A report compiled by long-standing critics of Louis Freeh’s 2012 investigation into the sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University asserts that the former FBI director didn’t have the evidence to blame the school’s football "culture” as he did, much less prove that its leaders knew or conspired to cover up Jerry Sandusky’s attacks on children.
“The Freeh Report assigns nefarious reasons for the failures of Penn State officials and the community to identify Sandusky as a pedophile,” says the 109-page document obtained by The Inquirer. “Our full, fair, and thorough review of investigative materials indicates that a more accurate interpretation is that Sandusky, like all pillar of the community offenders, fooled the entire community.”
The report, signed by seven alumni-elected members of the school’s board of trustees, attempts to make its case highlighting e-mails and handwritten comments by investigators that seem to question the report’s conclusions and Freeh’s motivation, evidence that was ignored or never shared, a recitation of the key people Freeh’s team never interviewed and questions they couldn’t answer.
In many ways, it’s a summary of the claims that Penn State defenders have previously made in the years since the scandal broke, this time with material from Freeh’s investigation that they say bolsters their view.
For years, they have challenged the prosecutors’ suggestions that head coach Joe Paterno and school administrators may have ignored a serial predator in their midst. They seethed at the NCAA sanctions, fumed at Freeh’s report and ran en masse for alumni seats on the board of trustees.
When they got elected, they sued the university and won access to the hundreds of thousands of interview notes and documents that Freeh, a former FBI director and judge, used to prepare his report, then spent hundreds of hours poring over them.
Freeh, PSU leadership dismiss report: Freeh and Penn State’s leadership dismissed the alumni trustees’ report as inconsequential, biased and inaccurate, a misguided attempt to turn back the clock and exonerate the university and its former leaders — since convicted of endangerment — for not stopping Sandusky years earlier.
“The deniers continue to embarrass the many thousands of outstanding Penn State students, faculty, and alumni by blindly disregarding the uncontroverted facts in favor of a misguided agenda,” Freeh said in a statement.
Its release continues what has been an unending battle for those who believe the former Penn State leaders perhaps made some misjudgments about how to handle Sandusky but intentionally did nothing wrong and that a vaunted football program was unfairly scapegoated.
Judge issued warning: Even its airing has been contentious. A judge gave the alumni trustees access to Freeh’s records but warned them would cite them for contempt if they shared the information beyond the board.
After the university leadership sat on the report, given to them last summer, alumni trustee and Chester County businessman Anthony Lubrano bought ads in the Centre Daily Times and paid a plane to fly over Beaver Stadium during football games toting a banner that asked Penn State President Eric Barron: "What are you hiding? Release the Report!”
In a statement to the Inquirer, Barron and Mark Dambly, chair of the trustees board, said the report “does not represent the position or opinions of the Penn State Board of Trustees or the university in any way.” They called its release a “reprehensible” step that would undermine a culture where Penn State employees can confidentially report wrongdoing.
Would community benefit? The alumni trustees — Lubrano, Alice Pope, Barbara Doran, Robert Jubelirer, Ted Brown, Ryan McCombie and Bill Oldsey — denied violating the court order, but said the community would benefit from knowing their findings.
“The fact is the board’s tacit acceptance of the Freeh Report led to profound reputational damage, along with over $250 million in costs so far to Penn State,” they asserted in a statement. It also urged the university to “openly and thoughtfully” consider their review "so that we can finally come to an honest conclusion.”
They want the 38-member board to repudiate the Freeh report and recoup the $8.3 million paid for it.