|Paterno Family Fights 'Rush to Injustice'|
|By LEEZEL TANGLAO (@leezeltanglao)||Feb 8, 2013, 7:13 PM|
The Paterno family is fighting to restore the legacy of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, flatly denying the allegations in the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that the legendary coach was complicit in a coverup of child sexual abuse by a former assistant coach.
"The Critique of the Freeh Report: The Rush to Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno," the report prepared by King & Spalding and released on paterno.com this morning, is described as an attempt to set the record straight with independent expert analysis examining the "most glaring errors on which the Freeh report is based."
"The Freeh report reflects an improper 'rush to injustice,'" the 238-page critique says. "There is no evidence that Joe Paterno deliberately covered up known incidents of child molestation by Jerry Sandusky to protect Penn State football or for any other reason; the contrary statements in the Freeh report are unsupported and unworthy of belief."
In their critique of the Freeh report, former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and experts Jim Clemente and Fred Berlin examined the Freeh report and found that the report is "deeply flawed and that key conclusions regarding Joe Paterno are unsubstantiated and unfair."
According to the critique, the Freeh report "uncovers little new factual information as to Joe Paterno and does very little to advance the truth regarding his knowledge, or more accurately lack of knowledge, of Jerry Sandusky's molestation of children."
Freeh called the critique a "self-serving report" that "does not change the facts."
Penn State, which commissioned Freeh to conduct the investigation, stood by the report and said it is moving forward with the 119 recommendations Freeh made.
"To date, the University has implemented a majority of those recommendations, which are helping to make the University stronger and more accountable," the school said in a statement today. "The University intends to implement substantially all of the Freeh recommendations by the end of 2013."
Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced last year to 30 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted of 45 criminal counts of sexually abusing young boys.
Some of the abuse occurred at the Penn State campus, and at least one incident was observed by a graduate assistant who said he reported it to Paterno. However, school officials did not report the allegations to law enforcement.
In the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno, who coached the Nittany Lions for 46 years and became the winningest coach in Division 1 football history in 2011, was dismissed.
The allegations of Paterno's involvement in a coverup came as a shock that reverberated beyond the Penn State campus, because of his reputation as a coach who valued character and academic achievement as much as winning.
Following his dismissal, Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer and broke his hip. He died on Jan. 22, 2012, at the age of 85.
Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier, along with Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and school vice president Gary Schultz are awaiting a hearing after they were accused of lying and concealing the sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.
Freeh Report Critique
Released in July, the 267-page report by Freeh concluded that Joe Paterno and his superiors valued the football program and the image of Penn State more than they valued the safety of Sandusky's victims.
In the report, Freeh said the university had a "culture of reverence" for the football team "ingrained at all levels of the campus community."
"The motivation [was] to avoid the consequences of bad publicity," Freeh said at the time. "Bad publicity has consequences for the brand of Penn State University, the reputation of coaches, the ability to do fundraising. It's got huge implications."
At the time of the release, the Paterno family criticized the Freeh report and its portrayal of Joe Paterno, saying that the investigation was neither fair nor complete.
Some of key points of the 238-page report released today include:
Joe Paterno's last written words before he died focused on Sandusky's victims. "Good side of scandal -- it has brought about more enlightenment of a situation (sexual abuse of young people) in thecountry," Joe Paterno wrote in a handwritten note, according to the critique.
Freeh report's observations about Joe Paterno are incorrect: "each is either contradicted or unsubstantiated by the evidence," the critique says.
Based on documents, testimony, and access to attorneys for Penn State administrators, Joe Paterno "never asked or told anyone not to investigate fully the allegations in 2001," never asked or told anyone, including Dr. Spanier and Messrs. Curley and Schultz, not to report the 2001 incident, ... never asked or told anyone not to discuss or to hide in any way the information reported by Mr. McQueary," and Joe 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 critique says.
Sandusky was a "'skilled and masterful manipulator,' who deceived an entire community to obscure the signs of child abuse, using a variety of proven techniques," according to expert analysis.
The Freeh report was "oversold to the public," according to the critique, which said it became the source that "Penn State officials, the NCAA, and other bodies detrimentally relied on the Freeh report in a rush to judgment about Joe Paterno."
The Freeh report did not allow "any meaningful opportunity for Joe Paterno, his representatives, or any neutral third party to assess or even respond to Mr. Freeh's opinions before he announced them as proven at a national press conference," the critique said.
Freeh's Response to the Critique of the Report
Freeh said today he respected "the right of the Paterno family to hire private lawyers and former government officials to conduct public media campaigns in an effort to shape the legacy of Joe Paterno."
"However, the self-serving report the Paterno family has issued today does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report or alter the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report," Freeh said in a statement.
Freeh challenged several points in the critique, including the criticism that investigators did not give Paterno an opportunity to answer the allegations against him in the report.
"During the investigation, we contacted Mr. Paterno's attorney in an attempt to interview Mr. Paterno. Although Mr. Paterno was willing to speak with a news reporter and his biographer at that time, he elected not to speak with us. We also asked Mr. Paterno's attorney to provide us with any evidence that he and his client felt should be considered. The documents provided were included in our report," Freeh said.
Sue Paterno's Response
Sue Paterno, the wife of Joe Paterno, said in a letter to former Penn State players Friday that after the Freeh report was released she "knew immediately that the situation demanded further review."
"Unfortunately, the Board's response was to panic again. They embraced the report without reviewing it. They never met with Mr. Freeh or his investigators. They asked no questions and challenged no assertions," Sue Paterno wrote in the letter Friday. "Although they never officially voted to accept the report, they endorsed its findings and allowed the NCAA to impose unprecedented sanctions. To claim that this ill-considered and rash process served the victims and the university is a grave error. Only the truth serves the victims. Only the truth can help prevent this sort of crime from occurring again."
Sue Paterno said she was horrified and was in disbelief when she was first told of the allegations against Sandusky.
"These are children. Our lives have been about children.We have five children, 17 grandchildren. We worked around the players. Our lives are about children and making them better and not hurting them. So it's vile. It's probably the best word I could think of," Sue Paterno told ABC News' Katie Couric on her talk show "Katie."
ABC News' Colleen Curry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.