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Wednesday
Aug222012

Ousted Penn State President Graham Spanier Cites His Own Child Abuse

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Graham Spanier, the former Penn State University president ousted in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, told ABC News Wednesday that he was a victim of child abuse so severe that he required several surgeries to correct the damage.

His history as a victim, he said, was a deeply personal rejoinder to those critics who accuse him of trying to cover up Sandusky's crimes and not caring about the children.

"I've never met anyone who has had a higher level of awareness [about child abuse,]" Spanier said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Josh Elliott.

Spanier, 64, is on a campaign to resurrect his once-pristine reputation. Though not charged with a crime, the findings of an independent investigation accuse him of failing to prevent a "child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."

The abuse he sustained at the hands of his father, a working class immigrant, began when he was a child and continued through his adolescence. Spanier said he has had four surgeries in his adulthood to correct problems with his breathing, face and head as a result of the injuries.

"It resulted in, of course, some emotional scarring, but also some substantial physical damage," he said of the abuse.

Before his tenure as a university administrator, Spanier was a professor specializing in the study of dysfunctional families and child abuse, an interest he said resulted directly from his childhood.

Spanier objects to the findings of the Freeh Report, calling it "wrong in its conclusions" and denying the accusation that he "conspired to conceal a known child predator."

Spanier insists when an assistant football coach reported seeing Sandusky acting suspiciously with a boy in the team showers in 2001, he was only made aware that Sandusky had engaged in "horseplay" with a child.

An independent investigation ordered by the unviersity, the so-called Freeh Report, and others have questioned why Spanier did not further investigate Sandusky after learning even that information.

"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. Had I known that, or even suspected it, I would have forcefully intervened. But I never heard a report like that," he said.

Spanier said he had only met Sandusky once and was only marginally involved when in 1998 and again in 2001 reports were made that Sandusky was seen engaged in inappropriate behavior with a child.

"I do not get involved in police matters. I always had a very hands-off attitude and issues pertaining to people were dealt with by the police, by human resources, or by supervisors in various areas of the university," he said of the 1998 incident. He also noted that police, the state Department of Public Welfare and prosecutors all determined that Sandusky had not molested a child at that time.

In 2001, however, Spanier was copied on an email about another Sandusky incident, witnessed by assistant coach Mike McQueary, who heard sexual noises and saw an underage boy in the shower.

In emails two administrators, Athletic Director Tim Curley and now-retired Vice President Gary Schultz, proposed not alerting the authorities but instead letting Sandusky off with a warning and the promise that he would get "professional help."

Spanier agreed to that plan. However, he noted in an email that by not bringing the accusations to police they would be "vulnerable for not having reported it."

That phrase has dogged Spanier and was crucial in the Freeh's reports assessment of what he knew and how he failed to act.

"'Vulnerable' was not best choice of a term," Spanier told ABC News, adding that "it was a reaction to the possibility that we didn't want this to happen."

Spanier said he had "no recollection of being concerned" that the school might be held legally liable.

Spanier recalled the anger with the university when the grand jury indicted Sandusky, leading ultimately to Spanier's demotion to professor and the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.

"I opposed the firing [of Paterno] ... There could be riots, it could be a rush to judgment, they knew it was his last season" and Paterno should have been allowed to finish the season, he said.

Spanier said he and Paterno had secretly signed agreement that the coach would retire at the end of 2012.

In July, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of abuse against 10 boys. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failing to report child abuse.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug222012

Penn State Freeh Report Assailed as 'Blundering' by School's Ex-President

Rob Carr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The legal team for the ousted president of Penn State University today assailed the "blundering" independent investigation that accused him of covering up the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.

Graham Spanier, who served as the school's president for 16 years, has not been charged with any crime, but an independent investigation conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh accused Spanier of failing to alert authorities that Sandusky sexually assaulted a boy in a locker-room shower.

Spanier has insisted that he was never made aware of the allegations that Sandusky had sexually molested a boy.

