[Updated: 1:49 p.m., 7/12/2012.]
Three weeks after Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation, an independent report has painted a damning portrait of top officials at Pennsylvania State University and how they dealt with accusations of sexual misconduct against the former football coach.
According to a report released in Philadelphia on Thursday morning by Louis J. Freeh, the former FBI director commissioned to lead the eight-month investigation, top Penn State administrators including Graham B. Spanier, the university's former president, and Joe Paterno, the legendary football coach, showed a "total disregard for the safety and welfare" of children and hid critical facts from authorities, despite having knowledge of repeated allegations of child sex abuse by the coach.
"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," Mr. Freeh said in a statement. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized." Mr. Spanier, Mr. Paterno, Gary C. Schultz, the university's former senior vice president, and Timothy M. Curley, its athletic director, "never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
The report describes a series of missteps across the university, including a failure of the university to carry out provisions of the Clery Act, the federal law requiring the reporting of crimes like the ones Mr. Sandusky committed.
And while Mr. Freeh stops short of describing a coverup by university officials, various e-mails and documents suggest that Mr. Spanier, Mr. Schultz, Mr. Curley, and Mr. Paterno knew for years about the sexual nature of the accusations against Mr. Sandusky and kept them under wraps.
According to the report, top university officials first learned about Mr. Sandusky's unusual behavior beginning in May 1998, after the mother of an 11-year-old boy reported that the coach had showered with her son in the Lasch football building. The police began an investigation, which Mr. Schultz was immediately informed of. He notified Mr. Spanier and Mr. Curley in an e-mail stating, "Behavior—at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties." He also notes, "Is this the opening of pandora's box?" and "Other children?"
But the head of the police decided against pressing charges against the coach, saying, "I can justify that decision because of the lack of clear evidence of a crime." Mr. Curley then notified Mr. Spanier and Mr. Schultz that he had "touched base with" Mr. Paterno about the incident, and Mr. Sandusky continued to coach.
Days later, when the university's Board of Trustees met, Mr. Spanier did not notify its members of the investigation, a disturbing pattern he repeated during a 2001 investigation into the coach, the report says.
"By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual-abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent grand-jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as president," the report concludes. "The board also failed in its duties to oversee the president and senior university officials in 1998 and 2001 by not inquiring about important university matters and by not creating an environment where senior university officials felt accountable."
During the 2001 investigation, Mr. Schultz consulted with Wendell V. Courtney, the university's outside counsel, "re reporting of suspected child abuse," according to documents Mr. Freeh's investigators found.
The next day, Mr. Spanier, Mr. Schultz, and Mr. Curley met to discuss the situation. Mr. Schultz's confidential notes indicated that he spoke to Mr. Curley, reviewed the history of the 1998 incident, and agreed that Mr. Curley would discuss the incident with Mr. Paterno.
Mr. Schultz's notes state: "Unless he confesses to having a problem, [Curley] will indicate we need to have DPW review the matter as an independent agency concerned w child welfare."
The three leaders devised a plan, reflected in Mr. Schultz's notes, that would include telling the chair of the board of Second Mile, the charity Mr. Sandusky started and where he preyed on children, and asking the coach to avoid bringing children alone into the Lasch building.
But after Mr. Curley spoke with Mr. Paterno, he e-mailed Mr. Spanier and Mr. Schultz that he had changed his mind about the plan. Instead, Mr. Curley proposed telling Mr. Sandusky that "we feel there is a problem" and offering him "professional help."
Mr. Spanier e-mailed Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley: "This approach is acceptable to me," he said. "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."
"But that can be assessed down the road," he continued. "The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed."
Those decisions illustrated a "striking lack of empathy for child-abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the university," the report says.
Mr. Spanier, who was interviewed by Mr. Freeh's staff last week, told the investigators that he never heard a report from anyone that Mr. Sandusky was engaged in any sexual abuse of children. Both Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley, who face charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report child abuse, have also denied knowing that Mr. Sandusky's behavior was of a sexual nature.
The report paints a different picture, with an indictment of Mr. Spanier very likely, one legal expert told The Chronicle.
“The Freeh report is a scathing indictment of Graham Spanier and others who fostered a culture at Penn State that valued football over possible child sexual-assault victims,” said John M. Burkoff, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert on criminal law in Pennsylvania. “It certainly appears to me that an actual indictment of Spanier would appear now to be all but inevitable.”
Matthew Casey, a lawyer for some of Mr. Sandusky's victims, said on Thursday that the report paints an even more damning portrait of top Penn State officials than early leaks seemed to indicate.
"Words like 'concealment,' words like 'shocking,' used by a former federal judge who was hired by Penn State," Mr. Casey said, "those are bad words for any institution that now has to assess their own liability."
Timothy Sandoval contributed to this article from Philadelphia, Jack Stripling from Washington.