By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
A scathing review of Penn State University's initial handling of reports that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused children on campus is likely to fuel ongoing criminal and civil investigations into the university's conduct, legal analysts say.
The incident is at the heart of a pending criminal trial in which Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, now on leave, and retired vice president Gary Schultz are charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report the incident to law enforcement authorities. A trial date has not yet been set.
The two administrators, who have denied any wrongdoing, said they were never told by football assistant Michael McQueary, the only witness to the incident, that Sandusky was engaged in sexual conduct with a boy believed to be as young as 10. McQueary, a key prosecution witness in Sandusky's criminal trial that resulted in his conviction last month, said he told administrators that the former coach's conduct was "extremely sexual.''
While Freeh's report does not reconcile the differing accounts, fomer Philadelphia prosecutor Christopher Mallios said the document shows that officials — along with former Penn State president Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno— were "motivated'' not to report the incident as required by state law to "avoid negative publicity.''
Freeh's report said a "critical written correspondence'' uncovered earlier this year contained evidence of a proposed plan to report to law enforcement authorities the 2001 incident.
"After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities,'' the report said. "Their failure to protect the … child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him.''
Citing witness statements and other evidence, Freeh's investigators concluded that university officials acted "in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.''
"The most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large,'' the report said.
"This report provides significant insight into what evidence will likely be presented at the trial" of Curley and Schultz, Mallios said.
Attorneys for Sandusky's eight known victims who testified at the former coach's trial last month said the Freeh Report provides a road map as they prepare to launch their own civil lawsuits against the university.
"While this is a good starting point, there is a lot of work to be done to support the conclusions reached in Mr. Freeh's report,'' said attorney Joel Feller, whose firm represents three of the eight victims. "This is just the start.''