In letter to trustees, Spanier says he was misled


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In a letter sent to the Penn State University trustees regarding the Jerry Sandusky scandal, former president Graham Spanier claims he was led astray by the school's general counsel and that given his background as a therapist, sociologist and victim of child abuse, he would never have "turned a blind eye" to reports of sexual abuse.

The three-page letter, delivered to the board Sunday, also calls the Freeh report into Penn State's conduct in relation to the Sandusky matter "egregious in its incomplete and inaccurate reporting of my 2011 discussions with certain trustees, advice and reporting from the university's general counsel, and the recounting of unfolding events in November 2011."

"[The] report is full of factual errors and jumps to conclusions that are untrue and unwarranted," he wrote.

Late Monday, a lengthy list of the supposed inaccuracies from the Freeh report was to be delivered to Penn State's general counsel.

Mr. Spanier's attorneys would not expand upon what they consider to be the false accusations in the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. A spokeswoman for Mr. Freeh's group had no comment.

David La Torre, a spokesman for Penn State, also had no comment. Karen Peetz, the chairwoman of the board, did not return a call seeking comment.

According to the letter obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mr. Spanier said that he knew nothing about earlier allegations of abuse by Mr. Sandusky, and that he did not know the grand jury was investigating any incident other than one reported in 2001, in which a young boy was sexually assaulted in a shower.

Mr. Spanier told the grand jury in his own testimony that he was never told that the incident involved any sexual contact, and instead said it was characterized to him as "horsing around."

"Had I know then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky, had I received any information about a sexual act in the shower or elsewhere, or had I had some basis for a higher level of suspicion about Sandusky, I would have strongly and immediately intervened," he wrote.

But the Freeh report, citing emails to and from Mr. Spanier, concluded that he was aware of not only the 2001 incident, but a prior report from 1998 in which an allegation was made that Mr. Sandusky had inappropriately showered with a boy in a football team locker room.

In one exchange with senior vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley, Mr. Spanier agreed with an approach that instead of going to the state Department of Public Welfare, that they instead encourage Mr. Sandusky to get counseling.

"The only downside for us is if the message isn't heard and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. ... The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed," Mr. Spanier said in an email.

In addition, the report said that Mr. Spanier, on June 9, 1998, received an email from Mr. Schultz that said that investigators "met with Jerry on Monday and concluded that there was no criminal behavior and the matter was closed as an investigation. ... I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us."

In a document he provided to the Freeh investigators and attached to his letter, Mr. Spanier explained the emails.

"My use of the word 'humane' refers specifically and only to my thought that it was humane of Tim to wish to inform Sandusky first and to allow him to accompany Tim to the meeting with the president of the Second Mile. Moreover, it would be humane to offer counseling to Sandusky if he didn't understand why this was inappropriate and unacceptable to us," he wrote. "My comment that we could be vulnerable for not reporting it further relates specifically and only to Tim's concern about the possibility that Jerry would not accept our directive and repeat the practice."

Mr. Spanier said in his letter to the trustees that he had no recollection of the emails or the topic, and noted that the district attorney at the time chose not to press charges against Mr. Sandusky.

In the letter, he casts blame on former Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin, saying that she guided him through the grand jury process, and that she gave him little information.

He said that she failed to inform him about the testimony provided to the grand jury by two top administrators, as well as about what they said in her presence during interviews with prosecutors from the state attorney general's office. Mr. Spanier also contends that Ms. Baldwin failed to inform him that he had been subpoenaed to testify.

"She told me I was going voluntarily, as I had previously agreed to do, and she accompanied me before the judge and in the grand jury room and sat through my testimony. I had no preparation or understanding of the context," he wrote. "As I was being sworn in for my grand jury appearance, much to my surprise she handed over to the judge a thumb drive containing my entire history of emails back to 2004."

Charles DeMonaco, the attorney representing Ms. Baldwin, said that he and his client deny any improper conduct by Ms. Baldwin.

"She at all times upheld her duties to the university and its agents. She is obligated to maintain silence to fulfill her ethical obligations to the university," Mr. DeMonaco wrote in a statement. "This silence should not be used against her to give credibility to these and other allegations against her. [W]e intend to address factual allegations and legal issues directly with the university and in legal proceedings, not in the media."

Mr. Spanier also told the board in his letter that the Freeh investigators did not include information he related to them that a national security clearance he holds related to an advisory post was reaffirmed in the months after the Sandusky arrest.

Mr. Spanier also spoke about his personal background in the letter as having "personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child," and that based on that and his profession, that "it is unfathomable and illogical" that he would stand by and allow children to be harmed.

"As I have stated in the clearest possible terms, at no time during my presidency did anyone ever report to me that Jerry Sandusky was observed abusing a child or youth or engaged in a sexual act with a child or youth."

Peter Vaira, an attorney for Mr. Spanier, said his client was beaten regularly as part of discipline from his father, and the beatings were so severe, he had to have surgery on his nose repeatedly to straighten it. There was no sexual abuse.

Mr. Spanier concluded the letter by talking about his 26 years of service to Penn State and requesting of the trustees a meeting with them.

"I believe my record as president of Penn State speaks for itself. Together we accomplished a great deal of good during my 16-year presidency of Penn State. Yet I find myself excoriated by the Freeh report and individual trustees speaking negatively of me in public. My reputation has been profoundly damaged."

education - state - psusports

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published July 24, 2012 4:00 AM


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