Two other school officials have been charged with perjury and failure to report abuse, and authorities have indicated the investigation is continuing, leaving a legal cloud over Spanier.

The scandal ended Spanier's tenure as the school's president and the Freeh Report damaged his reputation by faulting Spanier for failing to stop a "child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."

[FOR AN EXCLUSIVE ABC NEWS INTERVIEW WITH GRAHAM SPANIER, TUNE IN TO NIGHTLINE TONIGHT AT 11:35 P.M. EDT.]

Tim Lewis, a former federal prosecutor and ex-federal judge who reviewed the Freeh report's findings on Spanier's behalf, called the investigation's findings a "myth" and a "blundering and indefensible indictment" that would never hold up in court.

Lewis said the report was filled with "glaring oversights, indefensible exclusions... [and leapt] to conclusions with no basis except the biased opinion of the author."

"The irony is that while this report attempts to portray Dr. Spanier as having engaged in a conspiracy to conceal information, a closer inspection confirms that if anyone is guilty of concealment it isn't Dr. Spanier; it is Judge Freeh," Lewis said.

Lewis acknowledged that it was unusual for one former federal judge to criticize another former federal judge and added, "It pains me to say this," referring to scathing criticism of Freeh's report.

Freeh did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.

Lewis insisted that had Spanier, a victim of child abuse himself and an expert family therapist, been appraised of Sandusky's crimes he would have reported them.

Instead Penn State officials told Spanier that Sandusky had only engaged in "horseplay" with a boy in the school's showers in 2001. The boy would later be identified as Victim 2, one of 10 victims police would later learn Sandusky had molested.

In July, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of abuse against 10 boys.

"'Horseplay' was referred to over and over again, but never with any sexual connotation or suggestion of abuse," Lewis said.

Those comments echo Spanier's previous denouncements of the Freeh report.

"Had I known then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky, I would have strongly and immediately intervened," Spanier wrote in a July 23 letter to the Penn State board of trustees. "Never would I stand by for a moment to allow a child predator to hurt children."

Two of Spanier's former colleagues, Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Vice President Gary Schultz, face trial for perjury and failure to report abuse.

The charges stem from allegations that Curley, Schultz and Spanier never told authorities about the 2001 shower incident.

After the scandal broke, Spanier, who was president of the university from 1995 to 2011, was demoted to a professorship.

According to documents -- the Freeh report and testimony at Sandusky's trial -- Spanier learned in February 2001 that assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessed an incident between Sandusky and the boy later identified as Victim 2. During the trial, McQueary suggested that the incident was a rape of the boy.

Spanier, however, insists that he was never told the seriousness of the attack on Victim 2.

But the Freeh Report concluded that Spanier and his colleagues understood the gravity of the allegations against Sandusky, but chose to cover them up.

The Freeh allegations, Spanier claims, hangs on a tortuous game of telephone tag in which the story about the assault in the showers changed over time. By the time Spanier learned of the incident, it was described as "horseplay," he says.

McQueary first confided in his father and a family friend and physician Dr. Jonathon Dranov about what he saw. He then went to head coach Joe Paterno and told Paterno he witnessed activity of a "sexual nature."

Spanier contends that McQueary did not initially indicate a serious sexual assault had taken place. Had he done so, Dranov, as a family physician, would have been obligated to inform the police, Spanier claims.

"Judge Freeh does not mention this in his report. Nor does he mention that the jury acquitted Sandusky of this count. Most important, he doesn't mention or explain why he never even bothered to interview Dr. Dranov, even though he knew what he would have said. Yet he has the audacity to accuse Dr. Spanier of concealing important information," Lewis said.

Lewis also introduced a letter from Gary Gray, a former football player who met with Paterno in the days after losing his job and being diagnosed with cancer. Gray says Paterno told him a similar story in McQueary described what he witnessed in the showers as "horseplay."

Troubling, however, is a series of emails and conversations between Spanier, Curley and Schultz in 2001.

