Records Suggest Penn State Officials Knew Sexual Nature of Sandusky Encounter

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Gary Schultz (left), Penn State's former senior vice president of finance and business, and Tim Curley, the athletic director on administrative leave, face charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse. Both have maintained their innocence.
July 01, 2012

Top Pennsylvania State University officials held a three-hour meeting to discuss Jerry Sandusky in 2001 over concerns about the former coach's behavior with a boy in the football showers. A law-firm billing record from that conversation describes a "report of suspected child abuse," according to a person with knowledge of an independent investigation into the matter.

The new information adds to a detailed report by CNN and suggests that several top Penn State administrators, despite their claims otherwise, knew about the sexual nature of the accusation against Mr. Sandusky. Their failure to report it to child-welfare agencies, which is required by Pennsylvania law, could lead to further charges in the case.

New evidence also suggests that Joe Paterno, the head football coach, may have played a role in the university's failure to notify outside authorities. Previously, he said that he had done his job by simply reporting concerns about Sandusky's behavior up the line.

Mr. Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing four more boys after the 2001 incident in Penn State's showers. Late last month, he was convicted of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

According to e-mails read to CNN, Graham Spanier, Penn State's former president, and two other university officials—Gary Schultz, the former senior vice president of finance and business, and Tim Curley, the athletic director on administrative leave—agreed to take a "humane" approach in dealing with Mr. Sandusky following his alleged sexual encounter with a boy.

Instead of reporting the incident to outside investigators, administrators reportedly planned to ask Mr. Sandusky to seek counseling and said they would tell officials at the Second Mile, the charity where he met many of the children he would later abuse, about their concerns.

According to three people with knowledge of the investigation, including one person The Chronicle spoke to, Mr. Spanier acknowledged in an e-mail that Penn State could be in a weak position for not reporting the allegations against Mr. Sandusky.

"The only downside for us is if the message [to Sandusky] isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Mr. Spanier reportedly wrote in an e-mail to Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley in late February 2001.

Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley face charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse. A hearing in their case is scheduled for July 11. Both men have denied knowing about the sexual nature of the 2001 incident involving Mr. Sandusky, saying they believed it to be nothing more than "horsing around."

According to CNN, Mr. Schultz and Mr. Curley had initially drawn up plans that included notifying the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare about their concerns with the former assistant coach.

In an e-mail dated February 26, 2001, Mr. Schultz, who oversaw the campus police department at the time, wrote to Mr. Curley, outlining a three-part plan: "talk with the subject asap regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility,"... "contacting the chair of the charitable organization," and "contacting the Department of Welfare," according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

The next day, Mr. Curley allegedly wrote to Mr. Spanier, saying he had spoken with Mr. Paterno and no longer wanted to contact the child-welfare office.

"After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps," Mr. Curley wrote. "I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved."

According to CNN, Mr. Curley then wrote to Mr. Spanier, saying he wanted to meet with Mr. Sandusky privately, tell him there's a problem, and that "we want to assist the individual to get professional help."

In the same e-mail, according to CNN, Mr. Curley also suggested that if Mr. Sandusky "is cooperative," Penn State "would work with him" to tell Second Mile. If not, Mr. Curley wrote, the university would inform both Second Mile and outside authorities.

The purported e-mails were discovered during an investigation by Louis J. Freeh, the former FBI director whose consulting company was hired last November by Penn State's Board of Trustees to examine the university's role in the scandal. Mr. Freeh's company is scheduled to release a report sometime in the coming weeks detailing who knew what about the former coach and why no one acted sooner to stop him.

Defending the Program

Those e-mails and other records suggest a disturbing pattern of how the university dealt with high-profile problems in football.

Mr. Paterno was often at the center of conversations related to disciplinary issues in the program, even when it wasn't his place to handle such problems. And according to documents obtained by The Chronicle, administrators at the highest levels made sure he got his way.

Letters and e-mails that one former top Penn State administrator provided to Mr. Freeh's investigators show that Mr. Spanier and Wendell V. Courtney, the university's general counsel, repeatedly intervened on Coach Paterno's behalf in an apparent attempt to quash problems.

One such incident happened in 2007, when six football players were charged with forcing their way into an off-campus apartment and beating up several fellow students. After the university received a police search warrant requesting any documents related to the case, Mr. Courtney removed four letters and memos from a file, claiming the information violated the players' rights to privacy.

In one letter, Philip J. Burlingame, the associate vice president for student affairs, had written to Shirley M. Kitchen, a state senator apparently concerned about the university's response to the incident. Mr. Burlingame wrote that the university viewed the alleged assault "as a very serious criminal incident," saying "we fully intend to do all we can to identify and properly adjudicate all Penn State students who were involved as perpetrators of these crimes." The letter did not name any of the players charged in the attacks or any of the students involved; it did, however, name one of their parents.

In another letter related to the case, Joe Puzycki, Penn State's assistant vice president for student affairs, described how Coach Paterno had a text message sent out to every football player, saying that if any of them went into the student-affairs office to respond to the university's code of conduct complaint in the matter, they would be "thrown off the team." After Mr. Puzycki asked for a copy of that text message, a student said he could not provide it. According to the student, Coach Paterno reportedly said, "if you had a problem with that, you could call him directly."

Mr. Spanier also became involved in the university’s disciplinary process in that case, helping schedule player interviews and organizing a meeting at his home with Mr. Paterno, Mr. Curley, Mr. Courtney, and the then-vice president of student affairs, Vicky Triponey. In a letter that Ms. Triponey wrote to Mr. Spanier ahead of that meeting, she expressed concerns that she was being pressured to alter discipline decisions involving football players.

"I am being forced into a meeting that seriously jeopardizes my ability to be an impartial appeal officer in our student discipline system and the Division of Student Affairs is being pressured to make decisions that go beyond the boundaries and jeopardize the integrity of our student discipline process," she wrote.

In an e-mail to Mr. Spanier and Mr. Curley, Mr. Courtney, the lawyer, said he had informed Ms. Triponey about how she should act in the meeting with Mr. Paterno, whose initials were JVP.

"I did note the possibility that JVP could try to negotiate at some level," he wrote, "and she should listen and try to keep comments to a bare minimum."

A Paterno Response

It is unclear how much Mr. Paterno may have intervened in the 2001 Sandusky investigation.

Mr. Paterno died of lung cancer in January. A family spokesman, Dan McGinn, told The New York Times on Sunday that there was no evidence that Mr. Paterno interfered with any investigation and that the e-mails among the university's top administrators in the Sandusky matter could be interpreted various ways.

"If Joe Paterno wanted to interfere, why did he report the incident immediately" to university officials? Mr. McGinn told the Times, adding that he was disturbed by what he called the "selective leaking" of the e-mails. "You are only seeing a piece of the puzzle."

In a statement, Wick Sollers, a lawyer for the Paterno family, said: "To be clear, the e-mails in question did not originate with Joe Paterno or go to him, as he never personally utilized e-mail.

"From the beginning, Joe Paterno warned against a rush to judgment in this case. Coach Paterno testified truthfully, to the best of his recollection, in the one brief appearance he made before the grand jury. As he testified, when informed of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky in 2001, Coach Paterno followed university procedures and promptly and fully informed his superiors. He believed the matter would be thoroughly and professionally investigated."