STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (CNN) — Penn State’s leaders showed “total disregard” for victims of child sex abuse and failed to protect children, the head of an internal review said Thursday.
In a statement released along with an extensive report, Louis Freeh — a former FBI director and federal judge — blasted top officials at the school.
Freeh spearheaded the probe into how the school handled allegations of child sex abuse by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“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 went on to name four former school officials — former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz, former head coach Joe Paterno, and former athletic director Tim Curley.
The four men “never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest,” Freeh wrote.
The remarks were released along with a lengthy report on the review’s findings.
The scandal, which rocked the nation, already has led to the dismissal of Paterno, as well as the ouster of Spanier and Curley.
Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period.
He maintains his innocence.
Freeh’s internal investigation is separate from criminal investigations that have resulted in Sandusky’s conviction and charges against Curley and Gary Schultz, former Penn State vice president.
The scandal raised questions about Penn State’s response to the allegations of abuse, with some claiming the school put its reputation ahead of protecting potential child victims.
Thursday’s lengthy report is expected to home in on school officials and consider whether the culture of the university enabled an environment in which abuse could occur, according to sources.
The cost of the investigation “is estimated to be in the millions,” but is covered by the university’s insurance policy, said Penn State spokesman David LaTorre.
Investigators pored over Penn State’s policies on reporting sex crimes and sexual misconduct and reviewed whether there was a failure over how those policies and plans were actually implemented, the sources added.
“No one, no one, is above scrutiny,” said trustee Kenneth Frazier, head of the committee addressing the scandal, when the review began in November 2011.
At the time, Freeh said to expect recommendations to improve possible leadership failures at the university “that allowed anyone to prey on children with impunity.”
“Our mandate is clear,” added Freeh. “We have been tasked to investigate this matter fully, fairly, and completely.”
Hundreds of interviews have since been conducted as part of his investigation, including with former Penn State officials as well as a former athletic director at nearby Juniata College.
In 2010, Sandusky requested to work as an unpaid football coach at Juniata College after retiring from Penn State in 1999, authorities said.
A school background check turned up an investigation into the former defensive coordinator as well as a “do not hire” warning, prompting Juniata College officials to reject Sandusky’s interest in the program, they said.
In June, eight young men testified, often in disturbingly graphic detail, of how Sandusky forced them to engage in sexual acts in various places, including in hotel rooms, the basement of his home and in the Penn State coaches’ locker room.
Observers of the case are keen to learn whether the report reveals additional details surrounding a university shower room incident in 2001 involving the former coach and a young boy, which was reported by then-Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary.
In court documents, prosecutors say they have e-mails from university officials that allegedly contradict grand jury testimony of Curley and Schultz, who each face charges of perjury and failing to report the abuse. No trial date has been set for Curley or Schultz.
The alleged e-mails, which CNN obtained exclusively, were among other documents, including a Sandusky file maintained by Schultz. The Freeh review discovered the documents and turned them over to state prosecutors as part of ongoing investigations, according to both the university and prosecutors.
One of the alleged e-mails suggests Paterno had a previously undisclosed conversation with Curley about the shower incident from 2001.
On February 26, Penn State’s vice president purportedly wrote to Curley about a plan to contact Sandusky, referred to only as “the subject,” alert child welfare authorities and inform Second Mile, the charity the ex-coach founded for disadvantaged children, according to the purported exchange. Neither Sandusky nor the charity was mentioned by name. They were referred to as “the subject” and “the group.”
After Curley spoke with Paterno, however, the athletic director allegedly told the school president that he had changed his mind about the best course of action to pursue.
“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps,” he allegedly wrote the following day.
Instead of alerting authorities, Curley apparently wrote that he would prefer meeting with Sandusky, telling him they knew about another incident in 1998, and offering him professional help. He then suggested notifying the charity “at some point” if Sandusky is cooperative, and “maybe” child welfare officials.
Paterno, who died on January 22 after a storied career that brought Penn State football to national prominence, reported to his superiors a child sex abuse incident in a university shower that involved Sandusky, but did not inform police.
“We determined that his decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership by Coach Paterno,” the board of trustees said in a report that explained his firing.
That decision prompted rioting by Penn State students, overturning a news van and clashing with police, who used tear gas to break up throngs of angry protesters.
Wick Sollers, a lawyer for the Paterno family, issued a statement following CNN’s disclosure of the purported e-mails.
“Some number of e-mail exchanges between former Penn State officials have apparently been leaked to the media. Since the Paterno family is not in possession of these e-mails, it would be inappropriate to comment on their supposed content,” the statement said. “To be clear, the e-mails in question did not originate with Joe Paterno or go to him as he never personally utilized e-mail.”
Sollers noted that Paterno, “from the beginning … warned against a rush to judgment in this case. Coach Paterno testified truthfully, to the best of his recollection, in the one brief appearance he made before the grand jury. As he testified, when informed of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky in 2001, Coach Paterno followed university procedures and promptly and fully informed his superiors. He believed the matter would be thoroughly and professionally investigated and he did not interfere with or attempt to compromise any investigation.”
Late last year, the former head coach wrote, in what his family said was intended to be an opinion piece, that the Sandusky matter was “not a football scandal.”
“This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one,” he wrote in the statement, which wasn’t published and only recently surfaced.
“It is not an academic scandal and does not in any way tarnish the hard-earned and well-deserved academic reputation of Penn State.”
Paterno family spokesman Mara Vandlik said the piece was probably released by one of the former players who had received a copy.
The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office is also investigating what Penn State knew about the 2001 incident and how it was handled.
Meanwhile, Spanier, the ousted president, has maintained that he was never informed of any incident involving Sandusky that described sexual abuse or criminality.
Spanier “has wanted the Freeh Group to create an accurate report and has been determined to assist in any way he can,” his attorneys said in a written statement. “Selected leaks, without the full context, are distorting the public record and creating a false picture.”
According to the board of trustees, Spanier was fired in November because “he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities.”
By Susan Candiotti and David Ariosto – CNN
CNN’s Ross Levitt contributed to this report
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