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PHILADELPHIA -- Pulling no punches, a special investigator asserted on Thursday that four top Penn State University officials, including late football coach Joe Paterno, not only allowed but empowered more than a decade of child sex abuse by former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity.
The report, by former FBI director Louis Freeh, condemned the conduct of Mr. Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz, and former athletic director Tim Curley.
"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized," Mr. Freeh, a former federal judge, said at a news conference in Philadelphia.
"These individuals, unchecked by the board of trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted, and unsupervised access to the university's facilities and affiliation with the university's prominent football program. Indeed, that continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims," the report said.
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It also concluded that the four "repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the university's board of trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large," in what Mr. Freeh called a "callous and shocking disregard for child victims."
A special investigative task force, acting on behalf of the university's current trustees, retained Mr. Freeh and his law firm in November. It promised a comprehensive and unbiased investigation of the sex abuse scandal. Kenneth Frazier, who led the special investigation task force for the trustees, said the members' "hearts remain heavy" as they accept responsibility for not providing more oversight.
"We failed to ask the right questions, the tough questions or to take definitive action," Mr. Frazier said. "Put simply, we did not force the issue."
Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a span of 15 years. The scandal led to the ouster of Mr. Spanier and Mr. Paterno, who died in January of complications from lung cancer. It also resulted in charges against Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley, who are awaiting trial accused of failing to properly report suspected child abuse and lying to a grand jury.
State Attorney General Linda Kelly praised the work of the Freeh investigation and said the report should help Penn State and the public understand "how this disturbing situation developed, as well as how to prevent it from being repeated in the future."
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She also said the report will not cause a problem for the ongoing criminal investigation of Penn State. Indeed, pinning down some of the details in the criminal case against Sandusky was done through emails obtained by the Freeh group.
"Today's release of the Freeh Report will not hinder the continuing work of our statewide investigating grand jury, nor will it impact ongoing criminal prosecutions," she said.
The 267-page report, based on more than 430 interviews and 3.5 million emails and other documents, said Mr. Paterno knew about and closely followed a 1998 investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Sandusky with a boy in a football locker room shower but failed to take action.
According to the report, before May, 1998, several staff members and football coaches "regularly observed Sandusky showering with young boys in the Lasch Building … none of the individuals interviewed notified their superiors ... ."
After the mother of a young boy reported a possible sexual assault by Sandusky on May 3, 1998, university police and the state Department of Public Welfare investigated. Two days later, Mr. Schultz wrote in his notes: "Is this the opening of Pandora's box? Other children?"
On June 9, 1998, Mr. Schultz sent an email to Mr. Spanier and Mr. Curley, saying, "I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us."
No charges were filed in connection with that incident, and none of the Penn State hierarchy spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. Nor did they limit his access to Penn State facilities or take "any measures to protect children on their campuses," the report said.
Mr. Freeh faulted all four university officials for not notifying the board of trustees or taking other action. "None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity," he said.
Noting that Sandusky was convicted of several assaults that occurred after 1998, the report said some of the assaults "might have been prevented had Sandusky been prohibited from bringing minors to university facilities and university football bowl games."
The report appeared to contradict Mr. Paterno's sworn testimony before a grand jury in January, 2011. He was questioned about graduate assistant Mike McQueary's allegation that he saw Sandusky abusing a child in the locker room shower in February, 2001.
In his seven-minute testimony, Mr. Paterno was asked if he knew "in any way" of other sexual contact by Sandusky with boys. He said: "I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention -- I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don't know. I don't remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor."
Mr. Paterno was invited to be interviewed by the Freeh group in December, and while he expressed interest in doing so, the report said, he died before it could occur.
The investigation also revealed that Mr. Spanier, Mr. Schultz, and Mr. Curley developed an "action plan" that included reporting the February, 2001, incident to the state Department of Public Welfare. But two days later, after discussing the matter with Mr. Paterno, Mr. Curley recommended instead that they offer Sandusky "professional help" and only notify the welfare department if he was uncooperative.
Mr. Spanier approved that approach, writing in an email that the "only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed."
Timothy K. Lewis and Peter Vaira, who represent Mr. Spanier, issued this written statement in response to the report:
"Unfortunately, Judge Freeh's conclusion, repeated often during his press conference [Thursday] morning, that Dr. Spanier was engaged in a course of 'active concealment,' is simply not supported by the facts or by the report itself.
"Not only did Dr. Spanier never conceal anything from law enforcement authorities, but prior to 2011 he was never contacted by law enforcement officials, or any other officials, about any criminal activities now attributed to Sandusky."
The attorneys also said Mr. Spanier was never told of any incident with Sandusky that involved child abuse, sexual misconduct, or any criminality.
Attorneys for Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley issued statements late Thursday asserting that the Freeh report was "incomplete" and "lopsided," and that, without subpoena power, the investigation failed to gather information from key witnesses, such as Mr. McQueary, the Centre County assistant district attorney involved in the 1998 query of Sandusky, and the former Penn State University police chief.
"Since the Attorney General's Office prevented Louis Freeh and his team access to critical witnesses with full knowledge of all of the facts, the Freeh Report is not fair, full, accurate or complete," said Tom Farrell, who represents Mr. Schultz.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jon Schmitz and Paula Reed Ward are reporters for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Jon Schmitz at: email@example.com or 412-263-1868.