In magazine interview, Freeh defends Penn State report as factual

mdawson@centredaily.comJuly 25, 2013 

US NEWS PENNSTATE-ABUSE 10 SC

Louis Freeh addresses the media during a news conference at the Westin Hotel in Scranton, where he released the findings of his investigation into the Penn State scandal.

CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE — CDT file photo

Despite the criticism of Louis Freeh’s report on Penn State, he is “pleased” there was “not one disputed fact” about it, the former FBI director said in an interview with Fortune magazine.

“There was criticism about the interpretations, but nobody said, ‘You missed this email, or this fact is wrong,’ ” Freeh said, according to an excerpt of the interview published online Thursday. “That for us was the most important result.”

Freeh granted the magazine an interview for the article “Louis Freeh, Private Eye” that will be in its Aug. 12 issue. During the interview, the former FBI director spoke about his report on Penn State, which hired him to investigate the university’s response to allegations against Jerry Sandusky.

Freeh concluded that senior Penn State officials, including the late coach Joe Paterno and former President Graham Spanier, conspired to hide child abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago.

The Freeh report has been a source of controversy in the Penn State community, as Freeh critics point to his lack of subpoena power and failure to interview witnesses such as Paterno and whistleblower Mike McQueary as factors that call into question the damning conclusion.

The hallmark discovery — email exchanges between Spanier and top administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz — suggest they discussed the Sandusky incidents in 1998 and 2001. One email exchange from 2001 suggests Curley and Schultz were going to report the allegation but reconsidered. In the email, Curley said he reconsidered after talking with “Joe.”

Spanier, Curley and Schultz were charged with obstruction of justice, child endangerment and other counts as a result. They’re due in a Harrisburg courtroom on Monday for a preliminary hearing.

This spring, the Paterno family issued its own counter-report, assailing Freeh’s investigation as incomplete and saying the emails were taken out of context. The Paterno report also said Sandusky was a nice-guy offender who fooled everyone.

“We assume that everything we put our name to is going to be scrutinized and criticized — and it should be,” Freeh said in reference to a question about preparing for criticism. “That's the nature of our work. Our focus has to be a bulletproof product.”

Freeh said he doesn’t take the criticism personally. He said if he were to put himself in the Paterno family’s shoes, he “can imagine how they would feel if their father was criticized or alleged to have done certain things.”

He went on: “You always worry about the impact of your report — on somebody's liberty, their family, their welfare. You always are worried about the impact and the fallout and the injury and the harm and the liability. Even to bad people ... You always worry about the collateral damage.”

Freeh’s report was used by the NCAA in lieu of its own investigation into Penn State, and the NCAA came down hard on the university by imposing a $60 million fine, banning post-season play for four years, reducing its football scholarships and deleting 112 wins from the record books.

Freeh’s report was put online the morning of July 12, 2012, and he announced his findings during a news conference in Philadelphia. The university’s board of trustees, which commissioned the investigation, weren’t given a peek before the public got a look.

They pored over the pages while they were holed up in a hotel in Scranton for one of their bimonthly meetings.

Freeh told Fortune that his team wanted the report completed before the 2012-13 school year at Penn State started.

“Could we have done another 50 interviews? Of course. Could we have done another six months of work? Yes,” he said. “But we felt we had all the necessary facts that the board needed to make their decisions. We had our recommendations — some of which we had already given the board much earlier and are already being implemented.”

Penn State’s board of trustees accepted responsibility for the failures outlined in Freeh’s report, but the board has not voted to accept the report.

The trustees who’ve been elected in the past two years have said they want to see Penn State leaders revisit the Freeh report, which the trustees have said has destroyed the university’s reputation.

Freeh made 119 recommendations to improve the university’s governance, compliance, security and athletic department, and Penn State officials have implemented all but four of them.

The Freeh report has cost the university almost $8.2 million since November 2011.

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

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