According to notes from a meeting dated Feb. 25, the three men agreed that they would ban Sandusky from bringing children on campus, inform the Second Mile children's charity which Sandusky founded, and alert the Department of Welfare.

However, between Feb. 27 and 28 after "talking it over with [head football coach] Joe [Paterno]," Curley emailed the men proposing they do not inform the authorities and instead try to get Sandusky "professional help," the Freeh report states.

Spanier agreed to that plan. However, he noted that by not bringing the accusations to police they would be "vulnerable for not having reported it."

When asked about this email today, Spanier's lawyer Jack Reilly, said only Spanier could explain them in context.

The sex abuse scandal rocked Penn State and its celebrated football program, leading to the dismissal of Paterno, Schultz and Curley and a demotion for Spanier.

Paterno died soon after losing his job. Based on the Freeh Report's findings, the NCAA stripped the school's football programs of its wins under Paterno.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jul152012

James Carville: Suspending Penn State Football Is a ‘Really Dumb Idea’

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Democratic strategist James Carville argued that it would be “a really dumb idea” to suspend the Penn State football program, despite an independent investigation finding that top university officials, including former head coach Joe Paterno, worked to conceal child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

“Look, this is awful, gut-wrenching. And people that I really respect are talking about the ‘death penalty’ for Penn State football,” ” Carville said on the “This Week” roundtable, referring to calls for the NCAA to effectively shut down the Penn State football program for several years as punishment. “That is a really dumb idea. Lives have been ruined, so the answer to it, let’s go out and ruin more lives?”

“Let’s take a kid who’s a football player who was in the second grade when this happened and let’s suspend the program. Who knows what he’s going to do with his education?” Carville added. “Let’s take every contract that’s been signed … everybody that has a motel in Happy Valley, let’s ruin their lives as a retaliation.”

Carville argued instead that the Penn State football program should be allowed to continue so it can generate money, which can then be used to compensate the victims of Sandusky’s child abuse.

“Let Penn State football play, let them make money, bring the trial lawyers in, pluck that chicken clean,” Carville said.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh released a scathing 267-page report last week following an independent investigation of the Penn State sex abuse scandal. The report was an indictment of top university officials, including Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former vice president for finance Gary Schultz, for their handling of the allegations against Sandusky.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said at a press conference Thursday to release the report’s findings. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

Many critics have called for the NCAA to suspend the Penn State football program in some form because of the wrong-doing, with some calling for the “death penalty,” which can mean a one- or two-year ban on outside competition and a two-year ban on recruiting and new scholarships. While Penn State does not meet “repeat violator” status needed to receive the “death penalty,” since it has not been convicted of a major violation in the last five years, the NCAA may still apply harsh penalties against the football program.

On today’s “This Week” roundtable, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile backed the calls for a suspension or penalty of some kind.

“There should be some penalty, some acknowledgment that there was a gross abuse of children, neglect in their duties as officers of that university,” Brazile said.

While political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd did not call for a suspension of the Penn State football program, he agreed with Brazile’s comparison of the actions of top Penn State officials to those of the Catholic Church during its abuse scandal.

“If you took Jerry Sandusky and substituted Jerry Sandusky and put the word ‘priest,’ and then you put Joe Paterno and substitute the word ‘bishop,’ it’s the exact same thing,” Dowd said. “What you have is an institutional corrupt problem that basically the ends of the institution become more important than the people involved.”

ABC News’ George Will broadened the criticism, saying “big-time football has no business on college campuses” because it is “inherently corrupting.”

“We have grafted a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry onto higher education,” Will said. “It is inherently discordant with the mission of the university. It is inherently corrupting. And you’re going to get this and elsewhere different forms of corruption, but always forms of corruption, because big-time football has no business on college campuses.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul122012

Penn State Board Slams Former President Spanier, Questions Future Honors for Joe Paterno

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Penn State University Board of Trustees said on Thursday that it feels "misled" by former university president Graham Spanier after an independent investigation found that he, along with other top university officials, worked to conceal the child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky.

