The Paterno family released a report Sunday morning in response to Louis Freeh’s findings on matters related to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. The response from the family of the late football coach called the Freeh Report “factually wrong, speculative and ‘fundamentally flawed.’ ”
Last July, Freeh’s findings asserted Joe Paterno was one of four top officials at Penn State who had the chance, but didn’t take the proper steps, to stop Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. The report, which totals 238 pages, was released at 9 a.m. Sunday at Paterno.com.
Paterno died in January 2012 due to complications from lung cancer.
The family-commissioned findings were comprised of four reports written by Paterno family attorney J. Wick Sollers, former United States Attorney General and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh, retired FBI agent Jim Clemente and Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic Founder Dr. Fred Berlin.
In a press release on the website, Freeh’s report was deemed a failure as the release stated it didn’t “meet the basic requirements of a thorough, objective and fair investigation.” Investigators wrote in the press release that the Freeh Report — which was commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees — failed the board and the people whom Sandusky abused. Freeh’s findings were also the basis of the NCAA’s sanctions levied against Penn State last July.
“It isn't a little wrong on the minor issues. It is totally wrong on the most critical issues,” Sollers said in the release. “That the Board and the NCAA relied on this report, without appropriate review or analysis, is a miscarriage of justice.”
Thornburgh, Clemente and Sollers were all guests on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday morning. On the air, Thornburgh said he was surprised at what he called “shortcomings” in Freeh’s report, though Freeh Reported he conducted more than 400 interviews.
“There are three basic defects in the report as I see it,” Thornburgh told ESPN’s Bob Ley. “First of all, it’s incomplete, second of all it is full of inaccuracies, and thirdly, it fails to reach the kind of conclusions that [Freeh] or I would have insisted on from our investigators when we were prosecutors. So I found much was overlooked, much was misrepresented in the report and the fact is, it really isn’t deserving of being the kind of basis for action that’s insinuated here.”
It’s stated in the Paterno report that the family of the late coach did not influence the scope of the Freeh Report critique. And in the overview, it’s noted Freeh’s report was “uniformly biased” against Joe Paterno.
Along with the four full reports on its website, the family also presented overviews of them, which featured key points of the investigators’ critique of Freeh’s findings. One of the points reads “each one of the Freeh Report’s main observations about Joe Paterno is wrong: each is either contradicted or unsubstantiated by the evidence. The authors of the Freeh Report chose not to present alternative, more plausible, conclusions regarding Joe Paterno’s role in the events involving Jerry Sandusky.”
The Paterno family report goes in depth on what is referred to as “errors and unsupported opinions” in Freeh’s report. According to the Paterno family’s report, the first error in Freeh’s report was the assertion that “Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester and concealed it in 1998.”
The Freeh Report cited emails from 1998 between former Penn State President Graham Spanier and former Interim Senior Vice President of Finance and Business Gary Schultz that Paterno was copied on about Sandusky possibly abusing a child. In his critique of the report, Sollers stated there was no other evidence and the emails were too vague to conclude Paterno definitely knew about Sandusky’s possible abuse.
“The Freeh Report does not cite a single witness interview or one shred of evidence establishing that Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky molested anyone in 1998,” investigators wrote in the Paterno family’s report.
The Paterno family’s report stated that the Freeh Report did not interview “key witnesses.” Freeh responded Sunday saying Paterno “elected not to” speak with his team of investigators. However, in Freeh’s original report, it’s speculated that Paterno “was willing to speak with [investigators] and would have done so, but for his serious, deteriorating health.”
A 2001 incident involving former assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessing Sandusky in a shower with a young boy and his subsequent conversation with Paterno is also noted in the report.
In January 2011, Paterno testified in front of a grand jury that the incident McQueary described to him was of a sexual nature. In the Paterno family’s report, it’s stated Paterno consistently said he was never given visual details of the incident, which took place in a Lasch Football Building shower, and the coach “never was told or believed a boy had been raped.”
The family’s report added that Paterno acted quickly with the information he had by relaying it to Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley.
According to Paterno’s testimony to the grand jury, he learned about the situation between Sandusky and the boy in the shower from McQueary on a Saturday morning. He testified that he contacted Curley the next day, a Sunday.
“The reality, however, is that Joe Paterno did not appreciate the gravity of the 2001 incident and missed the red flags of child molestation,” the Paterno family’s report stated.
Sandusky was referred to as a “skillful manipulator” in the report, which is something Clemente, a sex crime investigation expert, reiterated on Outside the Lines.
“[Sandusky] is hiding his behavior behind this outward persona of being a nice guy and an altruistic person,” Clemente said. “Everybody believed he actually cared about children.”
In his response Sunday morning, Freeh also called the Paterno family’s report “self-serving.” The former FBI director added that the Paterno family’s report “does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report.”
Sollers countered Freeh’s statement with one of his own Sunday afternoon. He blasted Freeh’s response and said “Mr. Freeh’s attack on the report [Sunday] morning should trouble everyone who wants the truth on the Sandusky scandal.”
Penn State didn’t formally respond to the Paterno family’s report, but the university did issue a press release Sunday morning stating it will continue to use the recommendations Freeh gave in his report moving forward.
Sue Paterno, Joe’s wife, recorded an interview with Katie Couric last week, which is set to air at 3 p.m. today on the talk show, “Katie.”