Penn State University’s top officials, including head football coach Joe Paterno, failed to protect the children who were sexually abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, according to an investigation of the scandal that has roiled the school since last fall.
In a letter accompanying the release of the report Thursday morning, former FBI Director Louis Freeh had harsh words for the university’s top officials for failing to act on reports that Sandusky, once the football team's top defensive coach, had molested children on the school’s grounds. Sandusky is in jail awaiting sentencing on 45 charges of sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” Freeh stated. The officials “never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
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Investigators found that in order to avoid “bad publicity,” university President Graham Spanier, football Coach Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz “repeatedly concealed critical facts.”
Spanier and Paterno were forced out of their jobs after Sandusky was arrested last fall. Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on charges of perjury and failing to report the abuse to outside officials.
All four knew of a 1998 investigation into Sandusky, the report pointed out, but none alerted university trustees or took any action against Sandusky. Those reports never led to any criminal charges against Sandusky.
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“The evidence shows that these four men also knew about a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to suspected sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower,” according to Freeh, who was hired by the university to investigate how the school handled reports that Sandusky had abused children.
“Again, they showed no concern about that victim. The evidence shows that Mr. Paterno was made aware of the 1998 investigation of Sandusky, followed it closely, but failed to take any action, even though Sandusky had been a key member of his coaching staff for almost 30 years, and had an office just steps away from Mr. Paterno’s. At the very least, Mr. Paterno could have alerted the entire football staff, in order to prevent Sandusky from bringing another child” to the campus, Freeh said.
Perhaps more damaging for the university, which is expected to face a barrage of civil lawsuits from Sandusky’s victims, are the events of Feb 9, 2001, when a former graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, returned to the football training facilities. At Sandusky’s trial, McQueary testified he saw the former coach engaging in what he thought was a sex act with a boy of 10 to 12 years old. McQueary went to Paterno and told of what he saw.
Paterno then went to his superiors, who decided not to call in outside authorities. Freeh was sharply critical of that decision and said the action to keep the reports internal was due to Paterno, who convinced other officials not to take action outside of the university.
“In critical written correspondence that we uncovered on March 20th of this year, we see evidence ... that included reporting allegations about Sandusky to the authorities,” Freeh stated.
“After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities. 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. Further, they exposed this child to additional harm by alerting Sandusky, who was the only one who knew the child’s identity,” Freeh said.