is intense. Very strong points, that I am not necessarily totally agreeing with, but hard to ignore and dismiss completely. Plus, being a Penn Stater, it gives us some argument if that’s what you’re looking for:
] As someone who has been critical of what I have perceived as the media’s rush to judgment against Joe Paterno in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, I was very eager to hear the results of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. My primary concern through all of this is that the case against Paterno for knowingly protecting a pedophile had not yet been truly proven. If it was, then I would be the first to admit that Paterno’s legacy would be rightly shattered and that his statue at Penn State should be uprooted.
Now that the report has come out and I (unlike the media at Freeh’s press conference) have actually had time to read it, I will acknowledge that the report raises some very serious questions about Paterno’s role. I now think that it is “probable” that Paterno deserves some level of condemnation for how he handled the Sandusky situation.
However, despite what you have heard in the news media, there are also some very significant problems with the report itself and, at least at this point, there is still a whole lot more speculative smoke than actual evidentiary fire in its findings.
The most glaring omission in the report is that Freeh did speak to any of the primary witnesses in the case. Not Paterno. Not Tim Curley. Not Mike McQueary (whom he referred to as “McQuade” in the press conference). Not Jerry Sandusky.
How can any investigation possibly be considered remotely complete or come to any legitimate conclusions without even speaking to any of the most important witnesses?
How can we possibly fully evaluate Paterno’s actions if we don’t know exactly what Mike McQueary (who, it must be pointed out, misremembered the year he witnessed the episode in the shower, an incident for which there is still no actual victim) told him? How can we possibly understand fairly vague emails without even hearing from the guy who wrote them?
Secondly, Freeh seems to promise far more in his press release/conclusions than he actually delivers in real evidence. Most of the media of course, at best, only read the summary and not the actual report. Thanks to that, it appears that most people have no idea that the real evidence backing up Freeh’s conclusions is, given the strong language he uses, remarkably thin.
The key pieces of new evidence (and frankly, maybe the only significant ones) against Paterno are two emails cited on pages 48 and 49 of the report which Freeh concludes are “clear” proof that Paterno was fully in the loop on the 1998 investigation of Sandusky which resulted in no criminal charges.
There is no doubt that if Paterno really knew about the 1998 investigation then any defense of him falls apart like a house of cards. This is because if he knew about 1998 then he had no reason to give Sandusky any benefit of the doubt in 2001 and he actually had a significant incentive to cover up the McQueary episode because there would have been a history of inaction. His credibility would also be shot because he essentially testified to the Grand Jury that he had no knowledge of the investigation.
However, Freeh is grotesquely overstating his evidence.
A close examination of these two emails raises significant questions as to what they actually mean. The first email is from athletic director Curley to the university president with the subject line “Joe Paterno.” As far as we know, the only content of the email was “I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.”
Based on this, Freeh concludes that because the email was sent after Curley knew of the investigation into Sandusky that Sandusky had to be the subject of their “touching base.” Even if this wasn’t a bit of an evidentiary leap (which it is), we have no idea what “touching base” really means and, again, Freeh has never even spoken to Curley to find out. The president didn’t even remember this email, which he referred to as a “vague reference with no individual named.”
The second email is just as problematic. In it Curley writes to the head of campus police, “anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.” Freeh writes, without any actual evidence that, “the reference to Coach is believed to be Paterno.” We are to assume that “is believed” really means “believed by Louis Freeh.”
Could “coach” be Paterno? Absolutely. But interestingly the subject line of the email (which Freeh uses in the first instance to substantiate that “coach” means Paterno) is “Jerry.” Why is it not plausible that “coach” there actually means Sandusky, who was still a coach at Penn State at the time? Freeh seems to completely forget that Sandusky was engaged in retirement negotiations at the very same time and there there are many emails in his own record marked “Sandusky” which have nothing at all to do with the investigation (it should be noted that Gary Schultz, the head of campus police, was also VP of business and finance).
Is it not very plausible that this email had nothing at all to do with sexual abuse? If this were to be the case, this would dramatically change many of the presumptions on which the report bases its conclusions.
It must also be pointed out (it never ever is in the media), that all of the critical emails come from Curley. This is incredibly important because at the time of Paterno’s death Curley released a statement praising Paterno’s “honor and integrity.” How in the world does it make any sense that someone whom we are now led to believe was led into a horrific cover by Paterno would needlessly praise him like that at his death? This is even more inexplicable when you consider that Curley is facing criminal charges where such a statement could significantly curtail his easiest defense, which would be to blame Paterno.
One of the many elements of the report which the media is completely missing (because they obviously haven’t bothered to actually read it) is that Freeh essentially exonerates Paterno on a very important point which has bothered many Paterno defenders since the beginning of this story.
The report seems to prove (much more conclusively than it does other elements) that Sandusky being told that he would never be the head coach at Penn State had nothing to do with any allegations of sexual abuse. In fact, Paterno told him this before the 1998 investigation even began and his own hand written notes make it clear that the reason was because Sandusky, ironically, refused to give up his position as the head of the Second Mile charity, which was the source of his victims. Unfortunately, it is being routinely reported today that the report indicates the Sandusky’s resignation was proof Paterno knew of the problem in 1998. In actuality, the exact opposite is true.