Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Former FBI Director's report on Penn State scandal shows evidence of cover-up by Paterno, others

  Multiple officials at Pennsylvania State University, including university president Graham Spanier and longtime coach Joe Paterno, exhibited "total disregard for the safety and welfare of... [the] child victims" of retired defensive coach and child rapist Jerry Sandusky, according to a report released on Thursday.

  Authored by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who spent the last seven months investigating the case on behalf of the Pennsylvania state attorney general's office, the report alleges serious misconduct by those in the university administration concerning their handling of the allegations, as early as 1998, that Sandusky was committing sexual acts against children in Penn State football facilities.

  The four men damned in the report--President Spanier, Coach Paterno, Spanier's Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley--professed limited to nonexistent knowledge of Sandusky's indiscretions when the scandal blew up toward the end of last year.

  The report, however, shows that in the two earliest instances of child abuse of which they knew, in 1998 and 2001, all four demonstrated deep negligence in both instances toward the victims of Sandusky's actions, and instead showed concern only for their own career prospects and well-being.

  The newspapers have quoted the report ad nauseam; the entire 267-page text is available online. Its crucial points are clear, however. Perhaps most shockingly, the report shows that head coach Joe Paterno, once considered a sort of living myth and symbol of Penn State, knew far more about the accusations against Sandusky--dating as far back as 1998--than anyone thought he knew.

  Above President Spanier or anyone else involved, Paterno was looked upon, especially by students and fellow coaches, as at least mostly innocent when it came to what former Director Freeh called a "cover-up" by university officials of the accusations against Sandusky, stemming from "pervasive fear of bad publicity" for the school and football program.

  But it turns out that Paterno--particularly during the handling of the 2001 incident--was himself instrumental in the execution of that very cover-up.


  Paterno, Director Curley, and Vice President Schultz all testified before a grand jury in January 2011 that they had little to no knowledge of the very first reported incident of inappropriate behavior by Sandusky, in which he touched an 11-year-old boy, identified in the trial only as Victim 6, inappropriately in a Penn State shower on May 3, 1998.

  The Freeh report, however, uses previously undisclosed and hidden documents of Schultz's and Curley's (which they attempted to hide from authorities) to show that all three--along with President Spanier--were kept informed, by their own request, of the investigation into the incident being conducted by the university police department that began after the victim's mother contacted a psychiatrist and then the authorities the day after the incident, on May 4.

  On that same day, Schultz wrote on a notepad that Sandusky had been accused of sexual behavior toward a boy while showering with him, and that a taped police interview with the boy demonstrated "at best inappropriate" behavior by Sandusky and "[at] worst sexual improprieties... At minimum - Poor judgment."

  The next day, on May 5, Schultz received an email from Athletic Director Curley. Captioned "Joe Paterno," Curley reported that he had "touched base with the coach. Keep us posted." On May 13, Curley emailed Schultz again, in a message titled "Jerry." "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands."

  These two emails, while they do not come from Paterno's email address nor do they mention his name, provide clear evidence that the head coach not only knew of the 1998 incident (which he told a grand jury he was only vaguely aware of at the time) but actively sought information about the investigation into the incident as it took place.

  Unfortunately, even an investigation by the police would, in this case, fail Sandusky's victims.

  Victim 6's mother contacted the authorities the day after the assault. She had noticed her son acting strangely after Sandusky had dropped him off that night, staring off into the distance and not saying a word until she asked him what happened and he told her.

  She had the boy talk to a psychiatrist, and then a detective from the State College, Pennsylvania police force. The officer interviewed the boy the next day and heard Victim 6's account; the boy even mentioned that a friend of his of a similar age had told him that Sandusky had touched him inappropriately once while showering together as well.

  The police interviewed the boy's mother. And on their recommendation, she invited Sandusky to her house on May 19, just over two weeks after the incident, while the police sat in a back room listening.

  They listened with their ears pressed to the door as Sandusky admitted to her that "maybe" he had touched the boy's genitals while showering with him; he also admitted that he had indeed told Victim 6 "I love you" the night of the incident, as the boy had reported to the detective who interviewed him.

  The police stood there in the house and heard with their own ears the boy's mother tell Sandusky it would be best for him to no longer contact her son. "I understand," the police heard him say. "I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness... I wish I were dead."

  The small-town police investigators, however, failed to question Sandusky in the aftermath of this incredibly incriminating account of the incident, out of the assailant's own mouth no less. And around the end of the month, the local DA decided not to press charges against Sandusky, or even continue investigating him.


  In 2001, Sandusky was accused again of sexual impropriety on the Penn State campus. Only this time, there was an adult witness: assistant coach Mike McQueary, who still works at Penn State.

  McQueary explained multiple times, both to reporters, as well as during the trial, his account of what happened that night in early February 2001. By his admission, he walked into the locker room in Penn State's Lasch Football Building to retrieve a pair of sneakers on the night of February 9, only to hear what he described as "slapping sounds" of an "extremely sexual nature" and see Sandusky in the shower, through a crack in the door, standing behind a boy whose hands were up against the wall.

  The next day, McQueary reported his sightings to Joe Paterno in person. Paterno promised McQueary that the higher-ups would hear about it. And Paterno did indeed report this second incident to Spanier and the others, as he maintained he had until his death in January of this year.

  But what Paterno did not admit in life was that he, according to Freeh, was the driving force behind the eventual decision to not report the 2001 incident to the authorities. If he had, Sandusky likely would have been charged, given the previous accusations and investigation into the 1998 incident with Victim 6.

