Column: The other side to the story

The extensive Critique of the Freeh Report commissioned and released by the Paterno family this week did two things. It revealed what many have said since last July, that the Freeh Report that was essentially the basis for the NCAA sanctions Penn State received was far from comprehensive and, in many ways, little more than speculation. It also shined an important and long overdue light on the nature and chilling techniques of Jerry Sandusky and other pedophiles.

Jay Paterno pointed out a lot of holes in the Freeh report this week but some important questions remain unanswered.

But though it did an admirable job of deconstructing many of the assertions Freeh and his investigators made out to be "facts," the Paterno report didn't deliver many facts of its own.

I watched Jay Paterno make the rounds in Bristol this Monday, then saw Sue Paterno and her two daughters, Diana and Mary Kay, sit with Jay on Katie Couric's set later that afternoon. All of the Paternos conducted themselves with class and integrity during what had to be an emotional week. Considering all that has been written and said about Joe Paterno over the past year and a half, I can understand their desire to publicly address several of the claims made about him by the Freeh report and the lengths to which they went to dispute them.

But as I read through page after page of the critique, which included testimony from former Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburgh and medical experts Jim Clemente and Fred Berlin, I saw little more than opinions -- albeit expert opinions -- of another kind.

"As Messrs. Thornburgh and Clemente and Dr. Berlin have each concluded, the full story behind the tragic events involving Jerry Sandusky is not the one told by the Freeh report," attorney Wick Sollers wrote in the summary. "The authors of the Freeh report chose not to present alternative, more plausible, conclusions regarding Joe Paterno’s role in the events involving Jerry Sandusky."

The Freeh report did not tell the full story, and I'm not sure if Freeh ever fully claimed that it did. But the Paterno report, while offering alternative conclusions regarding Paterno's role in the Sandusky events, does not tell the full story either. And that is the fundamental problem -- the story, in its fullest and most complete form, might never be told. At this point, the three former Penn State administrators awaiting trial and the former assistant coach that saw Sandusky in the shower with a young boy might have trouble piecing together the full story even if Paterno were still with us and able to assist them.

So we have been left, then, as we await those trials, with more speculation. The speculation in the Freeh report made Paterno out to be irresponsible. The speculation in the Freeh critique lumped him in with the rest of the community who, as Clemente believed, were fooled for decades by a master manipulator.

"Given my 30 years of education, training and experience working, evaluating and assessing child sex crimes investigations around the world," Clemente wrote, "it is my expert opinion that Paterno did not know, or even believe in the possibility, that Sandusky was capable of sexually assaulting boys."

Once again, though, the key word there is "opinion." We don't know and can't know whether Paterno believed in the possibility that Sandusky was capable of the crimes for which he was convicted. All we have to go on is various versions of what he was told by McQueary in 2001 and what little information existed about the investigation of Sandusky in 1998 that Paterno might or might not have known about.

What has been remarkable, but given today's media climate, not all that surprising, was how much Paterno's role has been dissected and discussed compared to the roles of Curley, Schultz and Spanier, those of the officers at The Second Mile, members of the Department of Public Welfare and local police. It's as if some believe that all of the other people in position to halt Sandusky were either waiting for the go-ahead from Paterno to act or powerless to stop him without help from a football coach in his early 70s. It is that line of thinking that allowed Mark Emmert to condemn Penn State's "culture" and slam the school with unprecedented sanctions.

And you wonder how much of it is based upon a three-word phrase that might have been the heart of the Freeh report. The Special Investigative Counsel concluded that Paterno and others "failed to protect" the victims.

Sollers wrote that Paterno "never asked or told anyone not to investigate fully the allegations in 2001 … never asked or told anyone, including Dr. Spanier and Messrs. Curley and Schultz, not to report the 2001 incident, and … never asked or told anyone not to discuss or to hide in any way the information reported by Mr. McQueary. Joe 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 critique went to great, and possibly, unnecessary, lengths to show Paterno's habit of doing the right thing, citing the way he handled the Rashard Casey incident and his long history of philanthropy. It did so ostensibly to make the mere notion that he had participated in a "cover-up" seem far-fetched.

But "failing to protect" does not necessarily mean "covering up." It is hard, if not impossible, to make the case that, collectively, Penn State failed to protect Sandusky's victims. How much culpability individuals, be they Paterno or Schultz or Spanier, receive for that, and whether you believe the failure was a result of self-serving motives or, as Clemente believes, of years of manipulation by a skilled predator, are the real issues, and they are matters of opinion.

If it did nothing else, the Paterno report reminded us that there is not enough evidence to accuse the coach of anything other than negligence. But there is also not enough evidence to completely absolve him from blame. The difference is that the opinions of Freeh and the SIC were used by the NCAA to do significant damage to the school's finances and its football program and immeasurable damage to Paterno's reputation. The opinions in the Paterno report seem unlikely to affect the sanctions. How much of the damage to Paterno's reputation and legacy they will undo is, well, a matter of opinion as well.

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  • My belief is that McQuery lied to the Grand Jury about what he told Curley, Schultz, and Paterno because he was either afraid of getting in trouble or he wanted to make sure that Sandusky went to jail.

    If you believe that McQeury really did say "messing around or horseplay in the showers" to Schultz & Curley then all of their actions are logical.

