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Joe Paterno family's Freeh Report response released, claims 'rush to injustice'

Report claims the Freeh Report was "fundamentally flawed" and rushed to improper conclusions.

Patrick Smith

The family of Joe Paterno released a report commissioned to examine the Freeh Report Sunday on ESPN's Outside the Lines. The Freeh Report was written by former FBI director Louis Freeh and commissioned by Penn State to examine the involvement of Paterno and other University officials in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. The report was extremely critical of Paterno, saying he failed to act despite having evidence of Sandusky's crimes and acted in a conspiracy to conceal Sandusky's activities.

The Paterno family's review of the Freeh Report was handled by three investigators: Former Pennsylvania governor and Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, former FBI Special Agent James Clemente, and Fred Berlin, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins. The reports, presented and summarized by Wick Sollers, managing partner of King & Spalding, a Washington, D.C. law firm, allege that the Freeh investigation was "fundamentally flawed" and relied upon flimsy evidence in reaching its conclusions. The summary of their findings has been posted to, and is provided below:

"A Rush to Injustice"

The Failure of the Freeh report
Former Attorney General Thornburgh and Top FBI Profiler challenge findings

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and a team of other high-level experts have found that the Freeh report commissioned by the Penn State University Board of Trustees in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal is factually wrong, speculative and "fundamentally flawed."

In a comprehensive analysis released today [Feb. 10, 2013], Thornburgh and former top FBI profiler Jim Clemente, prominent Washington Attorney Wick Sollers and the director of The Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit, Dr. Fred Berlin, conclude that the Freeh report was a failure that does not meet the basic requirements of a thorough, objective and fair investigation.

Based on a review of all available evidence, including discussions with attorneys representing Curley, Schultz and Spanier, the experts conclude that the late Penn State Coach Joe Paterno did not attempt to hide any information or hinder or impede any investigation related to the crimes or conduct of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

In what Thornburgh condemns as a "rush to injustice" regarding the Freeh report's treatment of Joe Paterno, the former Attorney General said that "by supplying judgments without fact, (the Freeh report) undermines our faith in justice and due process." The six-month analysis, composed of four separate independent reviews, is the most comprehensive and detailed examination of the Freeh report conducted to date. Among other findings, the experts determined that the conclusions of the Freeh report are based on raw speculation and unsupported opinion - not facts and evidence.

The Freeh report failed its client, the Penn State University Board of Trustees, and, more significantly, it failed Sandusky's victims by not finding the truth. The Freeh report ignored decades of expert research and analysis of the appropriate way to understand and investigate a child sexual victimization case, according to former top FBI profiler Clemente. The Freeh investigation was doomed from the beginning because it started with the wrong assumptions, Clemente concludes.

"The Freeh report is a profound failure," Sollers said. "It isn't a little wrong on the minor issues. It is totally wrong on the most critical issues. That the Board and the NCAA relied on this report, without appropriate review or analysis, is a miscarriage of justice."

Other major findings include:

  • The allegation is false that Joe Paterno participated in a conspiracy to cover up Sandusky's actions because of a fear of bad publicity or for any other reason.
  • There is no evidence to support the allegation that the football culture at Penn State was somehow to blame for Sandusky's crimes. Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh says that including such a claim, with no factual basis to support it, undermines the credibility of the entire report.
  • Freeh's failure to conduct interviews with most of the key witnesses is a glaring deficiency. In the 1998 incident, for example, Freeh's investigators failed to interview at least 14 of the most important witnesses, including Curley, Schultz, the District Attorney's office, the Department of Public Welfare and the University's police department or its outside legal counsel. This pattern was repeated in the 2001 review. Having never talked with these individuals, the Freeh report still claimed to know what they did and why they did it.
  • Freeh investigators did not have subpoena power, and no one testified under oath. Worse, witnesses were allowed to speak anonymously, something that would never happen in a legitimate legal proceeding.
  • The conspiracy claim made by the Freeh report based on a string of three emails falls apart under scrutiny. Because of a technology switch in 2004, most of the Penn State emails for the time in question are not accessible. Moreover, there are no emails authored by Joe Paterno and none that he received. In fact, the emails referenced by the Freeh report show that Joe Paterno knew few details about Sandusky, that he acted in good faith and that he did what he thought was right based on what he knew at the time.
  • The validity and thoroughness of the Freeh report was oversold to the public, leading to the report being accepted in full and without review by The Board of Trustees and the NCAA.

Each of the three expert investigators provided their own reports. The King & Spalding report includes all of the commissioned expert reports. The individual reports of Clemente and Berlin are also available.

In particular, the investigators have criticized the use of testimony regarding Mike McQueary, the assistant coach who allegedly witnessed Sandusky assaulting a child in the Penn State locker room, and emails evidencing a cover-up. Thornburgh says the McQueary testimony is flawed, and that the emails in question were not sent to, or accessible by, Joe Paterno.