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Sunday
Feb102013

Jerry Sandusky Scandal: Paterno Family Releases Critique of Freeh Report

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Paterno family is fighting to restore the legacy of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, flatly denying the allegations in the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that the legendary coach was complicit in a cover-up of child sexual abuse by a former assistant coach.

"The Critique of the Freeh Report: The Rush to Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno," the report prepared by King & Spalding and released on paterno.com this morning, is described as an attempt to set the record straight with independent expert analysis examining the "most glaring errors on which the Freeh report is based."

"The Freeh report reflects an improper 'rush to injustice,'" the 238-page critique says. "There is no evidence that Joe Paterno deliberately covered up known incidents of child molestation by Jerry Sandusky to protect Penn State football or for any other reason; the contrary statements in the Freeh report are unsupported and unworthy of belief."

According to the critique, the Freeh report "uncovers little new factual information as to Joe Paterno and does very little to advance the truth regarding his knowledge, or more accurately lack of knowledge, of Jerry Sandusky's molestation of children."

Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced last year to 30 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted of 45 criminal counts of sexually abusing young boys.

In the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno, who coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and became the winningest coach in Division 1 football history in 2011, was dismissed.

The allegations of Paterno's involvment came as a shock that reverberated beyond the Penn State campus, because of his reputation as a coach who valued character as much as winning.

Following his dismissal, Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and broke his hip. He died on Jan. 22, 2012, at the age of 85.

Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier, along with Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and school vice president Gary Schultz are awaiting a hearing after they were accused of lying and concealing the sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.

Freeh Report Critique

Released in July, the 267-page report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded that Joe Paterno and his superiors valued the football program and the image of Penn State more than they valued the safety of Sandusky's victims.

In the report, Freeh said the university had a "culture of reverence" for the football team "ingrained at all levels of the campus community."

"The motivation [was] to avoid the consequences of bad publicity," Freeh said at the time. "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."

At the time of the release, the Paterno family criticized the Freeh report and its portrayal of Joe Paterno, saying that the investigation was neither fair nor complete.

In their critique of the Freeh report, former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and experts Jim Clemente and Fred Berlin examined the Freeh report and found that the report is "deeply flawed and that key conclusions regarding Joe Paterno are unsubstantiated and unfair."

Some of the key points of the 34-page report include:

  •  Joe Paterno's last written words before he died focused on Sandusky's victims. "Good side of scandal -- it has brought about more enlightenment of a situation (sexual abuse of young people) in the country," Joe Paterno wrote in a handwritten note.
  •  Freeh report's observations about Joe Paterno are incorrect: "each is either contradicted or unsubstantiated by the evidence."
  •  Based on documents, testimony, and access to attorneys for Penn State administrators, Joe Paterno "never asked or told anyone not to investigate fully the allegations in 2001," never asked or told anyone, including Dr. Spanier and Messrs. Curley and Schultz, not to report the 2001 incident," ... "never asked or told anyone not to discuss or to hide in any way the information reported by Mr. McQueary," and Joe Paterno "reported the information to his superior(s) pursuant to his understanding of University protocol and relied upon them to investigate and report as appropriate."
  •  Sandusky was a "'skilled and masterful manipulator,' who deceived an entire community to obscure the signs of child abuse, using a variety of proven techniques," according to expert analysis.
  •  The Freeh report was "oversold to the public," according to the critique, which said it became the source that "Penn State officials, the NCAA, and other bodies detrimentally relied on in a rush to judgment about Joe Paterno."
  •  The Freeh report did not allow "any meaningful opportunity for Joe Paterno, his representatives, or any neutral third party to assess or even respond to Mr. Freeh's opinions before he announced them as proven at a national press conference," the critique said.


Sue Paterno's Response

Sue Paterno, the wife of Joe Paterno, said in a letter to former Penn State players Friday that after the Freeh report was released she "knew immediately that the situation demanded further review."

"Unfortunately, the Board's response was to panic again. They embraced the report without reviewing it. They never met with Mr. Freeh or his investigators. They asked no questions and challenged no assertions," Sue Paterno wrote in the letter Friday. "Although they never officially voted to accept the report, they endorsed its findings and allowed the NCAA to impose unprecedented sanctions. To claim that this ill-considered and rash process served the victims and the university is a grave error. Only the truth serves the victims. Only the truth can help prevent this sort of crime from occurring again."

Freeh's Response to the Critique of the Report

After the critique of the report was posted, Freeh said he respected "the right of the Paterno family to hire private lawyers and former government officials to conduct public media campaigns in an effort to shape the legacy of Joe Paterno."

"However, the self-serving report the Paterno family has issued today does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report or alter the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report," Freeh said in a statement.

Freeh challenged several points in the critique, including the criticism that investigators did not speak to Paterno.

