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Paterno Report, Section VI: 'The Freeh Report is Based On Numerous Errors and Unsupported Opinions'

by on February 10, 2013 1:22 PM

The four experts who compiled the Paterno family's response to the Freeh Report each came to the conclusion Joe Paterno did not know about the accusations of abuse against Jerry Sandusky in 1998, nor did he lie in his testimony to the grand jury. 

In Paterno family attorney Wick Soller's report, he writes that although the Freeh commission conducted more than 430 interviews, only two email strings give any indication that "may refer to Joe Paterno in the context of a 1998 complaint about Jerry Sandusky." 

"Those two emails — in a sum total of three lines — come from a single person, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and were not sent or received by Joe Paterno, do not reference sexual conduct of any nature, and are devoid of any statements by Joe Paterno," Sollers wrote. 

In the first email, Curley emails former vice president Gary Schultz and former Penn State President Graham Spanier, "I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks."

The next day, Schultz emailed Curley back, copying Spanier, with the subject line "Re: Joe Paterno." According to the report, he wrote a single line: "Will do. Since we talked tonight I've learned that the Public Welfare people will interview the individual Thursday."

Sollers said there are two issues with those emails supposing Paterno had any knowledge of the abuse. First, Schultz and Curley were unable to be interviewed for the Freeh report pending their own court cases, and therefore there was no statement from either man regarding the subject matter of the emails. 

Second, Spanier was interviewed but said he did not recall the email and did not believe he was told verbally or otherwise had "absolutely no recollection" of any alleged sexual misconduct by Sandusky prior to 2001.

"Put another way, Dr. Spanier's account is devoid of any reliable evidence, or even a suggestion, that Joe Paterno learned of any sexual misconduct allegations in 1998. If anything, Dr. Spanier corroborates that that the 1998 event was not reported to either of them (if reported at all to Joe Paterno) in serious terms," Sollers wrote. 

The second email string, also starting in May 1998, between Curley and Schultz with Spanier copied. It is titled, "Re: Jerry" and in June, the email also copies then-director of Penn State Police, Thomas Harmon. Schultz says in the June 9 email that the matter has been "appropriately investigated" and that "[the Department of Public Welfare investigator and police] met with Jerry on Monday and concluded there was no criminal behavior and the matter was closed as an investigation."

"This email string contains a single line that may reference Joe Paterno in the May 13, 1998 email authored by Mr. Curley: "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands." 

Sollers considers Freeh's conclusions on this email a rush to judgement because it is not clear who 'coach' is referring to, whether that be Paterno or Sandusky, who was defensive coordinator until 1999. 

Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. attorney general said 'coach' likely could have been in reference to Sandusky, because "[a]round this time, for example, Mr. Sandusky had proposed to the University administration the possibility of starting a football team at the University's Altoona campus where he could be the head coach."

"For the Freeh investigators not to consider this option as a reasonable interpretation of this email is telling, especially because the timing of these discussions would have been well documented in the administration files or known by the people in the administration that they interviewed," Thornburgh wrote. 

However, in an op-ed piece penned by one of the special committee members to the Freeh commission, Rodney Hughes wrote, " 'Coach' would not be referring to Sandusky, because police secretly listened to a conversation between Sandusky and the mother who reported him on May 13, and Sandusky would not have known at that point that he was the subject of police attention."

Sollers said the email is ambiguous because it references no minors, showers or any general description to what he's referring, and whether "poor judgment" or "an administrative issue" was part of that. 

The 'glaring and indisputable flaw' Sollers concludes from his investigation of the Freeh report is that neither Paterno, nor Curley or Schultz were interviewed for the Freeh report to give any context to the emails which leads to a 'shockingly incomplete' record. 

Thornburgh said, "The Freeh Report claims that Mr. Paterno knew about the 1998 incident involving Mr. Sandusky at or about the time that it occurred. However, there is no credible support provided in the Freeh Report for what, if anything, Mr. Paterno was aware of concerning the 1998 incident prior to 2011. Indeed, the Freeh Report ignored contrary evidence that Mr. Paterno did not have such knowledge." 

Jim Clemente, former prosecutor, wrote in his report, that had Paterno been knowledgeable about the 1998 incident, he would have reacted differently in 2001 when former assistant coach and then-graduate student Mike McQueary told him about allegedly witnessing Sandusky abuse a boy in the shower.

"As it relates to Paterno, there is very little to be said about the 1998 incident. As far as Paterno knew, if he knew anything, it was fully investigated and Sandusky was fully cleared. Had Paterno or anyone else taken any action against Sandusky, as far as they knew, they would be exposing themselves and the university to a lawsuit from Sandusky.