"In retrospect, we wished we had pressed upon someone that we had complete trust in," board member Kenneth Frazier said.

"The questions were asked, the answers were given, and they were not complete or thorough answers," Frazier said of Spanier. "We asked enough questions that if someone wanted to share what was going on, they could have shared."

Frazier, new board chairwoman Karen Peetz, and university president Rodney Erickson were addressing the release of an independent investigation they commissioned in November. The 267-page report, compiled by former FBI chief Louis Freeh, was an indictment of how top officials, including Spanier, former head football coach Joe Paterno, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former vice president for finance Gary Schultz, handled Sandusky's behavior.

"What's shocking is that the four of them, the most powerful people at Penn State University, made the decision to conceal this," Freeh said at a press conference following the report's release today.

Read the full Freeh report.

"The motivation [was] to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, and not just bad publicity, but what are the consequences -- other investigations, donors being upset, the university community being very upset, raising questions about what they themselves did in 1998?" Freeh said. "Bad publicity has consequences for the brand of Penn State University, the reputation of coaches, the ability to do fundraising. It's got huge implications."

Freeh's report revealed for the first time that all four men knew about the 1998 investigation into Sandusky showering with a young boy, and that they made a careful decision after a 2001 allegation of sexual abuse not to report it to police. The investigation included 430 interviews and reviews of 3.5 million emails and other documents.

The report also singled out the Board of Trustees for oversight failures and promoting a culture where dissent was discouraged.

Frazier and Peetz said the board accepted responsibility for allowing the four men the power to conceal the allegations against Sandusky.

"The board of trustees, as a group, has paramount accountability for overseeing and ensuring the proper functioning and governance of the university, and accepts full responsibility for failures that have occurred," Peetz said.

She said members will work quickly to adopt all of Freeh's recommendations for how to increase oversight of administrators and ensure crimes like Sandusky's cannot happen on campus again.

"Accepting full accountability means that not only are we taking blame, if you will, for these events, but that we are also determined to fix the governance," Peetz said.

Freeh sidestepped questions about whether trustees on the board when the incidents occurred over a 14-year span should quit. Board members have steadfastly rejected calls for the full board's resignation, and those speaking today said they would not be resigning over the findings.

When asked whether the university would reevaluate how it honors Paterno, who has a statue erected and campus buildings named in his honor, both Frazier and Peetz said no decision had been made yet.

"The whole topic of Joe Paterno being honored or not being honored is sensitive and has been dialogued for some time," Peetz said. "We believed, with the report's findings, it's something that needs to continue to be discussed with the entire university, not just the board."

The report also found that after learning of the abuse, university leaders rewarded Sandusky with an unusual $168,000 payout and retirement perks without lifting a finger to reach out to his young victims, who were forced to perform sex acts and raped in showers at the college.

Spanier, who knew of the 1998 and 2001 investigations into Sandusky's behavior, also green-lighted "emeritus" status for Sandusky, granting him unusual access to the university.

Erickson said today that he had no choice but to OK the request, even though it was usually reserved for associate or full professors.

"It was clear when the request came in that Spanier had already cleared the exception," Erickson said. "And the president has, ultimately, authority to grant or not grant emeritus status."

The investigation report revealed emails traded among Spanier, Schultz and Curley in which the three men discussed the investigations into Sandusky and mentioned Paterno's involvement in decisions about Sandusky.

Emails and notes from 1998 show that after the mother of the man known as Victim 6 contacted the university police department to report that Sandusky had showered with her son on campus, Schultz notified Spanier and Curley of the incident and wrote in his notes that it was "at best inappropriate, @ worst sexual improprieties." He asked: "Is this the opening of Pandora's box? Other children?"

Curley wrote an email in response to the investigation saying that "the coach" was "anxious to know where it stands."

Schultz, Paterno, and Spanier all later said that they were never informed of a 1998 incident that involved sexual or inappropriate touching.