"During the investigation, we contacted Mr. Paterno's attorney in an attempt to interview Mr. Paterno. Although Mr. Paterno was willing to speak with a news reporter and his biographer at that time, he elected not to speak with us. We also asked Mr. Paterno's attorney to provide us with any evidence that he and his client felt should be considered. The documents provided were included in our report," Freeh said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb102013

Jerry Sandusky Scandal: Sue Paterno to Respond to Freeh Report

Rob Carr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sue Paterno, the wife of the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno, and her attorney Wick Sollers are set to release their own findings about the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh on the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that rocked the school's legendary football program.

"There have been many times, of course, when I wanted to speak out, but I needed time to deal with the loss of Joe and I believed also that this was a situation that demanded careful, thoughtful, objective analysis," Sue Paterno wrote in a letter to former Penn State players Friday. "The last thing Joe would have wanted is for me to become just one more voice making claims and assertions that were unsupported by the facts."

In a letter released Friday, Sue Paterno said the report, which was prepared by her attorney Wick Sollers, will be available along with additional information online at paterno.com.

"I am here to tell you as definitively and forcefully as I know how that Mr. Freeh could not have been more wrong in his assessment of Joe," Paterno wrote in the letter.

Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced last year to 30 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted of 45 criminal counts of sexually abusing young boys.

Sue Paterno said she was horrified and was in disbelief when she was first told of the allegations against Sandusky.

"These are children. Our lives have been about children.We have five children, 17 grandchildren. We worked around the players. Our lives are about children and making them better and not hurting them. So it's vile. It's probably the best word I could think of," Sue Paterno told ABC News' Katie Couric on her talk show "Katie."

In the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno, who coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and became the winningest coach in Division 1 football history in 2011, was dismissed. Folllowing his dismissal, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and broke his hip. He died on Jan. 22, 2012, at the age of 85.

Released in July, the 267-page report by Freeh concluded that Joe Paterno and his superiors valued the football program and the image of Penn State more than they valued the safety of Sandusky's victims.

In the report, Freeh said the university had a "culture of reverence" for the football team "ingrained at all levels of the campus community."

"The motivation [was] to avoid the consequences of bad publicity," Freeh said at the time. "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."

At the time of the release, the Paterno family criticized the Freeh report and its portrayal of Joe Paterno, saying that the investigation was neither fair nor complete.

Sue Paterno’s response to the report and the Sandusky scandal are expected to confirm her "beliefs about Joe's conduct" during the situation and present "a passionate and persuasive critique of the Freeh report as a total disservice to the victims of Sandusky and the cause of preventing child sex offenses."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

Paterno 'Despised' Sandusky Long Before Sex Scandal, New Book Claims

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Long before Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse crimes led to Joe Paterno's downfall, the two Penn State coaches "despised each other," according to a new biography of Paterno.

Former Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski describes in his new biography, Paterno, how tension built between the two men as Paterno grew frustrated with Sandusky, whom he thought paid more attention to his charity, The Second Mile, and children than to the Nittany Lions football team.

"These feelings had built into a crescendo over the years, as they sometimes do with longtime colleagues," Posnanski writes, describing how the men never got along.

Sandusky hated meetings, overlooked details and was uninterested in recruiting.  He and his wife did not drink much alcohol, while the Paternos drank socially.

"The tension between Paterno and Sandusky gurgled just below the surface," Posnanski writes.

When Sandusky retired after the 1999 season, Sports Illustrated asked Sandusky if he would miss Paterno.

"Well, not exactly," Sandusky responded.

Despite the tension, the book maintains that Paterno never knew that Sandusky sexually abused children, and only had a vague idea that Sandusky had acted inappropriately with a boy in the Penn State showers in 2001, based on a description by graduate assistant Mike McQueary.

"Many of the people who had come to admire Joe Paterno believed that, no matter his own legal role, he should have made sure the incident was reported to the police.  'But, to be honest, that's just not how Joe was in the last years,' said one of the people in his inner circle.  'He was not vigilant like he used to be.  I think a younger Joe would've said to Tim after a few days, "Hey what's going on with that Sandusky thing?  You guys get to the bottom of that?  Let's make sure that's taken care of."  But he didn't understand it.  And he just wasn't as involved as he used to be,'" the book reads.

Posnanski notes that after Paterno's family convinced him to read the grand jury presentment outlining the charges against Sandusky and two other Penn State officials, the 85-year-old coach asked his son, Scott Paterno, "What is sodomy, anyway?"

Sandusky has been convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse, and is awaiting sentencing in a Pennsylvania jail.

Paterno, who died in January, said that he wished he had done more to investigate the incident involving Sandusky and the boy in the shower.  He maintained that he never knew about a 1998 investigation into Sandusky, though a report released in July by former FBI chief Louis Freeh found that he had known about it.

