by Geoff Rushton
Two hours after former Penn State President Graham Spanier was found guilty on one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment and acquitted of a second and a felony conspiracy charge, Louis Freeh decided it was time to weigh in.
The former FBI director who led the university-commissioned investigation into how reports of abuse by Jerry Sandusky were handled hasn’t said much publicly about the case since a July 2012 press conference announcing the investigation report, which has been hotly debated and criticized in the ensuing years.
His statement on Friday claimed that Spanier’s conviction, as well as the guilty pleas by former athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz to misdemeanor child endangerment charges, “completely confirm and verify all the findings and facts” of his team’s investigation.
But the two-page document went well beyond criticism of Spanier (who has filed defamation and tortious interference lawsuit against Freeh), Curley, Schultz and late football coach Joe Paterno, another target of his investigation’s report. In fact, even though it came from an email address at Freeh’s law firm, the pointed attacks on others, including current Penn State president Eric Barron, gave media outlets who received it pause, questioning whether it had really come from Freeh.
As Pennlive’s Charlie Thompson put it, “The statement is so incendiary that PennLive held off on publishing the statement for several hours Friday, seeking some independent confirmation from Freeh or his firm.”
Freeh’s attorney confirmed to the Associated Press and Centre Daily Times that it had, in fact, come from Freeh.
In the statement Freeh blasts Barron, state legislators, “a former professional football player” (presumably Franco Harris), current Penn State board members and the alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
“Barron and a coterie of ‘Paterno denier’ board members, alumni, cult-like groups such as Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a former professional football player, and certain elected state political hacks, have been nothing but apologists for Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley, more concerned about bringing back a bronze statue than worrying about the multiple child victims who have forever been so grievously harmed on the PSU campus,” Freeh wrote. “The Paterno family even hired a respected former governor and attorney general to publicize their now totally discredited claims.”
Barron, for his part, has not expressed a desire to restore the statue of Joe Paterno that formerly stood outside of Beaver Stadium, and PS4RS says it mission has nothing to do with statue.
Freeh goes on to call for Barron’s resignation, along with trustees including Anthony Lubrano and Al Lord.
“Barron can do one, last good act of service to PSU by resigning, and taking along with him board members like Anthony P. Lubrano and Albert L. Lord, who have no vision for PSU except a ‘rear -view’ one. Lubrano and Lord even went to court to call for the ‘repudiation’ of our report’s well-documented conclusions, which have now been fully adopted and proved by the courtroom guilty pleas of Schultz and Curley, and the long overdue criminal conviction of Spanier.”
Penn State Board of Trustees Chair Ira Lubert responded to Freeh in a statement Friday night.
“I take exception with Freeh’s statement and categorically reject his criticism of President Barron,” Lubert said. “The Board leadership and President Barron have been consistent in our communications about the Freeh report. We embraced the roadmap for reforms that Freeh presented, and have disagreed firmly with Freeh’s characterization of Penn State culture. President Barron has led the creation of a model ethics and compliance program to protect and support the university community. He has my full support and appreciation for his leadership and accomplishments.”
Freeh said that “PSU President Eric Barron publicly stated that he was ‘appalled’ to learn that more recent, similar allegations against Paterno were being reported by the media.” What he seems to be referring to is a May 2016 statement by Barron, which came after reports of individuals — one in Penn State’s civil suit with its insurer over settlement payments and another in a CNN story — who said they were abused by Sandusky in the 1970s and that Paterno and others had been told about it.
What Barron actually wrote was that he was “appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations. All too often in our society, people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented.”
Barron took issue not with the fact the stories were reported, but with the accompanying assumption of guilt by Paterno and others in cases that had not been investigated or tried in court.
Barron has also said in the past that he is “not a fan” of Freeh’s report, taking issue with its characterization of a Penn State “culture” that Freeh claimed revered football and enabled Sandusky’s abuse.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, Freeh steered everything as if he were a prosecutor trying to convince a court to take the case,” Barron told the Associated Press in January 2015, adding that Freeh “very clearly paints a picture about every student, every faculty member, every staff member and every alum. And it’s absurd. It’s unwarranted. So from my viewpoint the Freeh report is not useful to make decisions.”
