Trustee Says Freeh Report Marrs Paterno’s Legacy [VIDEO]
A Penn St. trustee says former head football coach Joe Paterno's "61 years of excellent service to the university is now marred" in the wake of a 267 page report on Penn State's actions and response related to the allegations of child abuse by Jerry Sandusky.
Chairwoman Karen Peetz also says the board "accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred."
Trustee Kenneth Frazier says "we have to take some time ...before we start thinking about how we think about Joe Paterno's entire life and entire body of work."
The report says the school had a "total disregard for the safety & welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State" including Paterno and that the administrators who fielded a 2001 complaint about him created a dangerous situation for future victims by not reporting the matter.
DOCUMENT: Report highlights
DOCUMENT: Read The Full Report
DOCUMENT: Email Sent To Penn State Students By Board Of Trustees
DOCUMENT:Reaction From The Paterno Family
PREVIOUS: Jerry Sandusky Case
"CONCEALING CRITICAL FACTS"
The Freeh Group's report issued Thursday said that in order to avoid bad publicity, president Graham Spanier, football coach Joe Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "repeatedly concealed critical facts."
The report says the men "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
Sexual abuse might have been prevented if university officials had banned him from bringing children onto campus after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no action to limit his access to campus, the report said.
The May 1998 complaint by a woman whose son came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky didn't result in charges at the time. The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening "Pandora's box."
Officials later did bar him from bringing children to campus.
The Board of Trustees' dismissal of Paterno in November 2011 "was poorly handled, as were the Board's communications with public," the report says.
"PATERNO WASN'T PERFECT"
In a statement, Joe Paterno's family says he "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."
As for criticism that Paterno didn't do enough, his family says he "mistakenly believed that investigators, law enforcement officials, University leaders and others would properly and fully investigate any issue and proceed as the facts dictated."
MESSAGE TO STUDENTS
In an email sent to current students by the Board and read by Townsquare Media NJ, the Trustees tell students they are "giving the report careful scrutiny and consideration before making any announcements or recommendations. We are convening an internal team comprising the Board of Trustees, University administration and our legal counsel to begin analyzing the report and digesting Judge Freeh's findings" to ensure that this "never happens again" at Penn State.
Key Findings Of The Freeh Report:
A striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University.
A President who discouraged discussion and dissent.
A decision by Spanier, Schultz, Paterno, and Curley to allow Sandusky to retire in 1999, not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future “visibility” at Penn State and ways “to continue to work with young people through Penn State,” essentially granting him a license to bring boys to campus facitilities for “grooming” as targets for his assaults.
"SUCCESS WITH HONOR" ENABLED SANDUSKY
The report also singled out the revered Penn State football program -- one built on the motto "success with honor" -- for criticism. It says Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, "not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future `visibility' at Penn State'," allowing him to groom victims.
Freeh's team has interviewed hundreds of people to learn how the university responded to warning signs that its once revered former defensive coordinator was a serial child molester. They did not interview Paterno before his death but say he seemed willing to speak with them.
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted on 45 criminal counts last month following included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them.
FALLOUT FROM THE REPORT
With the report now complete, the NCAA said Penn State now must address four key questions concerning "institutional control and ethics policies," as outlined in a letter sent to the school last fall.
"Penn State's response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action," said Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications. "We expect Penn State's continued cooperation in our examination of these issues."
The U.S. Department of Education is examining whether the school violated the Clery Act, which requires reporting of certain crimes on campus, including ones of a sexual nature. The report said Penn State's "awareness and interest" in Clery Act compliance was "significantly lacking."
Only one form used to report such crimes was completed on campus from 2007 through 2011, according to the Freeh findings. And no record exists of Paterno, Curley or assistant coach Mike McQueary reporting that McQueary saw Sandusky in a shower with a boy in 2001, as they would be obligated to do under the Clery Act.
As of last November, Penn State's policies for Clery compliance were still in draft form and had not been implemented, the report found.
U.S. Department of Education said it was still examining whether Penn State violated the Clery Act, but declined to comment on Freeh's report
Sandusky was convicted on 45 criminal counts last month.
This is a developing story with more details forthcoming.