"Nonetheless, I will discuss the 1998 incident in some detail for two reasons. First, if Paterno did know about the 1998 incident and the fact that Sandusky was investigated and cleared, this likely would have affected Paterno's understanding of the 2001 incident. Upon hearing the report from McQueary, Paterno could have reasonably believed that Sandusky was simply horsing around with the boy — just like he was determined to have been doing in 1998 — despite the fact that McQueary perceived it as 'over the line,' Clemente wrote. 

Section six of the report, "The Freeh report is based on numerous errors and unsupported opinions," the researchers say there are several problems with the Freeh report, including: 

Joe Paterno lied in his grand jury testimony, particularly about the 1998 incident

  • Soller's report says Paterno told the Attorney General 'honestly' what he knew about the 2001 incident, based on what McQueary told him the next day. Also, Paterno's testimony was corroborated during McQueary's testimony at Sandusky's June trial.
  • Clemente writes Paterno could only give the testimony he did to the grand jury because he was not provided with a clear depiction by McQueary of what he believed he witnessed. 

Joe Paterno concealed the 2001 incident reported by Mike McQueary as part of a 14-year conspiracy to avoid the consequences of "bad publicity"

  • "The Freeh report does not cite a single email, conversation, handwritten note, calendar entry, voicemail, statement or other record evidence establishing that Joe Paternowas concerned about consequences of bad publicity associated with the 2001 incident. Dr. Berlin, former FBI profiler Mr. Clemente, and former United States Attorney General Dick Thornburgh all have concluded that Mr. Freeh's opinion in that regard is baseless. The Freeh report does cite limited evidence in the context of allegations about other individuals' concern about publicity in 2001, but it unfairly and without support imputes that concern to Joe Paterno," Sollers wrote. 
  • Furthermore, Sollers wrote, Paterno did the opposite of "conceal" the 2001 incident. "He reported it up his chain of command, and three senior administrators in that chain had broad authority under the University's procedures for handling and investigating significant complaints. There is no evidence establishing that Joe Paterno was concerned about bad publicity or, for that matter, that he believed the allegations would be hidden by the university police force and not reported publicly by them or through multiple channels he did not control, like The Second Mile." 

Jerry Sandusky's Office was "steps away" from Joe Paterno's office, and, as one of the most "powerful" people at Penn State, Joe Paterno must have known but concealed that Sandusky was a pedophile

  • In the Paterno report, Sollers said that by the time Paterno was told about the 2001 incident, which – according to the Paterno report, was the first Paterno heard of abuse – Sandusky had been off of the Penn State football staff for two years, having been told he would not succeed Paterno as head coach even before the 1998 incident. 
  • Sollers relies on Joe Posnanski's biography of Paterno, pulling a quote that gives readers a glimpse into the strained relationship between Paterno and Sandusky. "While the two coaches had a healthy respect for each other professionally, they were "never close" and "clashed for many years." Sollers wrote that because Paterno had no knowledge of Sandusky's personal affairs, he missed signs that may have been red flags indicating Sandusky's behavior. 

A Janitor who apparently witnessed Sandusky's sexual misconduct in the Fall of 2000 chose not to report it for fear of losing his job because Joe Paterno must have known that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester and actively created a culture to harbor a pedophile

  • In Thornburgh's report, he disagrees with the Freeh report's conclusion that Mr. Paterno 'wielded excessive influence' at the University, and said it "is "[n]ot [s]upported by the [i]nvestigative [r]ecord."
  • Clemente also writes his opinion as to why the Freeh report 'erroneously' reached its conclusion regarding the janitor's unwillingness to report what he allegedly witnessed:  "It is only because the [SIC] report lacks an understanding of the dynamics of acquaintance child sexual victimization that it has misconstrued the behavior of the individuals involved and blamed Sandusky's ability to hide and continue his offending on the 'culture of reverence for the football program.' If the writers of the [SIC] report had fully understood those dynamics, they would not have been searching for reasons why Paterno and others did not recognize Sandusky's offending behavior for what it was."

Authors of the Paterno family report question the Freeh report assertion that it is 'neutral and free of bias,' and whether it 'adequately evaluated Joe Paterno’s lifetime of integrity in reaching its conclusions." Sollers wrote, "Mr. Freeh's lack of objectivity is transparent from his cursory treatment of decades of integrity and character demonstrated by Joe Paterno." 

Related coverage: 

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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