New Castle News

Penn State Scandal

August 23, 2012

Penn State Scandal: Former president Spanier goes on offensive

PHILADELPHIA — Penn State’s disgraced former president is trying to convince the public he had no idea that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester.

Graham Spanier claims that he most certainly did not protect one.

With a network TV appearance, a magazine interview and a news conference held by his lawyers, Spanier portrayed himself Wednesday as the innocent victim of a witch hunt and a rush to judgment by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose university-commissioned report on the sex-abuse scandal prompted the NCAA to hit Penn State with a $60 million fine and other sanctions.

Freeh, hired by Penn State trustees to conduct an internal probe of the scandal, released a report last month that accused Spanier, Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and other top university officials of concealing a 2001 abuse allegation against Sandusky to protect the university from bad publicity.

Spanier told The New Yorker magazine he was stunned by Freeh’s allegation.

“There’s no logic to it,” Spanier said. “Why on earth would anybody cover up for a known child predator? Adverse publicity? For heaven’s sake! Every day I had to make some decision that got adverse publicity.”

In an interview that aired on “Nightline” late Wednesday night, Spanier told ABC-TV, “Never in my time as president of Penn State did I ever — ever once — receive a report from anyone that suggested that Jerry Sandusky was involved in any child abuse, in any sexual abuse, in any criminal act.”

Spanier told ABC that he knew only that Sandusky had been seen engaging in “horseplay” in a campus shower with a boy in 2001 and he took that to mean “throwing water around, snapping towels.”

“I wish in hindsight that I would have known more about Jerry Sandusky and his terrible, terrible hidden past so that I could have intervened, because it would have been my instinct to do so,” he said.

Sandusky was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys. He awaits sentencing on 45 counts.

Spanier’s lawyer, Timothy Lewis, excoriated Freeh as a “biased investigator” who relied on speculation and innuendo to support a preordained conclusion.

At a news conference in Philadelphia, Lewis — like Freeh a former federal judge and prosecutor — complained that Freeh never interviewed key witnesses, ignored inconvenient facts and manipulated the truth.

He called the report “a flat-out distortion of facts so infused with bias and innuendo that it is, quite simply, unworthy of the confidence that has been placed in it.”

The Freeh group said Wednesday that it stands by its work.

Crisis communications expert Jason Maloni said Spanier and his lawyers may be going on the offensive now because he hopes to resurrect his academic career, and wants “to create some sort of reasonable doubt with a potential jury.”

Spanier has not been charged, but the criminal probe remains open.

Maloni said the Freeh report is a formidable hurdle for Spanier, who led Penn State for 16 years until his ouster several days after Sandusky was charged with serial child abuse.

“He’s not going to have much luck deflating the Freeh report,” said Maloni, senior vice president of Levick, a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C. “Louis Freeh’s got a lot of credibility and he has a strong reputation in this field as a straight shooter. This might be too little too late for Graham Spanier.”

Freeh’s investigation uncovered documents that suggest Spanier had deeper knowledge of the Sandusky complaints, including an email in which the president appeared to agree with athletic director Tim Curley’s decision to keep the 2001 assault from child welfare authorities, and instead work directly with Sandusky and Sandusky’s charity for at-risk youths.

“The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it,” said Spanier’s email, dated Feb. 27, 2001. “The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”

Spanier told ABC-TV that he doesn’t remember the memo “but it sounds like me.”

The word “vulnerable,” Spanier said, “may not have been the best choice of the term” but was “a reaction to the possibility that we didn’t want this to happen and if he didn’t accept that and understand it, we would be disturbed by it and perhaps need to take further action. But the message we got back was that he heard the message and was agreeable.”

Spanier’s lawyers said Freeh took the email out of context.

The report, Lewis complained, assumes former graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno in 2001 that he saw something sexual in a locker room shower, and that Paterno echoed that to Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. Freeh likewise assumes that they in turn told Spanier the same thing.