The investigation did not yield charges against Sandusky, a result that Freeh said he wanted to discuss with the assistant district attorney who was part of that decision-making process. That assistant DA refused to be interviewed as part of Freeh's investigation.

"What's striking about 1998 is that nobody even spoke to Sandusky, not one of those four persons, including the coach, who was four steps away from [Sandusky's] office," Freeh said.

Between the 1998 and 2001 incidents, Freeh noted that there was a 2000 incident in which janitors saw Sandusky molesting a boy in the showers and decided not to report it. This incident, Freeh said, showed more than any of the others that the culture at Penn State University was that no one could question or confront the all-powerful football program.

"Take a moment for janitors," Freeh said today. "That's the tone on the bottom. The employees of Penn State who clean and maintain the locker rooms where young boys are being raped. They witness what I think is the most horrific rape being described, and they panic. The janitor said, 'It's the worst thing I ever saw.' He's a Korean War veteran, and he said, 'It makes me sick.' The other janitors are alarmed and shocked, but they say, 'We can't report this because we'll get fired.' They're afraid to go against it. If that's the culture on the bottom, God help the culture on the top."

The officials' reactions to the 1998 allegations against Sandusky are mirrored by the reactions to the 2001 report, in which Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier were informed that graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw Sandusky in the shower with a young boy on campus. McQueary has said he made it clear to each official that something of a sexual nature was going on in the shower.

Curley, Schultz and Spanier decided to report Sandusky to the Department of Public Welfare, according to the timeline included in the report. The decision was then reversed, however, after Curley talked it over with Paterno and proposed dealing with Sandusky in a more "humane" way by telling him to seek counseling. The officials all agreed to follow that approach, but Spanier, the university president, said in an email that he worried about being "vulnerable for not having reported it."

The timeline also shed light on how the Second Mile, Sandusky's charity for children, dealt with the allegations. Curley informed the Second Mile's leadership of the 2001 incident, according to the report, and the Second Mile considered it a "non-incident" and took no further action.

Freeh said today that he wanted to speak with members of the Second Mile, but they refused.

"They wouldn't speak to us and would not share their records. We don't have subpoena power. But there are good questions," Freeh said.

Freeh noted that the discovery of old emails and "carefully concealed" notes found in Schultz's office were a significant key to figuring out that the men had known about Sandusky's activities with boys and decided to conceal them.

"[He] actively sought to conceal those records. We found them in conjunction with the attorney general. They are critical notes," Freeh said. "It's an active case of trying to conceal evidence. You don't do that. It's a dumb thing to do. But we did get them, and it's very significant."

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office, which has charged Curley and Schultz with failure to report suspect abuse and perjury, said today that the investigation is ongoing and would not say whether Freeh's findings would yield more charges against officials.

Freeh's investigation was launched in November by the university's Board of Trustees after the arrest of Sandusky, Curley and Schultz, and the firing of Paterno and resignation of Spanier.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child abuse in June and is now in a state prison.

Curley and Schultz are charged with not reporting the 2001 incident to the police and lying about their knowledge of the 2001 incident to the Pennsylvania grand jury. Both men have maintained their innocence and are still months away from trial.

Paterno and Spanier were never charged criminally in the case, but Paterno was fired and Spanier resigned just days after Sandusky's arrest when the Board of Trustees decided they had not done enough to stop Sandusky.

Spanier has maintained that he was never told about a specific allegation of child sex abuse.

Paterno, who died in January, said that he told his supervisors what he knew about a 2001 allegation and left it up to them to decide what to do.

Paterno's family released a statement Wednesday in anticipation of the investigation's findings, saying that Paterno had already acknowledged that he wished he had done more with the allegation against Sandusky.

"To this point, Joe Paterno is the only person who publicly acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. This was an honest and courageous admission that a true leader must assume a measure of responsibility when something goes wrong on his watch," the statement read. "The sad and frightening fact is Jerry Sandusky was a master deceiver."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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