Lawyer for ex-Penn State president blasts Freeh report

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 22, 2012 1:14 PM
Lawyer for ex-Penn State president blasts Freeh report

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A lawyer for Penn State's ex-president assailed a report on the university sex abuse scandal on Wednesday as a myth filled with unsupported and outrageous conclusions against former university leader Graham Spanier.

Timothy K. Lewis, a former federal judge and prosecutor who represents Spanier, criticized the author of that report, Louis Freeh, also a former judge and a former FBI chief, who was hired by the university to investigate the scandal that rocked U.S. college football and Pennsylvania's biggest university.

Spanier and legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno were fired after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. A jury later convicted Sandusky of 45 of the 48 counts against him.

Freeh, in a report issued in July, said Penn State leaders covered up Sandusky's sexual abuse of children for years, showing a callous disregard for the victims to protect a multimillion-dollar football program.

"There is nothing full or complete about the Freeh report," Lewis told a news conference. "Nor am I aware of any court in the land that would accept such unsupported and outrageous conclusions as independent, or any judge who would put his or her name behind them."

Spanier was not at the press conference. He was expected to appear in television interviews on ABC and ESPN later Wednesday and Thursday.

"The Freeh report, as it pertains to Dr. Spanier, is a myth," Lewis said. "And that myth, along with the free pass its author has enjoyed thus far, ends today."

Another of Spanier's lawyers, John E. Riley, said he had no information that Spanier would be indicted in the Penn State case, as was the case with former university vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The Freeh report quoted an email from Spanier to Shultz and Curley in February of 2001. Spanier was responding to an earlier note from Curley with suggestions about how to handle a report from graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary that he had seen Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in a Penn State locker room shower.

In the email, Spanier agreed with Curley's decision not to report the incident to child welfare authorities and said, "The only downside for us is if the message isn't heard (by Sandusky) and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it."

Riley deflected a question about the email, saying, "Ultimately we're going to defer to Dr. Spanier to explain what he meant and intended by that."

In his report, Freeh criticized each of Spanier, Shultz, Curley and Paterno as having total disregard for the safety and welfare of the children Sandusky molested. Paterno died in January, two months after he was fired. He was the winningest coach in major college football history.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Stacey Joyce)