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Thornburgh Calls on Penn State to Release Freeh Report Documents

by on April 17, 2015 6:00 AM

Dick Thornburgh has aimed another salvo at Penn State.

In a letter penned for Philly.com Thursday he asks the university to explain why it's still fighting the Paterno estate over ongoing efforts to obtain documents that were used to compile the controversial Freeh Report.

Thornburgh points out that university president Eric Barron  wrote a letter to the university community on January 29, that said, "the limitations of the Freeh report prevent it from being the basis of any decision facing Penn State."

In his own letter, Thornburgh says, "Despite this acknowledgement by Barron, Penn State's lawyers, paid with Penn State funds and partially underwritten by state taxpayers, continue the strategy of fighting to prevent the disclosure of documents related to the flawed Freeh report."

Thornburgh calls for openness, adding, "I would hope Barron's courageous leadership in disavowing the Freeh report would be reason enough to seize the moment of the sanctions reversal, commit to transparency, and help the public understand all the events that have profoundly impacted so many lives."

The university hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh in the wake of the infamous Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Freeh's assignment was to conduct a thorough and completely independent investigation into the university's handling of Sandusky's crimes.

Freeh unleashed a firestorm in the summer of 2012, releasing his report and blaming top university administrators for covering up Sandusky's actions.

Joe Paterno and former Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired. Spanier faces trial on conspiracy charges, along with former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, and former vice president Gary Schultz. All three men say they're innocent. No trial date has been set.

The NCAA used the Freeh Report to impose draconian sanctions on Penn State, including a $60 million fine, the loss of football scholarships, a ban on bowl games, and the removal of 111 victories under Paterno.

The sanctions were later dropped to settle a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania officials to ensure the $60 million fine was spent on child abuse awareness and prevention programs in Pennsylvania and not elsewhere.

There were a number of embarrassing revelations as that lawsuit made its way through the courts. Internal NCAA emails from 2012 referred to the threat of sanctions against Penn State as “a bluff.” They also questioned whether the NCAA had the authority or jurisdiction to impose sanctions.

Thornburgh's letter says those emails exposed an "embarrassing and indefensible decision-making process," adding that "Penn State has the answers, and its failure to disclose them only underscores the importance of learning what really happened."

The NCAA and Penn State are being sued by a number of plaintiffs including the Paterno estate, former Penn State assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney and former university trustee Al Clemens. They claim the NCAA overstepped its authority in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal, ultimately decreasing the value of the Paterno estate and making it more difficult for Jay Paterno and Kenney to find work.

Thornburgh was hired by Joe Paterno's family to investigate Freeh's findings.

A former U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania governor, Thornburgh eventually called the Freeh Report "deeply flawed and misleading."

In February 2013, Thornbugh released his own report saying this about Freeh's work: "It's incomplete. It's full of inaccuracies," Thornburgh said. "Much was overlooked, much was misrepresented and the fact is, it really isn't deserving of the basis for action that was insinuated by the NCAA."

Penn State did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Thornburgh's letter.

 

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of StateCollege.com. Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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