Paterno's family pleads his case on 'Katie'
Updated: February 11, 2013 - 11:45 pm
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP/WJLA) - Joe Paterno’s widow is challenging the official account of her husband’s role in a cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse at Penn State. Sue Paterno broke her silence Monday, talking with Katie Couric about what she considers an injustice.
Fighting back, Paterno, her children, and her supporters sat down to talk with Couric, trying to clear the reputation of the once legendary Penn State football coach.
“The Joe I know, the former players know, if he ever knew Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile he would have done something about it,” says Greg Buttle, a former player.
An independent report commissioned by the university and conducted by FBI director Louis Freeh concluded Paterno and other university officials helped cover up the crimes.
Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, one of the experts assembled by the family's lawyer to review Freeh's report last year to Penn State, called the document was fundamentally flawed and incomplete.
Freeh's report reached "inaccurate and unfounded findings related to Mr. Paterno and its numerous process-oriented deficiencies was a rush to injustice and calls into question" the investigation's credibility, Thornburgh was quoted as saying.
In a statement released Sunday through a spokesman, Freeh defended his work.
"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," he said.
Paterno's family released what it billed as an exhaustive response to Freeh's work, based on independent analyses, on the website paterno.com.
"We conclude that the observations as to Joe Paterno in the Freeh report are unfounded, and have done a disservice not only to Joe Paterno and the university community," the family's report said, "but also to the victims of Jerry Sandusky and the critical mission of educating the public on the dangers of child sexual victimization."
Freeh's findings also implicated former administrators in university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz. Less than two weeks after the Freeh report was released in July, the NCAA acted with uncharacteristic speed in levying massive sanctions against the football program for the scandal.
"Taking into account the available witness statements and evidence, it is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University - Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley - repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse" from authorities, trustees and the university community, Freeh wrote in releasing the report.
The former administrators have vehemently denied the allegations. So, too, has Paterno's family, though it reserved more extensive comment until its own report was complete.
The counter-offensive began in earnest this weekend. The family's findings said that Paterno:
- Never asked or told anyone not to investigate an allegation made against Sandusky 12 years ago, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2001.
- Never asked or told former administrators not to report the 2001 allegation.
- And never asked or told anyone not to discuss or hide information reported by graduate assistant Mike McQueary about the 2001 allegation.
"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 family's analysis said.
Paterno's widow, Sue, sent a letter to hundreds of former players Friday, informing them of the report's impending release. "The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events," she wrote.
"I had expected to find Louis Freeh had done his usual thorough and professional job," Thornburgh said in a video posted on paterno.com. "I found the report to be inaccurate in some respects, speculative and unsupported to the record compiled ... in short, fundamentally flawed as to the determinations made to the role - if any - Mr. Paterno played in any of this."
Freeh, in his report, said his team conducted 430 interviews and analyzed over 3.5 million emails and documents. The former federal judge said evidence showed Paterno was involved in an "active agreement to conceal" and his report cited email exchanges, which referenced Paterno, between administrators about allegations against Sandusky in 1998 and 2001.
According to Thornburgh's findings, Freeh's report relied on about 30 documents, including three notes authored by Paterno, and 17 emails. Four emails referenced Paterno - none sent by the octogenarian coach who notoriously shunned modern electronic technology.
Sandusky, 69, was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in October after being convicted last summer of 45 criminal counts. Prosecutors said assaults occurred off and on campus, including the football building.
His arrest in November 2011 triggered the turmoil that led to Paterno's firing days later. Under pressure, Spanier left as president the same day. Curley was placed on administrative leave, while Schultz retired.
Spanier, Curley and Schultz are awaiting trial on obstruction and conspiracy, among other charges. They have maintained their innocence.
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