“Curley and Schultz have denied that they ever told Dr. Spanier anything of the sort,” Lewis said. “‘Horseplay’ was referred to over and over again, but never with any sexual connotation or suggestion of abuse. But Judge Freeh paid no attention to that.”

Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to a grand jury and failure to report suspected child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers released a statement Wednesday agreeing with Lewis’s critique of the Freeh report.

Spanier’s lawyers said they don’t know whether their client will be charged, but “we don’t think there’s a scintilla of evidence to support an indictment,” attorney John E. Riley said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Penn State Scandal
  • sandusky.jpg Penn State scandal played out in courts over 2013

    Penn State paid millions to settle claims of child sexual abuse, three university administrators accused of a cover-up fought the charges and NCAA penalties were dialed down slightly as the Jerry Sandusky scandal continued to play out in many different ways over the past year.

    December 28, 2013 1 Photo

  • gavel.jpg Appeals court denies Sandusky new trial

     Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky should not get a new trial after being convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled Wednesday.

    October 2, 2013 1 Photo

  • Penn State Abuse1.jpg Three from PSU ordered to stand trial

    Penn State’s ex-president and two former top school administrators were ordered yesterday to stand trial on charges accusing them of a cover-up in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

    July 31, 2013 1 Photo

  • Penn State Saga: Paterno lawyer says estate to sue NCAA

    The family of the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno — along with several university trustees, former players and others connected to the school — plan to sue the NCAA over the landmark sanctions against the university for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

    May 30, 2013

  • Paterno family speaks at child abuse event

    On the night before he died, Joe Paterno scrawled a message that his wife Sue did not find until after the legendary coach had passed away. In that message, Joe Paterno noted the silver lining in the child sex abuse coverup that led to his firing might be that the scandal could inspire a greater awareness about child abuse.

    April 12, 2013

  • Judge: No new trial for Sandusky

    Jerry Sandusky lost a bid for a new trial Wednesday when a judge rejected his argument that his lawyers were not given enough time to prepare for the three-week proceeding that ended with a 45-count guilty verdict.

    January 30, 2013

  • Spanier.tiff Ex-PSU president Spanier charged in sex abuse scandal

    Former Penn State President Graham Spanier on Thursday became the latest high-ranking school official to face charges in the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Additional charges were also filed against two other school officials already charged in the case.

    November 1, 2012 1 Photo

  • dd5576bc7a387e1c1d0f6a7067004664.jpg Our Opinion: Sandusky jail term protects children and sends a message

    There probably isn’t much new to say about the Jerry Sandusky saga at this point. However, yesterday’s sentencing of Sandusky to 30 to 60 years in prison — essentially a life term — for his conviction on child sex abuse charges, warrants additional comment.

    October 10, 2012 1 Photo

  • dd5576bc7a387e1c1d0f6a7067004664.jpg Jerry Sandusky will die in prison, judge says

    Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison — effectively a life sentence — in the child-sex-abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno's downfall. A defiant Sandusky gave a rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.

    October 9, 2012 1 Photo 1 Story

  • 892c29737a097e1c1d0f6a706700ba3c.jpg Former PSU assistant Jerry Sandusky sentenced to at least 30 years in prison

    Jerry Sandusky was sentenced Tuesday to at least 30 years in prison — effectively a life sentence — in the child sexual abuse scandal that brought shame to Penn State and led to coach Joe Paterno's downfall. A defiant Sandusky gave a rambling statement in which he denied the allegations and talked about his life in prison and the pain of being away from his family.

    October 9, 2012 1 Photo

House Ads
Poll

Beginning tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL playoffs. So, who ya got? And in how many games?

Penguins, in five games or fewer. Too much firepower for the Blue Jackets, especially if Evgeni Malkin is ready to go.
Penguins, in six or seven games. It’s a pretty even matchup on defense, but Pittsburgh will grind it out.
Blue Jackets, in five games or fewer. Sergei Bobrovsky in goal for the Blue Jackets spells trouble for the Pens.
Blue Jackets, in six or seven games. Bobrovsky gives Columbus the edge, but it won’t be easy.
     View Results