STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A report commissioned by Joe Paterno’s family says the late coach did nothing wrong in his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and portrays Paterno as the victim of a "rush to injustice" created by former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigation of the case for Penn State.
The family’s critique, released Sunday, argues that the findings of the Freeh report published last July were unsupported by the facts.
Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, one of the experts assembled by the family’s lawyer to review Freeh’s report last year to Penn State, called the document fundamentally flawed and incomplete.
Freeh’s report reached "inaccurate and unfounded findings related to Mr. Paterno and its numerous process-oriented deficiencies was a rush to injustice and calls into question" the investigation’s credibility, Thornburgh was quoted as saying.
In a statement released Sunday through a spokesman, Freeh defended his work.
"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," he said.
Paterno’s family released what it billed as an exhaustive response to Freeh’s work, based on independent analyses, on the website paterno.com.
"We conclude that the observations as to Joe Paterno in the Freeh report are unfounded, and have done a disservice not only to Joe Paterno and the university community," the family’s report said, "but also to the victims of Jerry Sandusky and the critical mission of educating the public on the dangers of child sexual victimization."
Freeh’s findings also implicated former administrators in university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz. Less than two weeks after the Freeh report was released in July, the NCAA acted with uncharacteristic speed in levying massive sanctions against the football program for the scandal.
"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University -- Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley -- repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse" from authorities, trustees and the university community, Freeh wrote in releasing the report.
The former administrators have vehemently denied the allegations. So, too, has Paterno’s family, though it reserved more extensive comment until its own report was complete.
The counter-offensive began in earnest this weekend. The family’s findings said that Paterno:
n Never asked or told anyone not to investigate an allegation made against Sandusky 12 years ago, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2001.
n Never asked or told former administrators not to report the 2001 allegation.
n And never asked or told anyone not to discuss or hide information reported by graduate assistant Mike McQueary about the 2001 allegation.
"Paterno reported the information to his superior(s) pursuant to his understanding of university protocol and relied upon them to investigate and report as appropriate," the family’s analysis said.
Paterno’s widow, Sue, broke her silence Friday in a letter to hundreds of former players informing them of the report’s impending release. "The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events," she wrote.