Attorney calls Penn State review led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh "blundering"
267-page report released in July blamed ex-president with taking part in coverup
Former coach was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 young boys over several years
In his first interview since the scandal, Spanier spoke with The New Yorker magazine
Attorneys for Graham Spanier on Wednesday blasted a university-funded review that accused the former Penn State president of complicity in the alleged coverup of a child sex abuse scandal involving former coach Jerry Sandusky.
Timothy K. Lewis called the review led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh a “blundering, indefensible indictment” and “a flat-out distortion of facts” that was “infused with bias and innuendo.”
Freeh’s 267-page report was released in July and blamed Spanier, legendary football coach Joe Paterno, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz with taking part in a coverup to avoid bad publicity.
The scandal led to Spanier’s ouster and shocked the nation after Freeh’s team concluded that the school’s top administrators had “empowered” Sandusky to continue his abuse.
Freeh also said Paterno could have stopped the attacks had he done more, though neither graduate assistant Mike McQueary, Sandusky nor Paterno – who died in January – were interviewed by his investigators.
The former defensive coordinator was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 young boys over several years. He continues to maintain his innocence.
In Spanier’s first interview since the scandal unfolded, he spoke with The New Yorker magazine in an interview published Wednesday.
Spanier reiterated his position about e-mails he is accused of exchanging with top university officials over two specific allegations of abuse involving Sandusky: one in 1998 and another in 2001.
“I have no recollection” of the exchanges from the 1998 incident, he told Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and CNN senior legal analyst.
“I am aware, as I said in my letter to the board of trustees, that I was apparently copied on two e-mails. I didn’t reply to them. The first e-mail that I saw didn’t mention anybody’s name. It simply said something to the effect of ‘The employee will be interviewed tomorrow,’ something like that, no name mentioned. Then, about five weeks later, I think it was, I was copied on another e-mail that said, ‘The interview has been completed, the investigation has been completed, nothing was found, Jerry felt badly that the kid might have felt badly.’ “
Spanier then said Curley and Schultz came to him “with a heads-up” after the 2001 incident, in which McQueary reported that he heard “rhythmic slapping sounds” coming from a university shower room and saw Sandusky directly behind a young boy.
“They said we received a report that a member of the athletic department staff, after a workout in one of our athletic facilities, saw Jerry Sandusky in the locker room with one of his kids, meaning one of his Second Mile kids,” Spanier said, referring to Sandusky’s former foundation. “And it was reported that they were horsing around in the shower. Now, they either used the word ‘horsing around’ or ‘horseplay.’ And the staff member wasn’t sure what he saw, because it was indirect and around a corner.”
The former president then said he recalls asking whether the administrators were “sure that’s how it was described to you, as ‘horsing around’?
“And the answer was yes from both Gary and Tim,” Spanier recalled. “I remember, for a moment, sort of figuratively scratching our heads and thinking about what’s an appropriate way to follow up on ‘horsing around.’ I had never gotten a report like that before.”
Spanier then said that he decided Curley should speak with Sandusky “and explain to him that this is unacceptable to us.”
“He was no longer an employee at the university; he’d been retired for three years. So we didn’t have any hold over him in that way. But he was with the Second Mile, and we thought, we should tell the president of the Second Mile that we’re going to give Jerry this directive, and we’d like their support for that, and we don’t want any Second Mile kids being brought into the athletic shower facilities.”
Curley and Schultz still face felony perjury counts amid accusations of lying to a grand jury and failing to report suspected child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.
“As Mr. Spanier’s lawyers said today, there is one thing about which there is no doubt: Tim Curley did not tell Dr. Spanier that Mr. Sandusky sexually abused a young boy in 2001,” said Curley’s attorney, Caroline Roberto. “And that is because Mike McQueary never told anyone, including Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, that he witnessed Mr. Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a Penn State shower.”
She said the truth will be determined at trial and not by the “baseless opinion of a so-called independent investigation.”
Schultz’s attorney, Tom Farrell, said the Freeh report was “inaccurate, incomplete and unfair.”
Schultz testified to a grand jury that McQueary never told him that the assistant had witnessed sexual abuse, Farrell reiterated.
CNN’s Jason Carroll contributed to this report.