The Paterno family’s commissioned review of the Freeh report is challenging that Joe Paterno knew about Jerry Sandusky showering with a young boy in a Penn State shower room in 1998 and concealed it.
The Paterno family report, released Sunday, called Freeh’s assessment of the 1998 incident one of the seven “most egregious, unfounded” conclusions, which has tarnished the deceased coach’s legacy.
Freeh’s investigators turned up two email conversations involving then-athletic director Tim Curley. The Paterno report said Freeh speculated about the emails and never interviewed Curley or Paterno to figure out the context.
One of the email strings has the subject line “Joe Paterno.” Curley wrote to then-senior leader Gary Schultz and then-president Graham Spanier an email that said “I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.”
The next day, Schultz wrote back, including Spanier on the message, “Will do. Since we talked tonight I’ve learned that the Public Welfare people will interview the individual Thursday.”
The Paterno report said Spanier’s interview with Freeh supports their notion that the 1998 incident was not reported to either of them “in serious terms.”
The second email conversation was between Curley and Schultz from May 13, 1998, through June 9, 1998. Schultz said the incident was “appropriately investigated” and determined no criminal behavior was found. The subject line of that email was “Jerry.”
The email has a reference that could point to Paterno, in which Curley wrote on May 13, 1998: “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”
The Paterno report blasts Freeh for concluding the references to “Coach” refer to Paterno, saying it could have been Sandusky or someone else, and that Freeh’s inability to confirm who “Coach” was demonstrates how limited Freeh was in his investigation.
“Rather, the Freeh report glossed over the glaring lack of evidence as to Joe Paterno, used these two email strings to saddle Joe Paterno with the evidence about what other officials at Penn State allegedly knew, and opined that it was all a conspiracy to conceal and avoid the consequences of bad publicity,” the report states.
Former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who contributed to the Paterno report, said that the email on May 13, 1998, saying “Anything new in this department” could have been a reference to Sandusky’s attempt to start a football program at the Penn State Altoona campus.
“For the Freeh investigators not to consider this option as a reasonable interpretation of this email is telling, especially because the timing of these discussions would have been well documented in the administration files or known by the people in the administration that they interviewed,” Thornburgh wrote.
The Paterno report said the records from Freeh show that the 1998 incident was thoroughly investigated that experts outside the Penn State football program were told about it. The 1998 incident was investigated by Penn State police, Centre County prosecutors and caseworkers. No charges were brought.
“The Freeh report faults some of these investigators with its 20/20 hindsight, but does not find any evidence of interference by Penn State administrators in the 1998 Sandusky investigation,” the report said.
“Furthermore, there is no evidence that Joe Paterno covered up anything regarding the 1998 incident, or indeed that there was anything to cover up given an ensuing investigation that included outside independent experts in the field of child abuse.”