The new, 400-plus page tome, out Tuesday, covers Paterno's life before the scandal, though its main focus shifts to the fallout from Sandusky in the latter half of the book.  Posnanski began working with Paterno on the book before the allegations against Sandusky became public.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul262012

Thirty Penn State Football Players Staying Nittany Lions

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- Even with the football program seemingly crashing around them, a group of 30 Penn State University players said on Wednesday that they're not going anywhere.

Earlier this week, the NCCA imposed stiff penalties against the program in response to officials covering up the crimes of convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky, once the late Joe Paterno's trusted defensive coordinator.

Knowing how the punishment might affect current players, the NCCA gave them the option to immediately transfer out of Penn State so they could play football for another school this fall.

However, fifth-year senior linebacker Michael Mauti issued a statement on behalf of himself and other players, saying they would remain at Penn State, using it "this as an opportunity to build our own legacy."

In a dramatic pronouncement of their loyalty to the university, Mauti said, "This program was not built by one man, and this program sure as hell is not going to get torn down by one man," a reference pehaps to Paterno and Sandusky.

He went on to say, "No sanction, no politician is ever going to take away what we’ve got here. None of that is ever going to tear us apart. Right now, all we can do, we can put our heads down and we’re just going to work."

On Tuesday, Matt McGloin, a fifth-year senior quarterback, declared, "Even though these penalties are extremely harsh, I am a Nittany Lion and will remain one."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul242012

Penn State Sanctions: Outrage Grows Over Vacated Victories

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- Outrage over the sanctions against Penn State's football program is high with some fans of the Nittany Lions football team, mostly stemming from the National Collegiate Athletic Association's decision to vacate 112 of the team's wins over the past 14 years.

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, which has sent shockwaves through the State College, Pa., community over the past eight months, the NCAA hit the university with a $60 million fine and capped scholarships for players.  While the legacy of once-beloved former coach Joe Paterno has been tarnished after he was accused of participating in the sex abuse cover-up, the stripping of the team's wins stings the most for fans.

"People are thrown under the bus, institutions are thrown under the bus everyday for the bottom line.  This is no different," Penn State alum Eric Bernier told ABC News.

Every hard-fought victory earned since 1998 by the Nittany Lions, who were coached by Paterno for a total of 45 years, has now been removed -- just like the statue of Paterno on the university's campus.

"The wins … we didn't cheat in football, that's unnecessary," Penn State student Alex Gibson said Monday.

The massive fine and harsh sanctions come in the aftermath of a damning report issued by former FBI director Louis Freeh, which harshly criticized the university and Paterno for failing to take action in the sex abuse case of Sandusky, Paterno's former assistant coach.  Students in State College are dismayed as they watch their once-proud university being humiliated again.

"It just keeps piling on and on," student Maddy Proy told ABC News.  "We are a huge family and this is just a huge blow to our family."

The university president promised the fines will be paid from athletic reserve funds.  Penn State makes $60 million on football alone every season.  The fines will not affect the education of the other 80,000 non-football playing students.

"We will not use any taxpayer dollars to fund that fine. Period," President Rodney A. Erickson said.

Perhaps paying the highest price and feeling most victimized are former players, who no longer have any victories in the record books -- all of them wiped out by the Sandusky scandal, which they presumably knew nothing about.

Michael Robinson played for the Nittany Lions from 2002-2005 and went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers.

"Jerry was a sick man," Robinson said.  "I just don't think that our program is defined by the actions of one sick individual."

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Speaking on Good Morning America Tuesday, Jeremy Schaap from ESPN, a sister network to ABC, said that the school may now lose some of its top football players.

"The immediate impact is that the NCAA is allowing student athletes to transfer without penalty," Schaap said.  "That means there might be a mass exodus … with no hope of playing at a bowl game, no hope to play in a championship, you would expect to see most of Penn State's top players to move out of there."

Schaap also says that he believes the NCAA is trying to send a message to the rest of the college athletic community that athletic programs cannot take precedence over the academic missions of universities.

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Monday
Jul232012

Penn State Football Hit with $60 Million Fine, Avoids Death Penalty

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- Penn State's legendary football team was spared the death penalty on Monday, but the university was fined $60 million and the school's legendary former coach, Joe Paterno, was stripped of 13 years of wins and the title of winningest coach in history, the NCAA announced on Monday.

"The historically unprecedented actions by the NCAA are warranted by the conspiracy of silence maintained at highest level of the university with reckless and callous disregard for children," Ed Ray, the chair of the NCAA's executive committee, said at the announcement Monday.

The football program will also be excluded from playing in bowl games and post-season games for four years, as well as having its scholarships reduced and having to pay a $60 million fine -- the equivalent of one year's revenue from the football program.  The money will go to creating child sex abuse awareness programs around the country.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that the university would vacate its wins from 1998 through 2011, the timespan starting with the first allegation of abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky through his arrest in November of last year.

