What happens now?
In light of the indictment of Coach Joe Paterno and his alleged involvement in the Jerry Sandusky cover-up and the “football culture” at Penn State, the Paterno family engaged independent investigators to examine the role, if any, that their husband, father and grandfather had in what has come to be known as the biggest scandal in the history of college sports. With much anticipation, the Paterno family announced last week that the results of that investigation would be released this past weekend.
After watching the interviews with the investigators on ESPN on Sunday morning and reading the full report of the Paterno investigation online, I found nothing new in what has been already been covered extensively by concerned citizens and alumni organizations, and by some in the media since the scandal erupted.
What is, however, very compelling, are the voices who are now pointing out the significant weaknesses and errors in the Freeh report and therefore in the NCAA’s response and sanctions.
Since the release of the Freeh Report, many individual analysts and commentators have been outraged by the alleged flaws in not only the process of the Freeh investigation but also in the conclusions drawn by Mr. Freeh and his colleagues. The terms incomplete, inaccurate and inconsistent with “best practices” in investigations as well as biased and rushed have been used to describe the Freeh findings. Concerns with lack of subpoena authority, anonymous sourcing, and interviews not conducted under oath, to say nothing of the fact that key players were not interviewed, have repeatedly been identified as reasons to question the Freeh report and the accusations against Mr. Paterno and others at Penn State.
Many have questioned how Mr. Paterno could have been held to higher standards than the school personnel, Children and Youth Services workers, police officers, adoption services, etc. who are trained to protect children and who also either missed or did not report Sandusky’s behaviors. Questions about Freeh’s interpretation of email content and intent have also raised doubts about his conclusions, particularly given that fact that Mr. Paterno didn’t send or receive any of those emails. (As a Penn State employee myself, I was unaware until Sunday that PSU email had been migrated to a new system in 2004 resulting in the loss of considerable email history). Those who knew Coach Paterno, have insisted that his moral code and decades long role modeling to always do the right thing despite the possible outcome provide argument that, rather than cover up the crimes of Sandusky as he has been accused, he was among the few in this horror story who followed procedure and reported what he knew to his superiors.
Much of the outrage and the questions about the accusations against Joe Paterno have been dismissed as Penn State diehards being unable to see the proverbial forest for the trees through the Blue and White lens of adoration and the football culture. The new information in the Paterno report suggests otherwise.
The Paterno family engaged former US Attorney General Dick Thornburgh as well as former FBI profiler Jim Clemente and expert on pedophilia Dr. Fred Berlin of Johns Hopkins University. The Paterno report raises serious questions about the processes used by Mr. Freeh and his assignation of “motives” to people he didn’t interview and for which, they believe, he did not provide evidence. It also raises very serious concerns about opinions without support documentation.
According to the Paterno findings, the Freeh report also significantly under-emphasized the manipulative and grooming behaviors of sexually deviant criminals like Sandusky, particularly their ability to fool the people around them. Likewise, the Paterno report suggests that the Freeh investigation missed an opportunity to educate the public about the risks of the “nice guy” pedophile who lives among us. Terms like “rush to judgment” and an “uneducated view of child sex abuse” bring concerns about the Freeh report back under the spotlight. The report also identifies concerns with previous investigations led by Mr. Freeh.
Within what seemed like minutes of the release of the Paterno family’s report, Mr. Freeh himself released a statement pointing out what he said are inconsistencies in the findings of Thornburgh, et al. Ironically, his press statement supports the fact that he didn’t interview key players but blames attorneys for blocking that testimony rather than acknowledging that the missing testimony may mean missing pieces of the puzzle.
There may be two sides to every story and but the truth doesn’t always lie in the middle.
Despite the fact that money has changed hands to support the Paterno investigation (just as it did in the Freeh investigation), in my personal opinion, the Paterno results weigh heavily on the side of credibility. Of particular interest is the lengthy report filed by FBI profiler Clemente with his expert analysis of what people and communities do when faced with the contradictions of a pedophile. The report uses experience and analysis to show why and how people like Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno and even Mrs. Sandusky might react to what in hindsight we now know were grooming behaviors.
Despite the fact that trained experts were unable or unwilling to identify problematic pedophile behaviors in the Sandusky case, the Freeh report blamed a then-70-plus-year-old football coach for first not identifying skilled and manipulative grooming behaviors and then not doing more to stop those behaviors. More important, the Paterno investigators were unable to find a single piece of anything that supported collusion behind the scenes or an attempt to hide anything.
What happens now?
We are far from done with this story. It looks like the next chapter falls to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Last week, Kane identified former prosecutor H. Geoffrey Moulton as Special Deputy to lead the campaign-promised independent investigation of the Sandusky scandal. Moulton is reportedly well respected and without political or personal ties to anyone in this mess. An independent review of the Sandusky scandal that isn’t potentially tainted by politics, money, a family’s pain or a community and/or university administration desire to make this go away is what is needed to make sure that it doesn’t happen ever again.
To Mrs. Paterno and her children and grandchildren, I say, “You done good.” Not only do the findings of your investigative team provide support for your husband, father and grandfather but they also provide information to inform and educate about child molestation. Will it be enough for either Penn State administration or the NCAA to re-examine their decisions?
The report may not change the minds of the haters, but your reasoned and thoughtful approach provides an example of what most of us would hope to do if we believed that someone in our family had been wronged.