Abuse Inquiry Faults Paterno and Others at Penn State
By KEN BELSON July 12, 2012
In 1998, officials at Penn State, including its president and its legendary football coach, were aware Jerry Sandusky was being investigated by the university’s police department for possibly molesting two young boys in the football building’s showers. They followed the investigation closely, updating one another along the way.
One of those officials, Gary Schultz, articulated in dire terms what the incidents might suggest:
“Is this opening of Pandora’s box?” Mr. Schultz wrote in notes that he would keep secret for years. “Other children?”
The officials did nothing. No one so much as spoke to Mr. Sandusky.
Last month, Mr. Sandusky, for three decades one of Joe Paterno’s top coaching lieutenants, was convicted of sexually attacking 10 young boys, nine of them after the 1998 investigation, and several of them in the same football building showers.
Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who spent the last seven months examining the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, issued a damning conclusion Thursday:
The most senior officials at Penn State had shown a “total and consistent disregard” for the welfare of children, had worked together to actively conceal Mr. Sandusky’s assaults, and had done so for one central reason: fear of bad publicity. That publicity, Mr. Freeh said Thursday, would have hurt the nationally ranked football program, Mr. Paterno’s reputation as a coach of high principles, the Penn State “brand” and the university’s ability to raise money as one of the most respected public institutions in the country….
Mr. Freeh, in a formal report to the university’s board of trustees that ran more than 250 pages, offered graphic evidence of the implications of what he termed “a pervasive fear” of bad publicity:
In 2000, a janitor at the football building saw Mr. Sandusky assaulting a boy in the showers. Horrified, he consulted with his colleagues, but decided not to do anything. They were all, Mr. Freeh said, afraid to “take on the football program.”
“They said the university would circle around it,” Mr. Freeh said of the employees. “It was like going against the president of the United States. If that’s the culture on the bottom, then God help the culture at the top.”
Indeed, Mr. Freeh’s investigation makes clear it was Mr. Paterno, long regarded as the single most powerful official at the university, who persuaded the university president and others not to report Mr. Sandusky to the authorities in 2001 after he had violently assaulted another boy in the football showers….
“The facts are the facts,” Mr. Freeh said. “There’s a whole bunch of evidence here. And we’re saying that the reasonable conclusion from that evidence is he was an integral part of this active decision to conceal. I regret that based on the damage that it does, obviously, to his legacy.”….
One new and central finding of the Freeh investigation is that Mr. Paterno, who died in January, knew as far back as 1998 that there were concerns Mr. Sandusky might be behaving inappropriately with children. It was then that the campus police investigated a claim by a mother that her son had been molested by Mr. Sandusky in a shower at Penn State.
Mr. Paterno, through his family, had insisted after Mr. Sandusky’s arrest that he never knew anything about the 1998 case. In fact, he had testified under oath before the grand jury hearing evidence against Mr. Sandusky that he was not aware of the 1998 investigation.
But Mr. Freeh’s report asserts that Mr. Paterno not only knew of the investigation, but followed it closely. Local prosecutors ultimately decided not to charge Mr. Sandusky, and Mr. Paterno did nothing.
Mr. Paterno failed to take any action, the investigation found, “even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s.”
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,” the most powerful leaders of Penn State, Mr. Freeh’s group said, “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”….
Mr. Freeh said that by allowing Mr. Sandusky to remain a visible presence at Penn State following his retirement from coaching in 1999, he was essentially granted “license to bring boys to campus for ‘grooming’ as targets for his assaults.”
The Freeh investigation also determined that Mr. Sandusky, upon his retirement shortly after the 1998 investigation, received both an unusual compensation package and a special designation of “emeritus” rank that carried special privileges, including access to the university’s recreational facilities. With respect to money, Mr. Spanier, the president, approved a lump-sum payment to Mr. Sandusky of $168,000.
Mr. Freeh’s investigators interviewed two senior and longtime university officials who said they had never heard of this type of payment being made to any retiring employee….