As for Freeh’s claim of total vindication following Spanier’s conviction, that can be debated as well.
Jurors found no ongoing “course of conduct” to endanger the welfare of children, as prosecutors had charged, and decided that Spanier did not participate in a conspiracy.
In a phone conversation with StateCollege.com on Saturday, Lubrano first pointed to a statement he gave the Centre Daily Times on Friday night.
“Louis Freeh is a fraud. Period. End of story. I hope he still has the $8.3 million Penn State paid him because I want it back,” he said.
Lubrano went on to say that Spanier’s acquittal on the conspiracy charge and the jury’s determination that there was no course of conduct squashes the idea of a cover-up.
“The conspiracy was put to rest. There was no conspiracy,” he said. “Louis Freeh is running scared, I think.”
Lubrano, along with fellow trustees Ted Brown, Barbara Doran, Bob Jubelirer, Ryan McCombie, Bill Oldsey and Alice Pope, took the university to court in 2015 to compel the school to turn over all documents and materials from the Freeh investigation.
They won that battle — and a more recent one ordering the university to pay related legal fees — and have been reviewing the voluminous material.
Lubrano declined to say if he would move to have those materials released publicly, but said “I have personally engaged in an extensive review and hope to be able to share in due time.”
He went on to say that he is confident Spanier’s single conviction will be overturned on appeal, noting that without course of conduct being proven, the statute of limitations on the child endangerment charge would be expired.
Penn State released a statement after Friday’s verdict and said the convictions of Spanier, Curley and Schultz, along with testimony by the latter two men “indicate a profound failure of leadership.”
Freeh called that statement “belated and long overdue.” It’s an odd description by Freeh, a former judge, as the university couldn’t have declared the former administrators guilty before they were convicted.
Lubrano, meanwhile, said he wasn’t surprised by the university’s statement.
“They’ve never stood up to defend our institution,” he said. “They’ve always catered to political correctness.”
Freeh’s complete statement is below:
STATEMENT OF JUDGE LOUIS FREEH UPON THE JURY CONVICTION OF FORMER PSU PRESIDENT SPANIER FOR CHILD ENDANGERMENT
Prosecutor at Spanier trial: “Evil thrives when men do nothing”
We did something
Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Timothy Curley were the most powerful men who ran the Pennsylvania State University. Today, they are convicted criminals. And Joe Paterno’s once iconic legacy is forever marred by his own decision to do nothing when he had the chance to make a real difference.
I am very saddened once again for the many victims of these outrageous crimes, as well as for their families and loved ones, who suffer anew each time such criminal convictions recur. I am also saddened for the many thousands of decent PSU students, athletes, faculty, administrators, trustees, alumni and admirers who continue to endure the reputational harm, scandal and embarrassment caused by these men.
For over 12 years, these men actively protected a notorious pedophile who inflicted irreparable harm on countless child victims on the campuses and locker rooms at PSU. Although these men had multiple opportunities to stop this vicious, serial predator from continuing to sexually assault children who trusted the PSU campuses and programs as safe havens, they decided together to protect this monster rather than report him to the police. More egregiously, for more than 12 years, these powerful men did absolutely nothing to identify or to rescue the children who were being raped and abused by their fellow-PSU colleague and football coach. Indeed, we learned at Spanier’s trial that Curley even assured The Second Mile that the pedophile was not a threat to children, telling the organization that Sandusky’s conduct had been investigated and nothing inappropriate was found. Their deliberate and carefully considered decision not to report this pedophile to police in 2001 enabled a child rapist to commit multiple (and heretofore unknown) further assaults upon children, under the protective mantle of PSU.
These very sad criminal convictions also completely confirm and verify all the findings and facts which my team and I established after an exhaustive investigation commissioned by the then-PSU board, and led by former Trustee Ken Frazier, a man of impeccable integrity and loyalty to PSU. Indeed, it was our able former prosecutors, judges, FBI Agents and Pennsylvania State Police investigators who electronically recovered the “smoking gun” email evidence trail which sealed the case against these men.
