Penn State scandal: Freeh Report blasts disregard for welfare of victims

Penn State's senior officials are blasted in the report for a callous disregard for the well-being of Sandusky's victims. Photo: Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP/ABC7) - A scathing report on how leaders at Penn State University says that the most powerful men on campus failed to demonstrate any concern for the safety and well-being of the victims of Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse.

The results of Penn State's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal were released in the form of a report that seems to answer many of the troubling questions swirling around one of the darkest scandals in sports history.

MORE: Read the entire Freeh report (.pdf)

A team led by former federal judge and FBI director Louis Freeh interviewed hundreds of people to learn how the university responded to warning signs that its once revered former defensive coordinator - a man who helped Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno win two national titles while touting "success with honor" - was a serial child molester.

In the report, the investigative team says that the most troubling aspect of the scandal stems from the fact that Paterno and other leaders, including former university president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley, "failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."

"They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being," the report says. "These individuals...empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events."

Information on Sandusky simply concealed

Sandusky was convicted on 45 criminal counts last month at a trial that included gut-wrenching testimony from eight young men who said he abused them as boys. University officials will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to address the findings of the Freeh report.

The report concludes that in the aftermath of the incident that brought the entire issue to light - the discovery by former assistant coach Mike McQueary of Sandusky abusing a young boy in a campus locker room - was swept under the rug by campus officials.

"The most powerful leaders at Penn State University – Messrs. Spanier, (former vice president Gary) Schultz, Paterno and Curley – 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," the report says.

By not reporting the alleged abuse by the former longtime assistant coach, the report says that Spanier specifically failed in his duties as the president of the university. It also criticizes the handling of Paterno's firing, which took place just more than two months before the coach died of lung cancer.

Not business as usual in Happy Valley

On the school's central Pennsylvania campus on Thursday, freshman orientation was held and a huge art festival is underway. However, the mood doesn't quite reflect the city's nickname of Happy Valley.

"The whole scandal just devastated me," Penn State alum George Katonic said. "(I'm) not sure where the truth lies, who knew what or if we're ever going to know."

In a letter written after his firing that surfaced Wednesday, Paterno defended the football program's integrity and rejected the notion that Sandusky's sexual abuse of boys amounted to a "football scandal" or in any way tarnished the accomplishments of his players or Penn State's reputation as a whole.

The Paterno family said the letter was given in draft form to a few former players around December. Despite that, though, some alums and residents think that the program's reputation has indeed been tarnished.

"I kind of feel scammed by the football program," Penn State grad Dan Haskins said. "(It) really casts a dark shadow on the university."

One of the ex-players circulated it to other former players this week, and it was posted on the website, which covers the team.

"Over and over again, I have heard Penn State officials decrying the influence of football and have heard such ignorant comments like Penn State will no longer be a 'football factory' and we are going to 'start' focusing on integrity in athletics," Paterno wrote. "These statements are simply unsupported by the five decades of evidence to the contrary - and succeed only in unfairly besmirching both a great university and the players and alumni of the football program who have given of themselves to help make it great."

Paterno also wrote, "This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one."

Ex-players, alums seek clarity

Ex-players and alumni who remain outraged over Paterno's ouster will certainly be among those who will scour the Freeh report, as will school officials trying to repair Penn State's shattered reputation.

Former linebacker Brandon Short, now an investment banker in Dubai, received Paterno's 712-word missive Wednesday.

He told The Associated Press that he would be looking to the Freeh report to find "some clarity, hoping that it is a fair assessment of what happened, and we would love to see answers."

He added, "Let's see the report and save all judgment and innuendo until after we've read it."

Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an alumni watchdog group that has been highly critical of the school's board of trustees, issued a 95-point checklist of issues it said it expects to be covered in Freeh's report "in order for it to be considered a credible, valid summary of the case."

Spotlight on leadership, Mike McQueary

The Freeh report delved deeply into the handling of a 2001 report from Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who told Paterno he had saw Sandusky with a young boy in the football team shower.

Paterno, in turn, alerted athletic director Tim Curley, who investigated the report along with Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw the campus police department.

Curley and Schultz ultimately decided not to alert law enforcement or child welfare authorities.

Curley, who's on leave, and the now-retired Schultz, are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to report the McQueary complaint to civil authorities as required.

"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," the report says.

After a 50-minute meeting in Harrisburg with the judge overseeing their case, Schultz's lawyer said Wednesday he won't be among those who call up the Freeh report the minute it is posted.

"I don't expect I'll be reading it for a while," said Pittsburgh attorney Tom Farrell. "I've got other things to do." Heavy website traffic could make it difficult for people to access the Freeh report, but experts say good planning will usually avoid such "flash crowd" crashes.

"To a certain extent, flash crowds are a fact of life in a news-media-driven world," said Carlos Morales, vice president at Massachusetts-based Arbor Networks, a company that provides network security and monitoring software.

NCAA thinking of action

The NCAA, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it will decide on whether to take action at the "appropriate time."

The governing body said it has already been collecting information from Freeh's probe, and that Penn State will have to formally respond to questions from NCAA President Mark Emmert after Freeh reveals his findings.

The NCAA is reviewing how Penn State exerted "institutional control" in relation to the Sandusky matter, and whether university officials complied with policies that pertain to honesty and ethical conduct.

The NCAA could open a more formal investigation that may expose Penn State to sanctions.

Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pa. Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report. ABC 7's Justin Karp also contributed to this report.