Louis Freeh criticized Penn State’s legal counsel Thursday, saying they were “seriously deficient.”
The comments come as the former FBI director commissioned to investigating Penn State’s decision-making around the Sandusky incidents released a scathing report of former administrators Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno.
But the report also casts a negative light on two attorneys serving as the university’s counsel during the response to a 2001 that report Sandusky was in a shower with a young boy as well as the response to the grand jury’s investigation 10 years later.
The attorneys in question are Wendell Courtney, who was the university counsel through 2010, and Cynthia Baldwin, whose tenure ended June 30.
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Both attorneys’ paths intersected, albeit briefly from what the Freeh report says, in 2011 when Baldwin asked Courtney about the 2001 Sandusky incident.
Courtney was outside counsel for Penn State from 1980 through 2010 and was counsel for Second Mile from 2008 to 2011 and was on the charity’s board.
According to the Freeh report, Gary Schultz consulted with Courtney over the 2001 incident and met with Schultz about it. Courtney charged Penn State 2.9 hours of time for his work. Courtney declined an interview with Freeh investigators, so the nature of his work wasn’t known by investigators.
Courtney came back into the picture in 2010, emailing Schultz after he was contacted by Baldwin.
Courtney then emailed Schultz, saying he was contacted by Baldwin and that he told her what he remembered about the report Sandusky was in a shower with a boy.
In his email, Courtney says he didn’t tell Baldwin that he and Schultz had “chatted about this.”
That same month, Baldwin accompanied Schultz, Curley and Paterno for their testimony to the grand jury in Harrisburg. Schultz and Curley thought she was representing them, but Baldwin told Freeh investigators that she was there to represent the interests of the university.
In April 2011, Baldwin was then part of a conference call with then-President Graham Spanier and then-board Chairman Steve Garban about the grand jury investigation. At the trustees’ next board meeting in May, Baldwin briefed the board on the grand jury investigation but downplayed its importance and didn’t explain why Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno testified, Freeh’s report says.
According to Freeh, trustees remembered the briefing from Baldwin differently. Some said they were left with the impression the investigation was of The Second Mile and not Penn State. Others remembered being told it was the third or fourth time a grand jury had investigated Sandusky and that criminal charges wouldn’t be likely. The takeaway message was that it wasn’t something to be concerned with, trustees told Freeh investigators.
Baldwin told Freeh investigators that she spoke of the grand jury investigation at the meeting but was directed by Spanier to leave after a short time.
There was no update from Baldwin or Spanier to the board at its July or September 2011 meetings.
Baldwin got information in late October 2011 about the grand jury’s indictment and Baldwin and others drafted an “unconditional support” statement for Schultz and Curley.
A senior administrator suggested an independent review of Penn State’s athletic department, but Baldwin replied to that: “If we do this, we will never get rid of this group in some shape or form.” Spanier agreed.
Baldwin also told investigators, according to the report, that the university couldn’t take away Sandusky’s access to university facilities after the grand jury investigation became public in March 2011 because Penn State could be sued. The report said athletics officials asked about that.
Attempts to reach Baldwin and Courtney for comment were unsuccessful.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT