Penn State’s four most powerful men ignored reports of child abuse, choosing not to worry about young victims but instead concerning themselves with the university’s reputation.
The damning report issued by former FBI director Louis Freeh on Thursday says that not only did Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier and other senior administrators fail to protect children from Jerry Sandusky, they actively worked to hide the crimes from the community “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
The report covered the abuse that started in 1998 and involved at least 11 children. It describes not only what happened, but points out the lack of responsibility shown, raising questions about Paterno’s legacy.
“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 during a press conference Thursday in Philadelphia. “The most powerful men at
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Penn State failed to take steps for 14 years to protect the children Sandusky victimized.”
Instead, they tried to cover it up. The report further said the administrators showed “callous and shocking disregard for child victims.” Their choices allowed Sandusky to have access to campus facilities — something that gave Sandusky the “currency” to attract victims.
The Freeh report also targets the board of trustees for not fulfilling its oversight duties. When it became aware of the crisis, the board had “overconfidence in Spanier’s abilities to deal with the crisis” and a “complacent attitude.”
Freeh issued the 267-page report online an hour before speaking at a news conference in Philadelphia. Trustees, who didn’t receive the report before the public, took questions about it at a news conference later Thursday in Scranton, where they will hold a scheduled meeting on Friday. The Freeh findings also point to:
•a “striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims,”
•“a failure by the Board to exercise its oversight functions,”
•“a President who discouraged discussion and dissent” and
•“a lack of awareness about child abuse policies.”
Freeh blasted Penn State officials for not reporting Sandusky in 2001, when Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky naked in a shower with a boy, because they wanted to avoid the “consequences of bad publicity,” like governmental investigations, donor anger, and the university community being upset.
“Nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity,” Freeh said.
Freeh said Schultz tried to conceal hand-written notes he had from the report back in 2001. Those were turned up in March and provided to the attorney general’s investigators.
“It was an active case of trying to conceal evidence,” Freeh said. “Don’t do that, it’s a dumb thing to do.”
Freeh said along with Spanier, Schultz and Curley, Paterno “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”
The report goes on to say that the men “concealed Sandusky’s activities” from the board, the university community and the police.
According to the report, the men exhibited a lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire about their safety and wellbeing, especially when not attempting to determine the identity of the child assaulted by Sandusky in the Lasch Building in 2001.
The report says that the “only known” factor between the decision on Feb. 25, 2001, by Spanier, Curley and Schultz to report the shower incident to the state Department of Public Welfare and then changing their minds was a conversation between Curley and Paterno.
Freeh’s summary says that the report “marks the beginning of a process for Penn State.”
“It is critical that Old Main, the Board and the Penn State community never forget these failures and commit themselves to strengthening an open, compliant and victim-sensitive environment — where everyone has the duty to ‘blow the whistle’ on anyone who breaks this trust, no matter how powerful or prominent they may appear to be,” the report said.
Freeh said Penn State officials risked harm to Victim 2 by alerting Sandusky of the report of abuse instead of reporting to authorities.
Although the report found no evidence that the Penn State board of trustees was aware of the allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001, the Freeh group criticized trustees for failing “to create an environment which held the university's most senior leaders accountable to it.”
Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury and failure to report abuse and are awaiting trial.
Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 counts of child abuse charges.
Trustees hired Freeh and his law firm, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP, in November to conduct the independent investigation.
The Freeh investigation has cost $6.5 million so far. Freeh said his team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed 3.5 million emails and documents.
Along with its findings, the report includes 119 recommendations for steps the university can take. Some of that, such as making sure the university is in proper compliance with the federal crime reporting Clery Act, are already under way.
The report itself included not only a summary of the findings, but some of the emails and notes that Freeh reviewed.
Sandusky’s retirement contract, for example, is part of the report, showing he got an unusual number of benefits, including a $168,000 retirement payment as well as getting an emeritus status.
Freeh said hearing about a janitor who walked in on Sandusky performing oral sex with a boy in a campus shower was the most “horrific” story. It was very telling that the janitors were afraid to report the abuse, Freeh said.
“If that’s the culture on the bottom, then God help the culture on the top,” he said.
Coaches and others ignored “red flags” about Sandusky’s behavior, Freeh said.
“He is frequently observed in the Lasch Building working out,” Freeh said. “He’s at bowl games with youth. Many of the colleagues observe him showering with boys in the Lasch Building, don’t report that, don’t think there’s anything untoward about that. He’s showing up at these camps, camps by the way that Penn State supported and contributed to ... He’s showing up with young boys, staying at dormitories.
“There’s more red flags here than you can count over a long period of time.”
Attorneys for Curley, Schultz and Spanier issued statements Thursday, as did the family of Paterno. All have denied knowing that sexual abuse was going on.
Spanier’s attorney said that “at no time in his 16 years as President of Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of any incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct, or criminality of any nature.”
The attorneys for Curley and Schultz criticized the Freeh report as limited and incomplete and that their clients look forward to their day in court.
“Fortunately for Mr. Curley, the Constitution guarantees that the criminal charges pending against him will be decided by 12 citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania based upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and not upon mere opinions drawn from limited resources,” said Caroline Roberty, the attorney for Curley.
Tom Farrell, the attorney for Schultz, said: “When the complete factual story is told before an impartial jury, it will be clear that Mike McQueary never told Mr. Schultz that he witnessed Mr. Sandusky engaging in anal intercourse with a young boy, that Mr. Schultz did not possess or maintain any secret files about Mr. Sandusky, and that there were no efforts between and among Messrs. Schultz, Curley, Paterno and Spanier to conceal Mr. Sandusky’s behavior.”
Freeh confidently stated an opposite scenario in the opening sentence of his press conference remarks.
“We are here today because 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,” Freeh said. “Our hearts and prayers are with the many children — now young men — who were the victims of a now convicted serial pedophile.”
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648 and email@example.com.