Paterno family report rejects Freeh investigation as ‘rush to judgment’

Jeff Gammage / The Philadelphia Inquirer /


Published Feb 11, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

The family of Joe Paterno issued a report Sunday that rebuts, in some parts point by point and line by line, the damning accusations that the Pennsylvania State University football coach covered up sexual-abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky.

The authors of the study exonerate the coach and the university football program and denounce the accusing report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh as inaccurate, incomplete and misleading.

“A rush to judgment,” said former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh, who was among the experts retained by the Paterno family.

The study, called “Paterno — The Record,” was commissioned by the coach’s widow, Sue Paterno, and led by her Washington attorney, Wick Sollers. It is a major effort by the Paterno family to clear the damaged reputation of the former coach, who died in January 2012.

He and three other university leaders were found in the Freeh report to have covered up allegations of child sexual abuse by Sandusky, a former assistant coach who is now in prison. The university leadership accepted the report, which became the basis for extraordinary sanctions against the football program.

Paterno’s statue was removed from outside Penn State’s Beaver Stadium as the university considered the allegations against the man who was once its best-known and most-popular employee. The Paterno family’s report is almost certain to be challenged as biased — undertaken at the direction of the coach’s widow, and compiled by agents selected and retained by her attorney.

In a statement released Sunday through a spokesman, Freeh, who investigated the university’s behavior in the Sandusky case at the behest of the school leadership, defended his work.

“I stand 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,” he said.

Penn State, in a written statement, said that it was “understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report.” But the school was going ahead with implementing “substantially all” of the 119 report recommendations, which it expects to complete by the end of 2013.

The new study by the family said:

• Paterno participated in no conspiracy to hide Sandusky’s actions, neither because of a fear of bad publicity or other reasons.

• There is no evidence that the football culture at Penn State contributed to Sandusky’s crimes.

• The string of emails that contributed to Freeh’s finding of conspiracy “falls apart under scrutiny.” The emails show that “Joe Paterno knew few details about Sandusky, that he acted in good faith and that he did what he thought was right based on what he knew at the time.”