Former FBI director to guide Penn State sex abuse inquiry

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Story highlights

  • It's unclear that Freeh will have the tools he needs for inquiry, analyst says
  • The investigation into the scandal will be lengthy, the former FBI director says
  • Former FBI Director Louis Freeh will lead Penn State's child sex abuse inquiry
  • Freeh has free rein to go where the investigation takes him, a trustee says

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh will lead an independent inquiry for Penn State University into the school's response to child sex abuse allegations, trustee Kenneth Frazier said Monday.

"No one -- no one -- is above scrutiny, including every member of the administration of the university, every member of our board of trustees, and every employee of the university," said Frazier, who was appointed to chair the special investigative committee into the university's response to allegations involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

A grand jury reported this month that university officials allegedly knew of allegations of misconduct on Sandusky's part, but failed to fully act on them.

Freeh, who will serve as special investigative counsel, said he extracted pledges of support and non-interference from university officials before taking on the job.

"This assurance is the main condition of my engagement," he said.

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He said will appoint a team of former FBI agents and former federal prosecutors from his law firm to assist. Results of the investigation will be released to trustees and the public at about the same time, he said.

It's unclear how effective Freeh will be, said CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

    "Louis Freeh is an honorable person, but the question is whether he will have the tools to do a thorough investigation." Toobin said.

    With police, the university and even Sandusky's former charity, The Second Mile, conducting their own investigations, it's unclear whether witnesses will want to repeat their stories over and over again, he said.

    At the heart of the scandal are accusations that Sandusky, the retired defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, sexually abused a boy at the university football complex, and that law enforcement officials were not notified.

    According to grand jury documents, a graduate assistant told head football coach Joe Paterno in 2002 that he had seen Sandusky performing anal sex on a young boy in a football complex shower. Paterno told athletic director Tim Curley, who told Gary Schultz, a university vice president. Some information about the allegations eventually reached President Graham Spanier, according to the grand jury.

    Paterno has said he did "what I was supposed to do." But in a later statement, he said "with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

    While it took years for the alleged abuse to become public, school officials moved quickly after prosecutors charged Sandusky, 67, with 40 counts in the alleged sexual abuse of eight young boys over several years. Authorities also charged Curley and Schultz with misleading the grand jury investigating the allegations and failing to report suspected abuse.

    Curley and Schultz stepped aside within a day of the charges, and before the week was out, trustees had fired both Paterno -- the winningest football coach in Division I history -- and Spanier.

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    The university's special committee, created six days after Sandusky's arrest, empowered Freeh to "take his team's work to wherever it leads," Frazier said.

    The NCAA and the U.S. Department of Education are also investigating the university's response.

    Freeh said he did not know how much the investigation will cost, or how long it will take, other than that it will be lengthy.

    Investigators had already begun work reviewing documents in the case, he said.

    While he does not have the subpoena power he enjoyed as an FBI official, Freeh said he is counting on the cooperation of law enforcement and the Penn State community, which is eager to restore the university's reputation.

    "In my current role, I will encourage everyone to speak to us," he said.

    Frazier said the scandal has caused irreparable harm to the school, but officials are determined to make sure it never happens again.

    "Words alone cannot express the heartbreak and sorrow we feel for the victims," he said.