PHILADELPHIA – In a scathing rebuttal of Judge Louis Freeh’s investigative report that implied former Penn State President Graham Spanier covered up child sexual abuse, Spanier’s attorney Timothy Lewis called Freeh a “self-anointed accuser” who used biased information to “support his version of the truth.”
Spanier’s attorneys held a press conference on Wednesday to claim that Freeh’s investigation was flawed, incomplete and biased. They also issued an accompanying written critique of the Freeh report.
“The Freeh Report, as it pertains to Dr. Spanier, is a myth,” Lewis said to a decidedly less crowded room of reporters than the one that sat before Freeh during his press conference in July.
In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for Freeh Sporking & Sullivan issued a statement later Wednesday afternoon: “We stand by our report.”
Freeh’s report cited emails between former Athletic Director Tim Curley, former Interim Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz and involved late head football coach Joe Paterno during 1998 and 2001. The emails implied that the four men were aware of two separate incidents involving a minor and Jerry Sandusky, but chose not to remove him from Penn State facilities or report him to authorities.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse, but Spanier has not been charged with any criminal activity.
Lewis said that Spanier was never informed that Sandusky had ever sexually abused a minor in 1998 or 2001, and that had he known, Spanier, who was himself affected by child abuse, would have immediately told authorities.
Lewis first addressed claims made by Freeh that in 2001, “to avoid bad publicity,” Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno concealed facts relayed to them by former assistant football coach Mike McQueary that Sandusky had abused a young boy in a Lasch Football Building shower.
But when taking a closer look at Freeh’s “audacious leaps,” Lewis said, one can see that the investigator made his conclusions through assumptions rather than facts. Lewis said Paterno reported that McQueary only told him that the incident with the minor was “horseplay,” and not sexual in nature. Lewis also said that Curley and Schultz denied having ever told Spanier that a sexual act took place.
Freeh neglected to interview McQueary or make an independent assessment of his testimony perhaps because “if he had done all of that, if would have been next to impossible to sustain the conclusions he was already intent on reaching,” Lewis said.
The Freeh report cites an email from Spanier in 2001, in which he agreed with the idea that the administrators offer Sandusky help directly, rather than report him to authorities.
In the email, Spanier notes, “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."
When questioned about the email by a reporter, Spanier’s attorney, Jack Riley, said the email was taken out of context and that only Spanier knew the true intent behind it.
Spanier, who was not present at the press conference, would likely address his meaning behind the email during an interview today or at a later date, Riley said.
When addressing Freeh’s accusations that Spanier failed to respond to a 1998 incident involving Sandusky and a minor, Lewis said Freeh mentioned, yet disregarded, the fact that the matter was investigated by police, child protective agencies as well as the District Attorney, and that no charges were filed.
Lewis said Spanier knew only of a claim, “a claim that could be made against anyone,” and was assured by multiple parties that nothing happened with Sandusky that warranted any action.
“In light of all of that, for an investigator to find a grand conspiracy to actively conceal child abuse or to allow a predator to roam free is nothing short of absurd,” Lewis said.
Riley fielded very few questions from reporters after Lewis’s remarks.
The conference ended abruptly when a man, later identified as Greg Bucceroni, stood in the room and claimed that he had been abused in the 1970s, and said “I believe you guys,” shouting to Spanier’s lawyers.
Bucceroni has been vocal about his abuse on his Twitter account and on various comments sections across the Internet. Bucceroni said he supports Spanier’s attorneys and called Freeh a “bastard” while making his statement.
“I did it to get my point across,” Bucceroni told The Daily Collegian regarding why he chose to crash the press conference.
He said his only goal is to spread awareness about child sexual abuse, and he said he is not planning to file a civil suit in regard to the abuse he endured during his childhood.
Bucceroni said he was abused during the late 1970s into the early 1980s by Edward Savitz, a businessman from Philadelphia.
“My life was ruined,” Bucceroni said. “This pedophile was supposed to look out for us and [instead] he started to molest us.”
He said it is imperative that law enforcement officials look at the bigger picture — child prostitution and child-related porn, exclusively. Locking up people individually is not enough, he said.
He calls for large cities, specifically New York and Philadelphia, to be investigated — not solely State College.
Bucceroni said he endured “hardships” like drug and alcohol addiction and depression throughout his life as a direct result of the child sex abuse
He said he is doing his part to raise public awareness by cooperating with a federal investigation in order to hold all child sex abuse offenders accountable, “not just Sandusky.”
Trustees Anthony Lubrano and Al Clemens both attended the press conference today. Lubrano said he felt it was important to attend to keep himself engaged in anything that has to deal with the university.
He said he agreed with Spanier’s attorneys conclusion that Freeh’s findings were not reasonable based on the facts that were presented.
Collegian Staff Writer Mindy Szkaradnik contributed to this report.