Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
A rebuke, but not a defense
A rebuke, but not a defense
The Freeh Report could be equated to the closing argument of the prosecution in the trial of Joseph Vincent Paterno.
Except there is no trial.
The Paterno family's rebuttal, its report on the report, published on the Internet and read by This Space Sunday, can be seen as the closing argument of the defense.
But against what?
Joe Paterno is not only dead and gone. He is not, and has never been, on trial. He has never even been accused of a crime.
The varied mass assessment of his character is, like it or not, mostly settled. This report won't change that, for better or worse.
Yes, the report's contention that "The Freeh report was oversold to the public,'' is, although subjective, now undeniable.
NCAA president Mark Emmert acknowledged basing his punishment of Penn State and its football program on the report. That was, literally, a rush to judgment, and not a sane one.
Freeh oversold his own report when he insisted, as he did again Sunday in a response to the response, that, "e-mails and contemporary documents from 2001 show that ... four of the most powerful officials at Penn State agreed not to report Sandusky's activity to public officials."
It doesn't even come close to proving that.
Yes, there was an over-dramatic narrative spun early in this nightmare by too many in the media and seconded by Freeh and acceded to by the Penn State administration. That narrative, of conspiracies of silence and a toxic "football culture,'' is mostly nonsense. The world is just too messy for that.
Not sure we needed that point made in February, 2013, but, you know, gentlemen, start your litigation.
Yes, too many people -- including, most notably, Mark Emmert -- elevated the Freeh report to the level of proof. Court-of-law-level proof.
Sunday's report (let's call it "The Paterno Report," or TPR, from here on) judges the Freeh Report by that standard, and concludes, correctly, that it falls short. By a lot.
But so does the Paterno Report.
It makes much, for example, of the fact that Freeh and his team never interviewed Joe.
They asked, and he declined, even though he was willing to speak to Joe Posnanski and Sally Jenkins, two members of the dirty, filthy, rotten, biased media.
"We also asked Mr. Paterno's attorney to provide us with any evidence that he and his client felt should be considered,'' Freeh said Sunday. "The documents provided were included in our report."
Freeh's critics make much of the (substantial) skeletons in his closet.
But TPR's lead dog is Dick Thornburgh, former Republican Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General. Don't expect Nittany Nation to belabor Thornburgh's long history of connection to grand-jury leaks and prosecutorial "creativity,'' including at least one episode termed, ``the sleaziest entrapment yet perpetrated on a suspect,'' by, of all people, former conservative columnist William Safire.
For that matter, bear in mind that one of the principals of yesterday's report, the Washington, D.C. law firm King & Spalding, is a hired mouthpiece of the Paterno family clearly planning litigation against all or some of the NCAA, Freeh and the Penn State Board of Trustees.
None of that would matter if TPR had explained us past the first, now infamous, time Sandusky was investigated for an incident of abuse, in 1998.
Again, it doesn't come close.
To refresh a hideous memory, the 1998 investigation did not result in prosecution. It did result in Sandusky acknowledging he had showered with an 11 year-old boy, apologizing and promising never to do it again and admitting to the victim's mother that, "I wish I were dead.''
The Freeh report includes handwritten notes by Penn State administrator Gary Schultz from meetings he attended regarding specific incidents of Sandusky showering with specific children on May 4 and 5 of '98.
The report says Schultz told Tim Curley about those meetings on May 5. There is an email from Curley to Schultz and Graham Spanier, on May 5, with the subject line, "Joe Paterno,'' that reads, "I have touched base with coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.''
The '98 incident is addressed, in TPR, by Thornburgh and Joe Clemente, a former FBI "child sex-abuse expert."
Clemente believes Sandusky simply fooled everybody. Completely and spectacularly. His "proof,'' of this amounts to, "I've dealt with a lot of these guys, and you can't believe how crafty and devious they can be."
Or, as he puts it:
"… the closing of this (District Attorney's office) investigation as unfounded was confirmation of Sandusky's outstanding reputation and their belief that he was a devoted advocate for children.''
One of the many problems with that passage: Joe Paterno never contended the investigation confirmed Sandusky's reputation. He contended he didn't know the investigation existed.
Thornburgh contends Freeh doesn't prove the "coach,'' in the e-mail refers to Paterno. Convenient to that conclusion, he doesn't mention Schultz' notes, the meetings they refer to, or the timing on the e-mail in relation to the meeting.
Thornburgh's right, I suppose. Freeh doesn't "prove,'' it, at least in a court-of-law sense.
But if that's the standard, promise me you'll apply it to Thornburgh, Clemente, et al. the same way you applied it to Freeh.
The Paterno Report is a powerful rebuke of the Freeh Report, and maybe that's all it needs to be.
But it isn't a powerful defense of anything.
nThe Paterno family's rebuttal to the Freeh Report likely won't change the mass assessment of late coach Joe Paterno's character.