Paterno family calls Freeh report 'profound failure'
February 11, 2013 3:00 PM
Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers
Former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh
Former FBI profiler Jim Clemente
Disney-ABC, Lou Rocco/Associated Press
Sue Paterno, widow of football coach Joe Paterno, right, with Katie Couric at the "Katie" show Feb. 6 in New York.
Sexual disorders expert Fred S. Berlin
By Mark Dent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For more than a year, the legacy of Joe Paterno has been analyzed and discussed countless times, and on Sunday the Paterno family officially joined the cacophony of voices. The report they commissioned concluded that the Penn State University-backed Freeh report was fundamentally flawed and that the late head football coach Paterno did not conceal the crimes of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
"The Freeh report is a profound failure," Wick Sollers, the Paterno family's lawyer, said in a news release.
Contributing to the report were Mr. Sollers, Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania governor; former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, and sexual disorders expert Fred S. Berlin. The report featured few new facts; instead, it dissected the Freeh report, offering evidence for why the authors believed former FBI director Louis Freeh's conclusions about Paterno were inaccurate. As Mr. Sollers wrote, they did not want to do a "reinvestigation of an investigation."
The Paternos' report, which was more than 200 pages long and was started shortly after the Freeh report was released in July, charged that Mr. Freeh and his team did not interview enough key people -- mainly former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, former assistant coach Mike McQueary and former university vice president of finance Gary Schultz -- and that its evidence for criticizing Paterno's actions was incomplete, stating the Freeh group relied on three email chains and selective testimony from uninformed sources, specifically highlighting the use of a janitor who spoke of the power of the football program.
It also criticized the Freeh report for not properly defining the way sexual predators operate, not taking into account Paterno's acts of goodwill throughout his life and portraying Paterno's relationship with a retired Sandusky as too active. Essentially, they believed Mr. Freeh made conclusions, "with the unchecked power of a prosecutor," without having enough facts to back them up.
About an hour after the report came out, Mr. Freeh released a lengthy statement to ESPN, saying "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."
He said he attempted to interview Paterno, through his attorney before he died, and Paterno chose not to speak. In a statement issued on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Sollers denied that Mr. Freeh reached out to Paterno and further attacked Mr. Freeh, this time criticizing his statement.
"Being angry does not constitute a defense of poor work," Mr. Sollers said.
The most critical aspect of the Freeh report concerning Paterno involved emails. Mr. Thornburgh argued that the 1998 emails, presented by Mr. Freeh as illustrating Paterno's knowledge of a criminal investigation of Sandusky, were vague. Mr. Thornburgh wrote that it was unclear if the emails referred to that criminal investigation when Mr. Curley wrote he had touched base with Paterno in an email.
Mr. Sollers and his team made a similar claim regarding Paterno's role in the 2001 Lasch Football Building shower incident witnessed by Mr. McQueary. An email included in the Freeh report detailed how Mr. Curley wrote about being uncomfortable with what they agreed were "the next steps" after he spoke with "Joe." They argued that the email evidence was particularly unreliable because a university computer system change caused most emails from before 2004 to be irrecoverable, limiting the availability of email data from 1998 and 2001.
Mr. Berlin detailed the process of how a child sexual predator such as Sandusky grooms his victims and prevents outsiders from getting suspicious. Paterno was characterized in the report as a person with a track record of honesty and integrity who was fooled by Sandusky.
"In looking back, with the advantage of hindsight, it is one thing to suggest that perhaps more could have been done, and that there are lessons to be learned," said Mr. Berlin, the sexual disorders expert, in the report. "It is another thing entirely to impugn a lack of good faith, and malevolent self-serving motives, in the absence of compelling evidence."
Penn State, which commissioned and paid $6.5 million for it, defended its use of the Freeh report.
University spokesman David La Torre said in a release that the recommendations from it have made the university more accountable.
"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," he said.