wherever it is being stored.

“Joe Paterno’s legacy wasn’t a statue, a winning record or public adulation,” Sue Paterno wrote. “He was grateful for the many accolades he received but he never believed they defined his life. His legacy is the family and you, his players.

“How you live your life speaks louder than any report.”

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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