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Sue Paterno goes on offensive to defend late Penn State coach

February 10, 2013|By Dan Loumena
  • A frame grab of the paterno.com website, which features quotes from each of the members assembled to study the Freeh report.
A frame grab of the paterno.com website, which features quotes from each… (paterno.com )

Sue Paterno, the widow of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, began an offensive Sunday to reshape the legacy of her former husband, who was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse sex scandal and linked to an attempt to protect the university from negative publicity.

An investigation and report commissioned by the family was released on the website paterno.com Sunday morning. It attacked the investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh as inaccurate with findings that weren't supported by the facts presented in the case.

Paterno was fired four days after Sandusky, his former defensive coordinator, was arrested in November 2011 on suspicion of sexually abusing boys over a 14-year period of time. Three university administrators were accused along with Paterno of concealing key facts regarding previous allegations of Sandusky's behavior, enabling him to continue his crimes, for which he was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts of sexually assaulting 10 boys.

“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 website stated.

Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general, was part of the group authorized by the family to independently examine the Freeh report.

“I had expected to find Louis Freeh had done his usual thorough and professional job,” said Thornburgh in a video featured on paterno.com. “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.”

Then-university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz were eventually charged with obstruction and conspiracy. All three, who are awaiting trial, have denied any wrongdoing.

The NCAA acted swiftly with unprecedented penalties against Penn State, including a $60-million fine, a four-year bowl ban and cuts in their number of scholarships. The governing body also vacated 111 victories from 1998 to 2011, which meant that Paterno, who died Jan. 22, 2012, was no longer the winningest coach in major college football.

Thornburgh pointed out Spanier was the only key figure interviewed for the Freeh report.

“They missed so many key people," Thornburgh said in the video statement. "They didn't interview most of the key players, with the exception of President Spanier, who at the last minute was brought in and interviewed at a time when frankly the report ... was pretty well all prepared."

Freeh responded in a statement Sunday that he stands "by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," adding, "these men exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being."

The group assembled for the Paterno report included family attorney Wick Sollers, former FBI agent and profiler Jim Clements as well as Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychologist from Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine. They appeared Sunday morning on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" show.

“A failure to consider the facts carefully is exactly the problem our expert analysis highlights,” Sollers said. “Everyone, including Mr. Freeh, should take the time to study this report.”

Sue Paterno will appear on Katie Couric's syndicated talk show Monday to further discuss the findings of the report and talk about the legacy of her husband.

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