State College attorney Justine Andronici didn’t mince words.
Andronici, who represented victims in the Jerry Sandusky case, said the Freeh report is “devastating for Penn State” and shows Penn State officials “put their own interests ahead of protecting children from a known child predator.”
She said her clients — Victims 3, 7 and 10 from the grand jury investigation — “are relieved the report holds Penn State officials accountable.”
Attorneys representing victims in the Sandusky case were among those who scorned Penn State after the Freeh report’s findings were released on Thursday.
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“It confirms that at the highest level, Penn State officials, including the University President and head football coach, knew that Sandusky was a child predator, but made the deliberate and reprehensible decision to conceal his abuse,” Andronici said in a joint statement with State College attorney Andrew Shubin. “They chose to protect themselves, Penn State’s brand and image, and their football program instead of children.
Andronici also said information revealed in the report also points to The Second Mile charity being liable.
“We intend to demonstrate that Penn State and The Second Mile were aware of the abuse decades earlier and failed to take action to stop it,” she said.
They and other attorneys representing Sandusky’s victims anticipate the findings will spur civil lawsuits against the university. Matt Casey, a co-counsel representing Victims 3, 7 and 10, said the information revealed by the Freeh report shows Penn State was reckless in concealing the abuse. He said his clients should be able to seek punitive damages in an upcoming civil suit.
Philadelphia attorney Tom Kline, who’s representing Victim 5, said the report shows a “colossal and monumental failure at the highest levels of Penn State.”
Kline said the report could be a road map for a potential civil lawsuit against Penn State, which he said would likely be filed in Philadelphia.
He thinks Freeh’s investigation failed to connect the dots between the 1998 police investigation into Sandusky and what he believes was Sandusky being forced out. Kline said the “circumstantial evidence” points to a connection.
Attorney Howard Janet, representing Victim 6, the boy in the 1998 investigation, also found fault with the report, even though it “lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of Penn State University administrators who were more interested in protecting Penn State football than young victims.”
Janet, in a statement, said he was “astonished” that the report concluded there was no interference by Penn State administrators in the investigation. He said the university failed “to ensure the investigation into suspected child sexual abuse was being conducted objectively by police who were not affiliated with the University,” and that police created an “intimidating atmosphere” for his client during interviews.
He also said university employees, including coaches, saw Sandusky showering with young boys before 1998 and did nothing.
“Apparently, with regard to Sandusky, the University and its employees embraced a philosophy of hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil,” Janet said.
“The failure to investigate earlier red flags about Sandusky no doubt influenced the outcome of the 1998 investigation, and more importantly allowed the 1998 incident to occur in the first place. As it is, the final reckoning took place 14 years too late to save other boys from being victimized.”
In a statement released Thursday, state Attorney General Linda Kelly said the Freeh report “should prove helpful to decision makers, the Penn State community and the public-at-large in understanding how this disturbing situation developed, as well as how to prevent it from being repeated in the future.”
“Throughout this entire time, the focus of the Attorney General’s Office has been on the criminal process — seeking justice for the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s predatory sexual abuse and identifying other individuals who may have also violated state laws,” Kelly said.
The report, she noted, “will not hinder the continuing work of our statewide investigating grand jury, nor will it impact ongoing criminal procedures.”
Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger reacted to the Freeh report on radio station WHP 580 AM in Harrisburg, saying it will not interfere with the planned appeal of Sandusky’s conviction on 45 charges related to child sexual abuse.
“If anything, we’re going to be combing through to see if there’s anything helpful to us,” he said.
Don Hahn, president of State College Borough Council and a bankruptcy attorney, said that, from a legal standpoint, the report looks bad for Penn State.
“Obviously the upper echelon of Penn State, who had reason to suspect, should have done more,” he said. “However, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that this is a crime where victims themselves are reluctant to come forward.”
Hahn said much of the scrutiny coming for Penn State is warranted, but that the university’s involvement should be considered in the context of a “wider failure to take these matters more seriously.”
Matt Bodenschatz, a Penn State student, child sexual abuse survivor and advocate, said in a statement that the findings “reveal still more and deeper evidence of willfully disregarded opportunities to meet simple, easily understood obligations placing child protection above all else — something that should have occurred without excuse, delay or exception.”
“The Freeh report is an opportunity to once again appreciate the magnitude of what Sandusky’s victims overcame and accomplished despite a tidal wave of cowardice, self-interested influence and privilege, and wrongheaded self-reverence,” Bodenschatz said.
Centre Daily Times staff writers Jessica VanderKolk and Chris Rosenblum contributed to this report.