Abuse Inquiry Faults Paterno and Others at Penn State

July 12th, 2012

The New York Times
By Joe Sexton
July 12, 2012

The most senior officials at Penn State University failed for more than a decade to take any steps to protect the children victimized by Jerry Sandusky, the longtime lieutenant to head football coach Joe Paterno, according to an independent investigation of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the university last fall.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims,” said Louis J. Freeh, the former federal judge and director of the F.B.I. who oversaw the investigation. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

Freeh’s investigation — which took seven months and involved more than 400 interviews and the review of more than 3.5 million documents — accuses Paterno, the university’s former president and others of deliberately hiding facts about Sandusky’s sexually predatory behavior over the years.

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,” the most powerful leaders of Penn State University “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”

The investigation’s findings doubtless will have significant ramifications — for Paterno’s legacy, for the university’s legal liability as it seeks to compensate Sandusky’s victims, and perhaps for the wider world of major college athletics.

Already, though, the fallout from the Sandusky scandal has been extraordinary, its effects felt in everything from the shake-up in the most senior ranks of the university to the football program’s ability to recruit the country’s most talented high school prospects to a growing wariness among parents about the relationships their children have with their sports coaches.

Sandusky last month was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse, including rape and sodomy, by a jury in Bellefonte, Pa. The jury found he had attacked young boys at his home, on the Penn State campus and at other locations over many years.

Freeh was named to head the investigation by the university’s board of trustees shortly after Sandusky was arrested and two senior university officials were criminally charged for perjury in November 2011.

“No one is above scrutiny,” Kenneth Frazier, a trustee, said at the time Freeh’s probe was announced. “He has complete rein to follow any lead, to look into every corner of the university to get to the bottom of what happened.”

The Paterno family, in an attempt to blunt the force of any critical findings by Freeh, had issued a statement Tuesday that sought to undermine the fairness of the investigation. The statement said Paterno, who died in January, had been eager to tell all he knew about the university’s dealings with Sandusky and had admitted to having failed to do more to stop Sandusky. But it lamented what it called the improper and misleading disclosure in recent weeks of aspects of Freeh’s findings.

Paterno, in a letter he had prepared but was not published before his death, asserted that whatever the failings in the Sandusky affair — his or the university’s — it did not constitute a “football scandal.”

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