The announcement came just over a week after an internal investigation commissioned by the university found that Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and university president Graham Spanier all "concealed" the child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.

"The motivation [was] to avoid the consequences of bad publicity," said former FBI chief Louis Freeh, who led the independent investigation.  "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."

The NCAA announcement also comes on the heels of another blow to the football program's legacy.  The statue of Paterno outside of Beaver Stadium was permanently removed on Sunday by the university's new president, Rodney Erickson.

Following Sandusky's arrest in November 2011, the NCAA sent a letter to university officials accusing the university of what seemed to be a lack of "ethical conduct" by coaches and "institutional control" by the school president, two main tenets of the NCAA's rule book. The organization's code of conduct notes, however, that the most egregious punishment is reserved for offenses that give teams a significant recruiting or competitive edge over opposing teams.

Only handed down five times in the NCAA's history, the so-called death penalty effectively dismantles the offending sports program for at least one academic year.  Coaches cannot recruit or spend any time planning for the following season during the ban, and the program cannot collect any revenues.

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Monday
Jul232012

Penn State Takes Down Paterno Statue, Prepares for NCAA Sanctions

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- The statue of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was removed from outside the university’s football stadium on Sunday, just hours before the NCAA said it would announce its punishment for the school over the reported cover-up of child sexual abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Workers erected a blue tarp to keep cameras from recording the removal of the statue of the iconic coach whose image was shattered by investigators’ allegations that he was involved in covering up the abuse.

The NCAA said on Sunday it was preparing to announce “corrective and punitive measures” against Penn State.  ESPN has learned those penalties will be significant, including the loss of bowl appearances and several scholarships, which could be more damaging than a full one-year suspension of the football program.

Early Sunday morning, workers put up a tarp-covered fence around the statue of the famed football coach.  Plastic sheeting and blankets were wrapped around the likeness of Paterno.  Then came the sound of jackhammers ripping apart the base so a forklift could carry the statue away as the university deals with the stain of scandal.  

Not everyone was happy, but University President Rodney Ericson said in a statement that leaving the statue would be, “a recurring wound … an obstacle to healing … a lightning rod of controversy.”

The Penn State library will continue to carry Paterno’s name.

Revelations in a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh show that Paterno had been told, even before the statue was erected, that his defensive coordinator, Sandusky, was sexually abusing boys.

On Monday morning, NCAA President Mark Emmert will announce sanctions against Penn State.  ESPN College Football Reporter Joe Schad says the penalties will be extraordinary.

“He (Emmert) wants everybody to understand that in extraordinary situations such as this, that an egregious failure to action took place, that he will step up, that he will make a decision that lets people understand that Penn State’s situation can never happen again,” Schad said.

This is a unique situation because NCAA bylaws don’t cover what happened at Penn State.  So, Schad said, Emmert went to the board of trustees of the NCAA for authority to levy penalties.  Emmert, according to Schad, “found a way to do something that they felt needed to be done, to do something that they felt would create at least some semblance of justice in a situation that was so horrific.”

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Monday
Jul162012

Paterno Family Plans Own Investigation After Freeh Report on Penn State Abuse

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- The family of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno announced Monday that it plans to conduct its own investigation into the report that concluded that Paterno and other top Penn State officials worked to conceal Jerry Sandusky's long-running alleged sexual abuse to protect the school from negative attention. The report was compiled by former FBI chief Louis Freeh.

"We are dismayed by, and vehemently disagree with, some of the conclusions and assertions and the process by which they were developed," the family said of the report. "We believe numerous issues in the report, and [Freeh's] commentary, bear further review."

After the report was released on July 12, the family it consulted its attorneys to perform their own review, calling the findings "another shocking turn of events in this crisis."

"To those who are convinced that the Freeh report is the last word on this matter, that is absolutely not the case," the family said. "With that said, we want to take this opportunity to reiterate that Joe Paterno did not shield Jerry Sandusky from any investigation or review."

"To help prevent this sort of tragedy from happening again at Penn State or any other institution, it is imperative that the full story be told," they said.

The 267-page Freeh report was an indictment of how Penn State officials, including Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier, 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.

[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 that said Sandusky had been seen showering with a young boy. It said 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 university's board of trustees for oversight failures and promoting a culture where dissent was discouraged.

Penn State trustee Kenneth Frazier and new board chairwoman Karen 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 would 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 ought to quit if they were on the board during the 14-year period when the incidents were said to have occurred. Board members have steadfastly rejected calls for the full board's resignation.

When asked whether the university would reevaluate how it honors Paterno, Frazier and Peetz said no decision had been made yet. There is a statue of Paterno on campus, and buildings are named for him.

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

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."

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