More Storms Looming For Penn State In Wake Of Freeh Report
Jerry Sandusky arrives at court on the first day of the trial. (Image from pool video / June 11, 2012)
The university is still under scrutiny by the Department of Education and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), inquiries that could further tarnish Penn State's reputation and that of its storied football program.
The organization that grants the school's crucial academic accreditation is keeping a watchful eye on the unfurling scandal that centers on university officials' handling of Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator convicted in June of sexually abusing children over a 15-year period.
Two former university administrators are awaiting trial for their role in the scandal, and more charges are possible as the state's Attorney General's Office investigates what Penn State may have known about Sandusky's behavior.
Then there's the possibility of a rash of costly civil lawsuits after former FBI Director Louis Freeh's finding that Penn State's most powerful leaders showed "total and consistent disregard" for child sex abuse victims and covered up attacks by the school's former assistant football coach.
"The university hired their own executioner when they hired Louie Freeh," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. "They are going to get pounded in civil litigation," likely for millions of dollars by victims who use Freeh's report as "a roadmap" in their case.
Though in some ways, Callan added, Penn State should be commended for "hiring an investigator who was so brutally honest" in his review.
Freeh's report was so scathing that some say it could be the nadir of the university's reputation.
"In the public minds, yesterday was the moment that everyone remembers about Penn State, the higher ups and Paterno," said Callan. "You didn't hear it to that extent in even the Sandusky trial. This was likely the biggest moment of adverse publicity the university will endure."
Freeh released the results of the university-funded probe on Thursday, reporting that his team of investigators had found that several school officials had "empowered" Sandusky to continue his abuse.
Legendary head football coach Joe Paterno also could have stopped the attacks had he done more, Freeh concluded.
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh wrote. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
He blamed Paterno, former Penn State President Graham Spanier and administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley for having "never demonstrated ... any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest," while the board of trustees failed to perform its oversight duties.
That collective failure "to protect against a child sexual predator harming children" lasted "more than a decade" and allowed Sandusky to further harm his victims, the full report says.
Freeh's 267-page report is separate from a grand jury investigation into charges of perjury and failure to report abuse against Curley, a former athletics director for the school, and Schultz, a former vice president.
Trustee Kenneth Frazier, head of the committee addressing the Sandusky scandal, said Thursday that the school's board of trustees is "deeply ashamed" by its lack of oversight identified in the report.
The board met again on Friday for a regularly scheduled session, and again pledged to make good on implementing the changes.
They made some changes Friday including reducing the term of board members from 15 years to 12 years. This change applies to board members elected this year. The board also voted to add 30 minutes of public comment during future board meetings.
It has not gone unnoticed that the school has been up front and cooperative with investigators from various organizations since the scandal surfaced last year, said Richard Pokrass, a spokesman for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which issues the school's academic accreditation.