The trial evidence confirmed all of our critical findings that Mike McQueary reported the “sexual abuse” to Paterno, Curley and Schultz, who then reported the issue to Spanier, just as they had done with the 1998 incident. As reflected at trial and in our PSU Report, the reporting of sexual abuse is corroborated by the sworn testimony of Schultz and Curley, who attended an urgent, Sunday meeting at Paterno’s home to discuss McQueary’s report, Schultz’s consultation the same day with PSU lawyer Wendell Courtney about “reporting suspected child abuse,” Schultz’s inquiry the next day to PSU’s Police Chief as to whether he still “had the 1998 investigative report on Sandusky,” and the use by three men of conspicuously cryptic emails where Sandusky is referred to as the “subject,” the “person involved” or “the person.” After Spanier, Schultz and Curley initially agreed to report the pedophile to the Department of Child Welfare, Curley “talked it over withJoe” [Paterno] and their plan took a dramatic, and criminal turn. The men now agreed instead to meet with the pedophile, and to advise him of the information received, as well as their awareness of “the first situation,” a certain reference to the 1998 “shower” incident and criminal investigation. Spanier readily agreed to this approach, calling it the “humane and a reasonable way to proceed.” But Spanier ironically warned that the “only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.” Today Spanier was finally held accountable for “not having reported it,” after years of false denials, personal attacks on the fact-finders, and over-dramatic role-playing, including a phony, emotional New York Times interview. Instead of acting like leaders and rescuers, Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno stood by silently and left an unknown number of child victims on their own. As Paterno advised McQueary, his assistant coach: “I said you did what you had to do. It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do.” They did nothing.
The trial evidence confirmed that at no time did Spanier, Schultz or Curley try to identify the little boy in the shower or whether the child had suffered harm, which of course he did for the rest of his life. In the most heartbreaking testimony of the trial, a child victim described how he was sexually assaulted on PSU’s main campus after the men made their heartless and cowardly decision to protect and to shield this child’s sexual predator.
The criminal conduct of these three men has cost the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania taxpayers over one quarter billion dollars, and the costs continue to escalate. Amazingly, Spanier was given a $6,000,000 “golden parachute” by PSU and continues to receive an annual PSU salary of $600,000, with his legal fees being paid by the same taxpayers. Unlike these child victims and their families, in time PSU’s reputation will recover. However, new leadership and vision are now required to lead PSU and to put this tragic chapter more quickly behind. PSU President Eric Barron publicly stated that he was “appalled” to learn that more recent, similar allegations against Paterno were being reported by the media. And upon what should have been the Old Main-shattering news of child endangerment guilty pleas by Schultz and Curley, PSU could only muster that it was “deeply concerned,” not even mentioning their names or apologizing to the many child victims harmed and endangered. Only this afternoon, after Spanier’s conviction, did PSU issue a statement describing a “profound failure of leadership.” Such a very belated, long overdue sentiment illustrates the concept of “too little, too late.” Pennsylvania taxpayers, the entire PSU community and responsible political leaders should be “appalled” by Barron and his entire “leadership” team.
Barron and a coterie of “Paterno denier” board members, alumni, cult-like groups such as Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a former professional football player, and certain elected state political hacks, have been nothing but apologists for Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley, more concerned about bringing back a bronze statue than worrying about the multiple child victims who have forever been so grievously harmed on the PSU campus. The Paterno family even hired a respected former governor and attorney general to publicize their now totally discredited claims.
Barron can do one, last good act of service to PSU by resigning, and taking along with him board members like Anthony P. Lubrano and Albert L. Lord, who have no vision for PSU except a “rear -view” one. Lubrano and Lord even went to court to call for the “repudiation” of our report’s well-documented conclusions, which have now been fully adopted and proved by the courtroom guilty pleas of Schultz and Curley, and the long overdue criminal conviction of Spanier.