STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The team brought in by Penn State to investigate how the university handled molestation accusations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will release its highly anticipated report Thursday, with the school’s reputation and future direction hanging in the balance.
The university trustees who paid for the probe, led by former FBI agent and federal judge Louis Freeh, will pore through it Thursday to see what it says about university employees, recommendations for policy changes and even their own knowledge about rumors Sandusky had abused children on campus.
Penn State alumni, college football fans and the family of Sandusky’s former boss Joe Paterno will look to see if it sheds new light on Paterno’s actions, particularly after a graduate assistant complained to him in 2001 about Sandusky showering in a team locker room with a boy.
School administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, awaiting trial on charges they lied to the Sandusky grand jury and didn’t properly report child abuse, will find out whether Freeh’s investigators uncovered anything that might help—or hurt—their criminal defense.
And former Penn State president Graham Spanier, who has not been charged with any crime, could discover whether emails or other records disclose more about his role.
Lawyers for the young men who testified against Sandusky, and others planning civil lawsuits, will be reading the report closely for what it might mean regarding litigation.
“I’m going to be looking for what we believe will be full and complete disclosure,” said Harrisburg lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who represents the young man described as Victim 4 in court records. “It’s going to be convenient for the university to release certain information but to hold back on some of the details concerning potential information that could expose them to liability.”
Andreozzi said he also represents four other young men and is evaluating their potential civil claims related to the Sandusky scandal.
In announcing that the report will go online at 9 a.m. Thursday, Freeh took pains to say no one outside his team will get copies beforehand, including the trustees. Investigators will hold a news conference that morning in Philadelphia. That day, trustees will start a two-day meeting in Scranton where they can respond to the report.
A spokesman for the trustees said Wednesday the board held an informational conference call Tuesday night, hours after Freeh announced the timing of the report’s release. David La Torre declined to discuss the call further when asked to confirm an ESPN report the trustees discussed how they would respond to the report.
“I think we’ll find that this thing revolves so tightly around coach Paterno, and I would hope the Freeh report is much broader than that and addresses the university as a whole—and how this culture was handled or mishandled correctly—and comes to some closure on that,” trustee Ryan McCombie said Tuesday.
“The people who loved Joe Paterno will still love him when this is over,” McCombie said. “The people who disliked him may feel they have ammunition to continue to dislike him.”
Paterno died of cancer in January, but his family issued a statement late Tuesday saying leaks have made them question the fairness of the Freeh group’s process. They defended the Hall of Fame coach, saying he did not know Sandusky was a child molester and did not prevent a proper investigation.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse last month and awaits sentencing. Prosecutors described how Sandusky culled the most vulnerable children from his charity for at-risk youth and used gifts and his access to Penn State facilities to abuse them over a 15-year span.
The Paterno family took aim at a February 2001 email by Curley, recently reported by CNN, saying he had a change of heart about reporting the shower incident to authorities after speaking with Paterno. Penn State has disclosed that Freeh’s probe turned up emails among top officials that have been given to prosecutors.
“When the facts come out, it will be clear that Joe Paterno never gave Tim Curley any instructions to protect Sandusky or limit any investigation of his actions,” the Paterno family’s statement read.
Spanier’s lawyers on Tuesday broke a months-long silence to deny suggestions that he participated in a cover-up with the image of Penn State and its powerful and lucrative football program at stake. They said Spanier was never informed that Sandusky may have been abusing children.
“At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues,” said attorneys Peter Vaira and Elizabeth Ainslie.
Spanier’s comments last week to the Freeh group echoed his testimony before a state grand jury that neither Curley nor Schultz informed him of the sexual nature of what graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw.
CNN reported an email showed Spanier was “supportive” of a decision by Curley and Schultz not to report the incident. Spanier warned, however, that they might “become vulnerable for not having reported it,” CNN said.
Spanier’s lawyers said the emails were “distorting the public record and creating a false picture.”
Both Spanier and Paterno were ousted by school trustees a few days after Sandusky’s arrest in November.
Michael Boni, who represents the young man called Victim 1, who testified against Sandusky, said the Freeh report will “help inform” the direction of civil litigation.
“Maybe what’s been leaked out is most of it, I have no idea,” he said. “I certainly hope not.”
Tom Kline, an attorney for Victim 5, said he is particularly interested in the circumstances surrounding Sandusky’s retirement in 1999, a year after a woman triggered a university police investigation by complaining Sandusky had showered with her son. Sandusky was not charged at the time, but was convicted of charges related to that incident last month.
“We already know that Penn State knew enough by February of 2001 to have stopped Sandusky dead in his tracks, which would have prevented the assault on my client six months later,” Kline said.
Lawyers for Curley and Schultz, meanwhile, are expected to participate in a closed-door conference call on Wednesday afternoon with the attorney general’s office and Judge Todd Hoover, who is presiding over their case in Harrisburg. Curley, on leave as athletic director, and Schultz, retired as vice president for business and finance, could learn when they will stand trial.
Freeh and his team of lawyers and former law enforcement officials interviewed more than 400 people, asking questions that went beyond Sandusky and the child sex-abuse scandal and into the relationship between football program and the university administration.
Freeh said in November that he would not interfere with the state’s criminal probe but promised to conduct his review in “a thorough, fair, comprehensive manner, leaving no stone unturned, and without any fear or favor.”
In January, trustees adopted interim recommendations from Freeh, including changes to policies for programs involving minors, reporting of allegations of abuse; and athletic department security.
The NCAA is reviewing how Penn State exerted “institutional control” in relation to the Sandusky matter, and whether university officials complied with policies that pertain to honesty and ethical conduct. The NCAA could open a more formal investigation that may expose Penn State to sanctions.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)