  Vice President Schultz and Director Curley, in notes discovered only recently by police, "reviewed 1998 history" in the immediate aftermath of Paterno's report to them. In the note, the two agree that "Unless he [Sandusky] confesses to having a problem, [Curley] will indicate we need to have [Department of Public Welfare] review the matter..."

  But according to the Freeh report, that decision was nullified in the aftermath of a face-to-face conversation between Paterno and Curley a few weeks after the assault. Paterno told Curley that the "humane" thing to do was to instead speak to Sandusky privately about the issue before even considering involving authorities.

  Paterno proposed offering Sandusky what the New York Times reported as "professional help," along with warning him "not to bring children on campus any longer."

  Schultz's notes also indicate that he and Curley intended to report the incident to the board of The Second Mile, Sandusky's charity for disadvantaged, orphaned, and otherwise at-risk children, which he used as a front to meet and groom each and every one of his victims.

  And that's what happened. Curley met privately and quietly with Sandusky, and recommended he no longer bring children on campus; he also let Sandusky know he would be informing the Second Mile board of the reported incident.

  Of course, Sandusky got no professional help; in addition, he ignored the prohibition against his bringing children on campus. In fact, the Freeh report indicates that, between the 2001 incident and his 2011 arrest, Sandusky sexually assaulted at least two other children on Penn State property.

  As well, the Second Mile Board of Trustees determined that the accusation against Sandusky was, in Freeh's words, "a non-incident... and there was no need for further action." The children’s charity did not seem to be so fired up about protecting children from its own leadership.

  Spanier's early decision to report Sandusky in the aftermath of the 2001 incident was evidently no kind of 'decision' at all. His reaction to Paterno's accommodation of Sandusky's predatory behavior was captured in an email quoted at length in the report.

  "This approach is acceptable to me," he wrote. "The only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon [by Sandusky], and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it... The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to process."

  The law failed Victim 6 in 1998. The board of a charity that was founded on the premise of protecting and helping children failed Victim 2 in 2001. Not one member of the board thought to simply report the incident to authorities themselves.

  Not to mention that the initial decision by Spanier, Schultz, and Curley to report Sandusky to the Department of Public Welfare, had it been acted on in 2001, could have had Sandusky off the streets ten years before he was finally handcuffed. Instead, an aged, old-fashioned coach who did not want trouble for his university or its football program simply snuffed justice out.


  The "humane" thing to do. "We then become vulnerable." Paterno, Spanier, and the rest of the PSU officials involved were clearly concerned about the damage that Sandusky's child rape and molestation could do to them, their careers, and the university if the public someday found out that a sex predator and serial child rapist roamed the halls of the school, with "emeritus" status and an office just doors down from Paterno's very own.

  They were all certainly looking out for themselves, as well as Sandusky--but they gave no quarter to the child victims of this entire snafu. To these men previously held in high esteem--especially Paterno, so popular in Pennsylvania there was once a movement to get him to run for governor--the only vulnerable ones in this situation were themselves.

  JoePa's legions of admirers hoped that the Freeh report would vindicate him. But its revelations show that no one involved in this episode is left without dirty hands. There are absolutely no winners here.

  Now, with the release of the Freeh report, the only chapter that remains in the pathetic, disgusting story that is the Sandusky child abuse scandal is the sentencing of the perpetrator himself. It will likely take place sometime in September--most likely anywhere from 45 to 65 years on 45 out of 48 counts, which, for the 68-year old Sandusky, is likely a life sentence.

  It's a fitting end, but one that came far too late, and that will likely mean nothing to Sandusky himself. He clearly has no concept of how much damage he has done. You could see it in his eyes as he was hauled out of the Centre County, Penn. courthouse on June 22 after his conviction.

  The crowd of spectators assembled outside shouted insults at him. A woman screamed for him to "burn in hell." Handcuffed in a disgusting beige jacket, all Sandusky could do as he was led to the sheriff's cruiser for booking at the local jail was shake his head gently back and forth, as if by that one measure he could somehow make what she said not true. His eyes begged for it not to be.

  There was no guilt, no anger in Sandusky's eyes. Only confusion. He really couldn't understand why anyone would shout that at him, or why he was going to prison for the rest of his life. He was either still in shock and/or denial or was simply incapable of accepting his own guilt, as many who have spent long periods of their life getting away with things tend to have trouble doing once they are finally called out.

  And, now, what do we have? An imprisoned assistant coach; a fired--and now dead and disgraced--head coach; a university president who was forced to quit that job and who would have been run off campus on a rail had he not already had existing tenure as a professor of sociology.

  Perhaps most fittingly, Vice President Schultz and Athletic Director Curley are to be indicted (though not at the Freeh  report's command) for obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury for their January 2011 testimony that they knew little to nothing of the 1998 incident.

  No one wins. Everybody loses. The people cheering for Sandusky's conviction are fooling themselves. This trial should have taken place in 1998 or 1999 or 2001. There was plenty of evidence then for a conviction. It could have kept Jerry Sandusky away from the vulnerable children he assaulted in the last ten years he walked free.

  Instead, the watchmen on the walls of the university and its football program decided that it simply wasn't worth the "bad publicity." Considering the damage Penn State has sustained these past nine months, that's fitting irony, and every bit deserved.

  About the author: Ian MacIsaac is a staff writer for the Capital City Free Press. He is a history major at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama and former co-editor of the school newspaper, the AUMnibus.

Copyright © Capital City Free Press 

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