    Black Shoes. Basic Blues. No Name. All Game.

  • We obviously differ on what we think constitutes evidence. As for the sitting in the drawer, it's yet another sign that a cover up is non-existent.

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    "A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep"- Glenn Carson

  • Jeff, I usually enjoy your writing and perspective, but respectfully, I'm disappointed in your article. This is not an even handed one word against another situation. Freeh did a wicked thing, it was slander, and he knows it. A knowledgeable person CAN NOT CONCLUDE that the leaders at PSU concealed information about a predator without knowing their intent. If they believed MM described horseplay (like they understood '98 to be) and they did not think that Sandusky was a pedaphile for all the reasons Clemente discussed, then they made a poor judgement and NOT a decision to conceal. We don't know yet because the trials haven't happened, but Freeh knowingly ripped our world to shreds. He's smart enough to know what he did and to know he didn't have evidence to back up his conclusions. The Paterno report does not lie, it identifies the glaring holes in his report. In short, one report is wrong and another report shows that it is wrong.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by fullback dive 17 months ago

    "You can take bowl games and you can take external things from people, but you can't take a warrior's heart."

  • Jeff, your analysis is not any different than most of what has been said to this point. I am not sure what your point is other than to say that their report is a biased opinion. The title of the Paterno report is "A Critique of the Freeh Report". And I would guess that they accomplished exactly what they wanted to accomplish - show that Freeh's report was inconsistent and speculative at best towards Paterno. That the report is filled with errors and mistakes with very little supportive evidence. And that the basis of the media response was unwarranted based on a report that really was a poor piece of investigating. The report does an excellent job of this without throwing the other 3 people under the bus, which had to be a delicate line to walk. It also will become more complete as Curley, Schultz, and Spanier are tried. Normally I enjoy your articles and agree with your opinions. However, this time I think your a bit off in your analysis of the Paterno report and its effectiveness. Don't be surprised if this isn't a springboard for further action not only by the Paterno family, but the State of PA, Penn State Univ, and perhaps others.

  • Must say that i agree with drken and fullback drive.... I think that the report commissioned by the Paterno's did accomplish what it set out to accomplish, as outlined by drken above. Jeff...I, too, have thoroughly enjoyed your writing and perspectives in just about every article that I have read of yours...but feel that this particular article missed the mark slightly. It has, however, generated some good dialogue. :)

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  • Just registered to comment on this article. We may never know the absolute truth, but I can read. Freeh did not just conclude Joe failed to protect. He states Joe concealed - page 14, and repeatedly concealed - page 16, to prevent negative publicity - page 16. Concealing is an intentional act where failing to protect can be quite passive. To say Joe concealed twice in his findings puts a burden on him to back up his claim. In my opinion he failed to do this.

    This post was edited by phillyfan 17 months ago

  • I agree with yOu. The thing is Freeh didn't have to back anything up. He just needed a grandstanding press conference and an eager, incompetent, immoral, etc... Media to run with it. No one needed any facts to crucify paterno just the press conference. Its friggin scary and we all should be concerned. No one in the mainstream media is critical of the freeh report... I just don't get it. This is at least the 4th major bungled investigation has been involved with.

  • On that note, no one even heard from Freeh after this press conference which was like 45 minutes after his report came out. Obviously so that no one could possibly read it and just use his summary.

    Then he used his press conference to drive his biased and opinionated bullet points home.

    He took his money, did exactly what some members of the board had hoped - pin it on Paterno, not the University, and wasn't heard from until the Paterno report was released. To which he replied 20 minutes or so after the report was released clearly without reading it.

    It is a complete failure by the media and the Bot in my opinion to let what happened happen.

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  • I don`t post much but I have read the Freeh Report Jeff and to be honest it`s a joke ! And for you to say the Paterno Report has no new facts or doesn't change much is just as much a joke! This whole mess is an insult to the intelligence of most Pennsylvanians ! The Paterno Report should never have had to be written. That's how bad the free report is ! Funny thing is Freeh clearly states PSU had no involvement in the 98 investigation and clearly states that Tim Curley informed the Second Mile of the 2001 incident . And the fact that Freeh had financial ties to PSU is a conflict of interest. But it really gets me that for 35 years the Second Mile a state and federally license charity full of childcare specialist and advocates worked with state run agencies like DPW,CYS,STATE POLICE,AG`S OFFICE ,JUDGES,FEDERAL AUTHORIES FOR 35 YEARS! And during the 98 investigation Sandusky still had access to children and was able to adopt 5 children after 98. But the Pennsylvania Child Protection act clearly states that any individual accused or suspected of abuse of a minor that state agencies involved are to stop any interaction with accused or suspected pedophiles and have procedures in place to do so and none of them did ! That`s right the very people responsible for these children failed ! Yet now they are getting a 60 million dollar raise ! And what is really sick and insulting is they hide behind the victims with their hands out! And don't forget the coach and principle that handed one victim over to Sandusky when ever the coach demanded . But yet we are debating what Paterno did ? Joe reported 3rd hand info about a former employee up his chain of command! Tim Curley reported incident to second mile peiod!!! No cover up just a bunch of save my own ass pass the buck politicians protecting themselves at the expense of our children!!!!

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