Freeh report exposes Paterno, PSU official’s premeditated cover-up
The 267-page Freeh Report report found that Penn State officials, including former university president Graham Spanier, former head coach Joe Paterno, former athletics director Tim Curley and former university vice-president Gary Schultz knew of Sandusky’s child sex abuse as early as 2001. In February 2001, Mike McQueary reported witnessing Jerry Sandusky with one of the children from his Second Mile charity in the Penn State locker room showers.
According to the report, which was the result of an independent investigation conducted by former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh and his office, there was critical written correspondence showing that on February 25, 2001, Curley and Schultz were prepared to report Sandusky to the authorities based on McQueary’s accusations that Sandusky was engaged in sexual abuse of a child in the Penn State locker room showers. However, two days later, on February 27, 2001, they changed their plan. Between the decision to turn him in and their decision not to, there was a February 26, 2001 meeting between Curley and Joe Paterno.
It appears as though Joe Paterno himself was an integral part of the University’s decision to conceal the reports of Sandusky’s abuse. As one of the most powerful men on campus, and as the one person who certainly could have put an end to Sandusky’s outrageous exploitation of youngsters, his affirmative decision not to act is conscience-shocking.
One of the most damning examples of Paterno’s power and influence came from an interview with a janitor, who told investigators he did not report witnessing Sandusky performing oral sex on a young boy because it “would have been like going against the President of the United States in my eyes . . . I know Paterno had too much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone.”
The janitor then told investigators “football runs this University,” and that he believed if he had spoken up, the University would have closed ranks to protect the football program.
The report noted that in order to avoid bad publicity for the university’s famed football program, critical information about Sandusky’s behavior was concealed — information that could have protected the children he worked with through his Second Mile charity. Avoiding bad press was a critical concern for Penn State. If fans were to turn their backs on the football program, that financial loss would have negative implications for the rest of the school.
Basically, the most powerful men at Penn State failed to act for over a decade, showing total disregard for the many children Sandusky victimized over the years. They knew about the abuse and did not stop it.
The Freeh Report also found that the Penn State Board of Trustees knew of the abuse and failed to hold the most senior leaders of the university responsible for the victimization of at-risk children. The Freeh Report recommends that the university work to create a culture of accountability and transparency, particularly with respect to the athletics organization and that it hire a chief compliance officer to protect against further lawlessness.
The report findings will have an enormous impact on the upcoming criminal trials of Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who are both facing charges of lying to a Pennsylvania grand jury about how much they knew. Both men testified that they did not know about Sandusky’s behavior, testimony that has now been undermined by the Freeh Report findings. Spanier has publicly supported both Curley and Schultz, meaning that once again, his credibility is under fire.
The Freeh Report will open the floodgates to civil litigation against the university, as well as the individuals named in the report. Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former vice-president Gary Schultz, former athletics director Tim Curley, and the estate of former head coach Joe Paterno are all eligible for civil lawsuits by the victims of sex abuse and their families. They can be sued for not acting to protect the children when they had knowledge that the children were in danger.
Since the new recommendations from the Freeh Report include a total overhaul of the reporting system, now the Clery Act — named for a Lehigh University student found murdered and sodomized in her dorm room — may actually have some teeth. The 1990 law was passed to protect university students from violence, and it requires annual security reports and crime logs from college police. It requires that any report of on-campus crime be made public — steps that certainly were not taken to protect the victims of Sandusky’s abuse.
From our perspective here at Wild About Trial, the heart of this entire case is that parents and families should be able to send their children to college knowing that they will be safe. Whether they are university students or children who are using the college campus through another program such as Second Mile, university campuses should be a safe space for education and personal growth, not places where child predators and other criminals are hiding in plain sight.
Kelly Sheahen Gerner
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