Report to shed light on PSU scandal

Updated: July 8, 2012, 3:45 PM ET
By Don Van Natta Jr. | ESPN The Magazine

A consulting firm's report offering new information about how Joe Paterno and Penn State senior officials responded to an allegation that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused a boy inside the football team's showers could be made public as early as next week, several sources said Friday, and is expected to be tough on Paterno.

The report is expected to shed new light on administrators' handling of the Sandusky allegations, and also raise questions about Paterno's leadership of Penn State's vaunted football program, according to several people with knowledge of the inquiry's scope.

"Much of the focus will be on the culture of the football program, with findings that go back more than a decade," said a Penn State official briefed on the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's going to be very tough on Joe (Paterno)."

The long-awaited report, compiled by Freeh Group International Solutions, the consulting firm led by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, is the culmination of an eight-month investigation that examined whether university policies and culture were contributing factors to a lack of reports and action about abuse that occurred on campus. Investigators interviewed more than 400 people, including Penn State administrators, faculty members, trustees and former coaches, players and staff from Penn State's football team.

A batch of emails the Freeh Group uncovered -- leaked in recent weeks to NBC and CNN and confirmed by ESPN -- have raised fresh questions about Paterno's handling of the allegation about an incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the Penn State locker room showers in February 2001.

The emails shed new light on how former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz had dealt with the allegation made by former assistant football coach Mike McQueary about the alleged incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in the showers. They also raise questions about the handling of the matter by then-Penn State president Graham Spanier, who resigned last November after Sandusky's arrest.

Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse of a child. They have both pleaded not guilty; their next court date is scheduled for Wednesday.

In late February 2001, Curley and Schultz had intended to report McQueary's allegation to child welfare authorities, according to emails. But Curley had changed his mind after a discussion with Paterno, saying in an email he preferred to talk directly with Sandusky. The leaked email implies that Paterno might have played a larger role in those discussions than he had described to the grand jury or in statements and an interview prior to his death.

Spanier, then the president of Penn State who resigned last November, agreed not to go to the authorities, but he said in one of the emails that university administrators could be "vulnerable" for failing to report it, sources say. Spanier called the approach a "humane and reasonable way to proceed."

Spanier, Curley and Schultz all declined to comment, according to their lawyers and spokesmen.

Penn State's Board of Trustees, which hired the Freeh Group to conduct the inquiry after Sandusky's arrest last November, is meeting Thursday and Friday in Scranton, Pa. On June 22, a jury convicted Sandusky, the 68-year-old former Penn State defensive coach, on 45 out of 48 counts of sexually abusing young boys he had met through The Second Mile, a charity for troubled youth that he founded in 1977.

Initially, the Freeh Group had intended to allow Penn State's trustees to review a draft copy of its report before releasing it to the public. After the Faculty Council and others at Penn State criticized that plan last winter, the Freeh Group decided to release its final report, without review or prior input by the trustees, directly to the board and the public at the same time, several sources said.

"They did not want people to think the board had influenced the process," a source said.

The findings of the Freeh Group's report likely will have an impact on the civil lawsuits filed by victims against Penn State as well as the legacy of coach Paterno, who died in January of lung cancer at the age of 85, two months after the Board of Trustees fired him for failing to show leadership in the Sandusky matter.

Pennsylvania's attorney general, Linda Kelly, said last November that Paterno, who testified before the Sandusky grand jury for seven minutes in January 2011, was not a target of the criminal inquiry. At that time, a handful of 11-year-old emails that emerged during the Freeh Group inquiry were not known by prosecutors. In fact, the prosecutors had thought mistakenly that the incident in the showers occurred in March 2002, not February 2001. After being discovered in recent months by the Freeh Group, the emails were turned over to the attorney general's office.

It is unclear how the new emails will affect the upcoming criminal trials of Curley and Schultz. State prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing in the Curley-Schultz case that they had obtained emails from both men and others "that contradict their testimony before the grand jury" and they also recently had obtained a file that Schultz kept about Sandusky.

Lawyers for Curley and Schultz filed a motion June 15 requesting a wide array of material from prosecutors, including records relating to Wendell Courtney, a former Penn State chief counsel who resigned as lawyer to The Second Mile last November after Sandusky's arrest.

The lawyers also are seeking the identity of the boy in the shower. The jury acquitted Sandusky of the count that had charged him with anal sodomy of the boy, identified only as "Victim 2."

A spokesman for the Freeh Group had said that its investigation had discovered the emails and that they were provided to the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. "These materials will be fully discussed in the report & and beyond that, Judge Freeh and the investigation team has no further comment." A Penn State spokesman did not return messages.

This week, the Paterno family defended the coach's reputation and questioned the motives of the people leaking the material, which they say is out of context and designed to put the coach in the worst light. In a statement released Monday, Wick Sollers, a Paterno family attorney said: "With the leaking of selective emails over the last few days, it is clear that someone in a position of authority is not interested in a fair or thorough investigation." The Paterno family has called on the attorney general and Freeh to release all emails and records to allow the public to see all the evidence.

A source who has reviewed all the early 2001 emails said the few that have been leaked "are definitely out of context. We think the one that was released was the worst one for everybody."

Don Van Natta Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at don.vannatta@espn.com and followed on Twitter at @DVNJr.

Don Van Natta Jr. | email

Senior writer, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com

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