Former Penn State President Graham Spanier wrote a letter to the university’s board of trustees Sunday to say the findings of Louis B. Freeh’s investigation into the university’s handling of allegations against Jerry Sandusky was fraught with factual errors. Spanier said his attorneys would confidentially share with the university the “many errors” contained in the 267-page Freeh report.
The letter came on the eve of unprecedented sanctions from the NCAA against Penn State’s football program, which included $60 million in fines, a four-year postseason ban, the loss of scholarships and the vacating of every win the program had between 1998 and 2011. It was during that time period, according to the Freeh report, that Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, former vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz and former head coach Joe Paterno all concealed information that Sandusky was sexually abusing children.
But, in the three-page letter, Spanier said he would never have stood idly by while Sandusky, the former assistant coach recently convicted of 45 counts of sex abuse, molested children. According to the letter, Spanier was only made aware of an investigation involving multiple victims after a grand jury presentment was released in November last year.
In terms of his reporting obligations to the board, Spanier said he followed the advice of the university’s then-general counsel, former state Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Baldwin, who Spanier said told him few details about how she was handling the grand jury investigation.
“She never told me anything about the content of the interviews with athletic department staff or the Curley and Schultz grand jury testimony or the interview of Curley and Schultz by the attorney general when she was present,” Spanier said.
“She did tell me on at least three occasions, however, that this was the third or fourth grand jury on this matter, that there appeared to be no issue for the university, and that the attorney general did not seem to have any evidence to suggest that something happened involving Penn State,” he said. Baldwin’s attorney, Fox Rothschild partner Charles De Monaco, took issue with Spanier’s allegations.
“I, as counsel for Cynthia Baldwin, deny the statements of Graham Spanier as they relate to improper conduct by Cynthia Baldwin,” De Monaco said in the statement. “She at all times upheld her duties to the university and its agents. She is obligated to maintain silence to fulfill her ethical obligations to the university. This silence should not be used against her to give credibility to these and other allegations against her.”
De Monaco said he and Baldwin intend to address allegations and legal issues “directly with the university and in legal proceedings, not in the media.”
Spanier called the Freeh report “egregious in its incomplete and inaccurate reporting” of his discussions with certain trustees.
Under Baldwin’s advice, he said, he kept the board as informed as he could.
Regarding the Freeh report’s finding that Spanier corresponded with Schultz and Curley in 1998, when Sandusky was investigated by local authorities but never charged, Spanier was steadfast that he did not conceal allegations of sexual abuse, as the Freeh report suggests.
In his letter to the board, Spanier conceded he was “apparently copied on two emails” in 1998. But that was it, the former president said.
“I have no recollection of any conversations on the topic or any other emails from that era sent to me or by me,” he said. “It is public knowledge that the district attorney decided there was no crime to pursue. I don’t understand how one could conclude from such evidence ‘concealment’ of a known child predator.”
As for the 2001 incident, Spanier also said he did not have the “slightest inkling” that Sandusky was being investigated for more than one incident — that being the account of former graduate assistant Mike McQueary that Sandusky molested a boy in a Penn State locker room in 2001, an incident he maintained was described to him only as “‘horsing around.’”
Spanier said McQueary’s name was never mentioned to him and it was clear that Curley and Schultz had not yet spoken to the former graduate assistant when the administrators gave Spanier what he called the “initial heads up.”
“I was in fact told the witness wasn’t sure what he saw, since it was around a corner,” Spanier wrote.
He included two additional pages of material titled “Initial Heads Up” and “Follow Up” that he apparently provided Freeh’s investigators, as well, regarding his handling of the 2001 incident.
The Freeh report reveals that in late February 2001, after McQueary reported the assault, Spanier, Curley and Schultz all met in person to devise a course of action.
Emails showed that the administrators decided they would talk to Sandusky personally and eventually inform leadership at the charity through which he met his victims, The Second Mile.
If Sandusky obliged, the emails showed, his superiors would work with him to handle informing The Second Mile. Curley added: “Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities.”
In a reply to Curley and Schultz, Spanier wrote: “This approach is acceptable to me. It requires you to go a step further and means that your conversation will be all the more difficult, but I admire your willingness to do that and I am supportive.”
He continued: “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ or acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed.”
In the enclosed statement, which he gave Freeh’s investigators, Spanier said his use of the word “humane” was simply referring to Curley’s wish to inform Sandusky first and to allow Sandusky to attend the meeting with Second Mile leaders.
He added: “My comment that we could be vulnerable for not reporting it further relates specifically and only to Tim’s concern about the possibility that Jerry would not accept our directive and repeat the practice,” Spanier said in the statement to Freeh’s team, enclosed in his letter to the board.
Spanier’s attorney, Peter Vaira of Vaira & Riley in Philadelphia, declined comment.