An investigation of Penn State’s actions in the wake of accusations against Jerry Sandusky concludes there was “the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders of Penn State University for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims.”
That damning indictment was part of a 267-page report, commissioned by Penn State and conducted by a firm led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, that accused Penn State’s leadership – consisting of Penn State president Graham Spanier, vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and head football coach Joe Paterno – of “repeatedly concealing facts” related to Sandusky’s behavior because of the fear of the consequences of bad publicity. The report also faults the Penn State Board of Trustees for “lack of oversight” and a university culture that discouraged reporting of sexual abuse. (Read Ron Opher’s column from Nov. 2011 on how the Penn State culture led to this crisis.)
Sandusky, who retired as defensive coordinator at Penn State in 1999, was convicted on 45 charges related to sexual misconduct with minor boys.
The report faults these four men for failing to take any action following a 1998 incident involving Sandusky and a boy in the shower of Lasch Building , which contains football offices, exercise facilities and showers. The report notes that the 1998 incident was reported promptly to police and the Department of Public Welfare (DPW), but, despite the district attorney’s decision not to press charges, faults the university’s leadership for not pursuing any actions regarding Sandusky.
The report finds much more fault regarding the handling of the February 2001 incident witnessed by then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary. The investigation concludes that there was an attempt to conceal facts, as is evident by the fact that neither police nor the DPW was informed of the incident. Schultz and Curley are facing criminal charges for failing to report the incident, as is required under the Cleary Disclosure Act.
The conclusions in the 2001 case center upon a series of emails between Schultz, Curley and Spanier, as well as written notes, mostly by Schultz. There is a series of emails regarding how the February 2001 incident should be handled.
The most damaging accusation toward Paterno in the report is that after Spanier, Schultz and Curley allegedly agreed on a plan that included contacting the DPW – Spanier testified to the grand jury that Schultz was not at the meeting and the DPW was not mentioned – the trio changed course after Curley spoke with Paterno.
This conclusion is based upon an email Curley sent to Spanier and Schultz, stating that “After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone but the person involved.”
The investigators concluded that “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.”
Spanier replied via email that “This approach is acceptable to me. … The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”
Paterno’s family issued a statement saying that Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January, would never have protected Sandusky to avoid bad publicity.
A portion of the statement reads:
“Joe Paterno wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes and he regretted them. He is still the only leader to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. To think, however, that he would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic. If Joe Paterno had understood what Sandusky was, a fear of bad publicity would not have factored into his actions.
We appreciate the effort that was put into this investigation. The issue we have with some of the conclusions is that they represent a judgment on motives and intentions and we think is impossible. We have said from the beginning that Joe Paterno did not know Jerry Sandusky was a child predator. Moreover, Joe Paterno never interfered with any investigation. He immediately and accurately reported the incident he was told about in 2001.
It can be argued that Joe Paterno should have gone further. He should have pushed his superiors to see that they were doing their jobs. We accept this criticism.”
Penn State is facing the likelihood of civil lawsuits seeking damages for the victims of Sandusky’s abuse. There is also the possibility of additional criminal charges, with Spanier being a potential target.