“The evidence clearly shows, in our view, an active agreement to conceal,” Freeh, the former FBI director, said in a news conference in Philadelphia Thursday, after releasing the results of an eight-month investigation into Penn State’s handling of the allegations against Sandusky.
Top officials, including Paterno, were obligated under the Clery Act to report the incident to the University Police Department, according to the 266-page Freeh report which was released this morning and included interviews with more than 430 people and the reading of 3.5 million documents.
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Yet for 14 years, Paterno and the most powerful leaders at Penn State exhibited a “total disregard” for the victims of child molester Jerry Sandusky, and “repeatedly concealed critical facts” to avoid bad publicity, according to the independent report. released this morning.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” according to a statement by Freeh.
He added that he has no authority to recommend whether additional charges be filed. Penn State University President Graham Spanier resigned in the wake of the scandal. Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley both face trial for allegedly lying to a grand jury.
“I think it would be up to a grand jury and a law enforcement officer to determine whether it meets the elements of criminal offenses,” he said.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly acknowledged the Freeh investigation in a statement late this morning, but did not address if more charges would be pursued.
The Freeh report found Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley had heard reports of Sandusky’s actions toward young boys in campus locker rooms — including a 1998 criminal investigation that involved a young boy in the showers — and did nothing.
“None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity,” according to Freeh’s statement.
Freeh, who read a synopsis of the report and took questions from reporters, also said that despite the unusual circumstances of Sandusky’s retirement in 1999 at the height of his career, there was no indication it was linked in any way to the 1998 investigation of the boy who would become Victim 6 in Sandusky criminal case.
“He was paid a very large, unprecedented sum of money, $168,000,” Freeh said. “He was given not just emeritus status, but extraordinary access to the key and most sensitive parts of the university’s football program.
“However, there is no evidence that we have found that would indicate that retirement and all the elements that went into it were related in any way to removing him from the university, silencing him, whatever you want to describe.”
Relatives of Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January, have said Paterno did not cover up for Sandusky and said the scandal was not a “football problem.”
Freeh took exception to that statement, although he noted his team did not have the opportunity to speak with Paterno before his death from lung cancer in January.. but that Investigators were able to turn up documents and notes from Paterno.
“The coach clearly wants to be advised what is going on,” Freeh said. “The notion that there was no attention paid at the time is completely contrary to the evidence."
The Paterno family issued a statement this morning, saying that “the underlying facts as summarized in the report are almost entirely consistent with what we understood them to be.”
The statement went on to say, “the issue we have with some of the conclusions is that they represent a judgment on motives and intentions and we think this 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.”
Freeh’s invesitgation also had Paterno’s statement that he made about his conversation with former assistant coach Mike McQueary when the then-graduate assistant coach reported the February 2001 shower incident.
“Mr. Paterno’s quote was: ‘You did what you had to do. Now it’s up to me to decide what we want to do.’ I think that’s a very important, critical and telling statement,” Freeh said.