Report: Sex abuse claims concealed at Penn State
STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (AP) — Penn State University senior officials and the school’s legendary football coach kept child sex abuse allegations against a former assistant coach quiet for more than a decade, leaving him free to prey on other boys, according to a scathing report issued Thursday.
The scandal around Jerry Sandusky shattered the image of one of the most lucrative and storied sports programs in the U.S., one built on the motto “success with honor.” The highly anticipated report, the result of an eight-month inquiry by former FBI director Louis Freeh, was expected to have great impact on a school once thought above the ethical violations that plague college sports.
Penn State trustees hired Freeh to look into school officials’ responses to allegations against Sandusky over the years. After the report’s release, Freeh called the officials’ disregard for child victims “callous and shocking.”
“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. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
The charges that led to Sandusky’s conviction on 45 criminal counts quickly caused the ouster of the school’s president, Graham Spanier, and Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno died a few months later of cancer, without telling Freeh’s team his account of what happened.
The Freeh report concluded that Paterno, Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz failed to protect people against a child sexual predator.
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said.
University officials had the chance to take action after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz did not limit his access to campus, the report said.
The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening “Pandora’s box.”
Some of the most powerful men at the school “empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access” to campus and his affiliation with the football program, the report said. The access, the report states, “provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims.”
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after a trial that included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys, sometimes on campus, and used his prestige as a university celebrity to manipulate them.
The report said Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, “not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future ‘visibility’ at Penn State’,” allowing him to groom victims.
“There’s more red flags here than you could count over a long period of time,” Freeh said.
Spanier, Schultz and Curley drew up a plan that called for reporting Sandusky to the state Department of Child Welfare. But Curley later said in an email that he changed his mind about the plan “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe.”
Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges accusing them of lying to a grand jury and failing to report abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.
Asked whether the officials’ actions amounted to a crime such as conspiracy or obstruction, Freeh said that would be up to a grand jury.
In a statement, Paterno’s family said the longtime coach made mistakes that he acknowledged but “never interfered with any investigation” and was fooled by Sandusky.
Defense lawyer Caroline Roberto, who represents Curley, was reading the report and had no immediate comment, according to a spokeswoman. Messages were left for lawyers for Spanier and Schultz.
More than 430 current or former school employees were interviewed for the report since November, including nearly everyone associated with the football program under Paterno.
The U.S. Department of Education is examining whether the school violated the Clery Act, which requires reporting of certain crimes on campus, including ones of a sexual nature.
Only one form used to report such crimes was completed on campus from 2007 through 2011, according to the Freeh findings. And no record exists of Paterno, Curley or assistant coach Mike McQueary reporting that McQueary saw Sandusky in a shower with a boy in 2001, as they would be obligated to do under the Clery Act.
Michael Boni, a lawyer for a boy known as Victim 1, called the report a “serious indictment against Penn State’s culture and environment of protecting at all costs the football program.”
He added: “Nothing is shocking anymore in this case … but the fact that the highest levels of the school made a conscious decision to cover up what Sandusky had done, it comes close. It is shocking.”
GENARO C. ARMAS, GEOFF MULVIHILL and MARK SCOLFORO
Armas reported from Scranton and Scolforo from Harrisburg. Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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