Findings that the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno conspired to cover-up child sex abuse carried out by Jerry Sandusky have been slammed as “fundamentally flawed” in a new report commissioned by Paterno’s family.
The report, by a team led by the former US attorney general Dick Thornburgh, challenges conclusions reached by the former FBI director Louis Freeh, whose report last July revealed an “active agreement to conceal” by Paterno and other senior administrators at the college. That conclusion left the reputation of the famed American football coach in tatters. Freeh also claimed that Paterno, along with university president Graham Spanier, vice-president Gary Schultz and athletic director Timothy Curley, had “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade”.
Freeh’s report, which was ordered by the board of trustees at Penn State, stated that there was a “total disregard for the safety and welfare” of Sandusky’s child victims.
Sandusky, a former defence coach under Paterno, is serving a jail sentence of at least 30 years, having been convicted last summer of 45 criminal counts of abuse against children. According to Fleeh, Sandusky, who is now 69, was allowed to retire as assistant coach in 1999, rather than being handed over to the police by Paterno and others.
Paterno died last January. He had earlier agreed to step down as coach amid the growing scandal involving his deputy. Paterno’s family has always maintained that he was not involved in a cover-up.
The latest report – which was made available on Sunday at www.paterno.com – is their latest attempt to rehabilitate his reputation. It dismisses the findings of Freeh as “observations” tantamount to a “rush to injustice”. Moreover, it claims that Freeh’s findings are factually wrong, speculative and “fundamentally flawed”.
“We conclude that the observations as to Joe Paterno in the Freeh report are unfounded, and have done a disservice not only to Joe Paterno and the university community, but also to the victims of Jerry Sandusky and the critical mission of educating the public on the dangers of child sexual victimization,” the report states.
Rebutting the official Penn State report, the new report claims Paterno never told anyone not to investigate allegations of Sandusky’s abuse.
“Paterno reported the information to his superior(s) pursuant to his understanding of university protocol and relied upon them to investigate and report as appropriate,” the report says.
A statement on the paterno.com website said: “The allegation is false that Joe Paterno participated in a conspiracy to cover up Sandusky’s actions because of a fear of bad publicity or any other reason.”
Ahead of the report, Paterno’s widow, Sue, broke her silence Friday in a letter to hundreds of former players, informing them of the report’s impending release. “The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events,” she wrote.
In a video posted on paterno.com, Thornburgh said: “I had expected to find Louis Freeh had done his usual thorough and professional job. I found the report to be inaccurate in some respects, speculative and unsupported to the record compiled… in short, fundamentally flawed as to the determinations made to the role – if any – Mr Paterno played in any of this.”
The three other men cited in Freeh’s report – Spanier, Curley and Schultz – are awaiting trial on obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have all maintained their innocence.
In the aftermath of the Penn State report, a bronze statue of Paterno was removed from outside the college’s Beaver Stadium. The following day, the governing body for college sports levied sanctions that included a four-year post-season ban and steep scholarship cuts. Paterno was stripped of his 111 wins between 1998 and 2011, depriving him posthumously of his record for most wins by a major college coach.
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