As president of Penn State, Graham Spanier got more than 150 emails a day — not all of which he had a chance to read.
Spanier’s legal team used that as an example Wednesday of how the Freeh report jumped to conclusions when it concluded the former president conspired with other leaders to hide child abuse allegations against Sandusky. Spanier, they said, did not remember two 1998 emails about a showering incident in a campus locker room involving Jerry Sandusky that passed through his inbox.
Tim Lewis, one of Spanier’s attorneys, blasted the Freeh report during a press conference in Philadelphia, calling it a “blundering and indefensible indictment” against Spanier.
He criticizing it for not interviewing key witnesses, selectively including some information and being based on assumptions. He defended Spanier, saying he was not told the infamous 2001 shower incident seen by a graduate assistant Mike McQueary was sexual in nature. He said that conclusion is based on assumptions.
The report, Lewis said, is “a flat-out distortion of facts so infused with bias and innuendo that it is, quite simply, unworthy of the confidence that has been placed in it, let alone the reported $6.5 million the university paid for it.”
While Spanier has been largely quiet since he was terminated in November, Wednesday saw a marked difference. His attorneys’ morning news conference was followed by a taped interview with Spanier that ABC News aired on TV in the evening.
The press conference lasted about 40 minutes, and Spanier’s attorneys took about five questions. One was about an email Spanier wrote that said the university administration could be vulnerable for not going to authorities about the 2001 shower incident.
Lewis said if Spanier had been told, there is no question he would have gone to authorities. Lewis did not directly address the wording in the email, deferring to Spanier and suggesting the email was taken out of context.
In an interview aired on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” on Thursday evening, Spanier said “ ‘vulnerable’ was not the best choice of a term.” He said he thought Sandusky had engaged in “horseplay” with a child. The interview also aired on ABC’s “Nightline” and is scheduled to air on “Good Morning America” this morning.
“Never in my time as president of Penn State did I ever receive a report or even a hint that Jerry Sandusky was engaged in child abuse, a sexual act, criminal activity or anything resembling that with any child,” Spanier said. “Had I known that, or even suspected it, I would have forcefully intervened. But I never heard a report like that.”
In 1998, a mother contacted police after her boy came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky. No charges ever came from that investigation.
Lewis said it’s now known that Sandusky, who is in prison awaiting sentencing on 45 criminal counts, is a “serial predator” and “master manipulator who fooled everyone.”
“It is easy to make irresponsible accusations now that we know everything about Sandusky,” he said in one of many sharply worded critiques of Freeh’s methods and findings.
Freeh, he said, acted as a “self-anointed accuser who, in his zeal to protect victims of wrongdoing from a monster, recklessly and without justification created victims of his own.”
They include Joe Paterno, “a dead man who could not respond.” The Freeh report says Paterno and Spanier along with former Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz actively tried to conceal Sandusky’s abuse.
Attorneys for Curley and Schultz agreed with the criticism from Spanier’s legal team, releasing statements saying their clients look forward to clearing their names in court. The attorneys said McQueary did not tell their clients the incident he witnessed involving Sandusky was sexual in nature.
A spokesman for the Freeh Group did not respond to a request for comment.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre declined to comment about the Spanier team’s criticisms of the Freeh Report. But, La Torre did address the issue of who would pay for the news conference.
“Under the university’s bylaws, the university is required to indemnify Dr. Spanier for certain legal expenses,” La Torre said. “We do not believe that legal fees associated with today’s press conference are a reimbursable expense and do not intend to pay those fees.”
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @AnneDanahy