An independent report on Penn State’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky has been released, and it’s damning. The report, written by a team headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, finds that PSU’s top leaders engaged in a fourteen-year conspiracy to protect Sandusky from justice, a conspiracy that had beloved football coach Joe Paterno at its center.
Some excerpts from Louis Freeh’s remarks on the report, delivered just moments ago:
- “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. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. “
- “[Penn State President Graham] Spanier, [Vice President Gary] Schultz, [Coach Joe] Paterno and [Athletic Director Tim] Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
- Penn State leaders considered reporting Sandusky in 2001 but “changed the plan … after Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno … and decided not to make a report to the authorities.”
- “Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.”
- “Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity.”
- Freeh rejects the four administrators’ stated reasons for failing to act, declaring that “it is more reasonable to conclude” that they “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large … in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
- “Although concern to treat the child abuser humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”
- Paterno was aware of an earlier “criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to suspected sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower,” and indeed “followed it closely, but failed to take any action, 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.”
- “Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley also failed to alert the Board of Trustees about the 1998 investigation or take any further action against Mr. Sandusky. None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct.”
- “In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity.”
It goes on like this for another page and a half, detailing what Freeh calls the group’s “callous and shocking disregard for child victims” of sexual abuse by their friend and colleague.
Freeh also notes that the Penn State Board of Trustees “failed in its duty to make reasonable inquiry into these serious matters and to demand action by the President” after they became aware of them via media reports in March 2011. In doing so, the board “failed to create an environment which held the University’s most senior leaders accountable to it,” allowing President Spanier to continue to stonewall them even as Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz were arrested in November of last year.
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More details from the main body of the Freeh Report:
When Sandusky retired in 1999 — after top university officials were already aware of child sexual abuse allegations against him — he asked for and was granted a six-figure lump-sum payment above and beyond his substantial pension, a payment that several PSU officials said was unique in the recent history of the university. He was also granted emeritus status in violation of standard PSU policy on the awarding of that honor.
In addition to the unprecedented $168,000 payment and emeritus status, Sandusky requested while negotiating the terms of his retirement that he be given opportunities “to continue to work with young people through Penn State.” PSU granted this request, giving him and the youth group he worked with open access to the campus. In the next two years Sandusky would go on to sexually assault at least three more children on university property.
In 2001, following new evidence of child sexual abuse against Sandusky, PSU President Graham Spanier signed off on a proposal from his athletic director and head of campus police to “indicate” to Sandusky that “we feel there is a problem and we want to assist [him] to get professional help,” but not to provide their evidence to legal authorities. In a 2001 email, Spanier said that “the only downside for us” to this plan “is if the message isnʹt ‘heard’ and acted upon” — if Sandusky went on to sexually abuse other children — “and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.” He called the decision not to inform police a “humane” and “reasonable” one.
The only action taken at the time was a March 2001 request that Sandusky no longer bring children to campus, a request he ignored — in August that year he committed another sexual assault on a child in the university’s showers.