Freeh Report assigns blame to Joe Paterno, other Penn State officials for Jerry Sandusky's crimes

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

In clear, calm, concise and unrelenting words, a report from an independent investigation into Penn State's handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation case assigned blame in harsh terms to a wide-ranging group of high-ranking officials.

From iconic football coach Joe Paterno, to now fired president Graham Spanier, to a detached Board of Trustees, the failures, lack of concern and ceding of oversight, no one escaped blame in failing to stop Sandusky's 15-year plus reign of terror in central Pennsylvania.

"The most saddening finding by the Special Investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims," the Freeh Commission report, released Thursday morning, reads. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

Most notably Paterno's failures are profound and clash with his previous portrayals.

The Freeh Report concluded that, as many had assumed, Paterno (as well as other administrators) was aware of a 1998 criminal investigation on allegations that Sandusky abused a boy in Penn State locker room showers. While the local district attorney did not prosecute, the Freeh Group condemned Paterno and the others for not setting up further precautions against Sandusky's behavior.

[Audio: Dan Wetzel provides an overview of the Freeh Report]

It concluded that Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley also knew and did nothing.

"The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno's," the report's conclusion reads.

"At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child into the Lasch Building. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct.

"In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity."

Paterno's knowledge of the allegations early on is clear from two emails. Curley sent one May 5, 1998, to Spanier and Schultz that read in part: "I have touched base with the coach." Then, eight days later, Curley emailed Schultz a message captioned "Jerry" and asked, "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands."

[Related: Read the entire Freeh Report]

This is particularly important in light of a report by a then graduate assistant football coach, Mike McQueary, in 2001. McQueary told Paterno, and later Schultz and Curley, that he walked in on Sandusky abusing another boy in the showers.

Rather than raise considerable red flags, the administrators and the coach decided against turning Sandusky over to the proper authorities even though they were aware of the incident three years earlier.

The Freeh Group said the administrators were prepared to call child services and report Sandusky until a meeting between Curley and Paterno on Feb. 26, 2001. Curley later sent an email saying he was no longer comfortable with turning Sandusky in.

[Related: Penn State officials concealed sex abuse]

"Based on the evidence, the only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 by Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, and then agreeing not to do so on February 27th, was Mr. Paterno's February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley," the report wrote.

The Freeh Group believes the interest of avoiding bad publicity allowed Sandusky to remain free, where he would go on to abuse additional boys and maintain near full access to Penn State facilities and the inner workings of the football program.

"It is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large. Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky's victims."

Schultz did acknowledge the possibility that there could have been widespread abuse: "Is this the opening of pandora’s box?” he wrote. "Other children?" But then, one month later, he wrote “I hope it is now behind us."

[Related: Alum: The Paterno statue must come down]

The commission also laid blame on a hands-off Board of Trustees which should have provided additional oversight to the campus.

In the end though, the blame is on three administrators and a once-sainted coach who displayed "a callous and shocking disregard for child victims."

Penn State hired the Freeh Group, run by former FBI director Louis Freeh, in November 2011 after Sandusky was indicted. Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse and is in the Centre County Correctional Facility awaiting sentencing.

Curley and Schultz were both charged with perjury and failure to report a crime. They await trail this fall. Spanier and Paterno were not charged but both were fired in the days after the indictment. Paterno passed away in January at age 85.

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