Lawyers for Former Penn State President Attack Veracity of Report on Scandal

Carolyn Kaster, AP Images

An investigative report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal drew "unsupported and outrageous" conclusions about Graham B. Spanier (pictured), a lawyer for the former Penn State president said on Wednesday.
August 22, 2012

A lawyer for Graham B. Spanier, the embattled former Pennsylvania State University president, picked apart the scathing university-commissioned report on the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal on Wednesday, calling it a "blundering and indefensible indictment" of his client.

Speaking at a news conference in Philadelphia, Timothy K. Lewis, a former federal prosecutor and judge, cited repeated examples of "unsupported and outrageous" conclusions made about Mr. Spanier in the 267-page report.

The report—which was produced by a team led by Louis J. Freeh, a former FBI director—showed that Mr. Spanier should have known about complaints against the former Nittany Lions assistant football coach, who was convicted in June on 45 counts of abusing children, in 1998 and 2001. The report asserted that Mr. Spanier and other top Penn State officials repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Mr. Sandusky's abuse, showing a "total and consistent disregard" for the safety and welfare of children.


But according to his lawyers, Mr. Spanier had scant involvement in the 1998 and 2001 complaints, and did not know that any of the allegations against the coach were of a sexual nature.

His lawyers attacked the veracity of testimony by Mike McQueary, the former Penn State graduate assistant who has testified that he saw Mr. Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in the university football team's showers.

Mr. Spanier's lawyers questioned whether that is what Mr. McQueary told Joe Paterno, the university's legendary football coach, and whether that message reached Gary C. Schultz, the former senior vice president, or Timothy M. Curley, the athletic director who is now on paid administrative leave.

According to Mr. Spanier's lawyers, Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley have denied telling Mr. Spanier that the allegations against Mr. Sandusky were of a sexual nature. Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley, who have been charged with lying to a grand jury and failing to report allegations of sexual abuse, await trial in January. They say they are innocent.

Spanier Speaks Out

Mr. Spanier, who was fired as the university's president in November, has not been charged in the case. He did not attend Wednesday's news conference, but was scheduled to appear later on Wednesday in taped ABC and ESPN interviews, where he spoke publicly about his role in the scandal. He also spoke with The New Yorker.

The Freeh report, which was based on interviews with more than 400 people and done over eight months, left out critical facts and relied on limited testimony, Mr. Spanier's lawyers said. On the advice of their lawyers, Mr. Sandusky, Mr. Schultz, and Mr. Curley declined to sit for interviews with Mr. Freeh's team. Freeh investigators also did not speak to Mr. McQueary or Mr. Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January.

In its report, which was released in July, Mr. Freeh's team also said it had reviewed more than three million e-mails and documents. But most e-mails written by university administrators before 2004 are irretrievable, Mr. Spanier's lawyers said, having been wiped out in a computer-system changeover.

"Thus, [Freeh investigators are] unable to accurately reconstruct the context surrounding the few 2001 e-mail exchanges that survived and that allegedly support a sinister coverup by Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier," write Mr. Spanier's lawyers in an 18-page rebuttal to the Freeh findings.

The document goes on to say that the Freeh team's selected naming of sources and curious omissions represent an incomplete picture of what really happened. Dozens of people interviewed by the group believe that their stories were distorted by investigators and that they provided different information to Freeh team members that would contradict the conclusions the report draws about Penn State officials, the rebuttal says.

In an e-mail, a Freeh representative said that the team stands by its report.

'Wasn't Sure What Was Happening'

Mr. Spanier's lawyers cited evidence from Jonathan Dranov, a doctor and family friend of the McQueary family, who testified in Mr. Sandusky's trial. He was at the McQueary house in the hours after the incident with the boy in the shower, and testified that Mike McQueary denied seeing any sexual contact or abuse.

The lawyers also produced a letter from Gary J. Gray, a visiting professor of finance at Penn State and a close friend of Mr. Spanier's. He played for Coach Paterno and visited him last December, recounting that conversation in a letter he wrote to the university's Board of Trustees this month.

In the letter, he says, Mr. Paterno asserted that Mr. McQueary "told him that he had seen Jerry engaged in horseplay or horsing around with a young boy" and that Mr. McQueary "wasn't sure what was happening."

In an interview with The Chronicle on Wednesday, Mr. Gray said he did not "cross-examine" Mr. Paterno, who told a grand jury last year that Mr. McQueary had described a sexual incident in the showers.

"I'm just telling people what I learned," Mr. Gray said. "What I learned is that Jerry fooled everyone: me, Graham, Joe, Tim, Gary—everybody who knew him."