Penn State taps former FBI director Louis Freeh in child sex-abuse investigation
PHILADELPHIA - Former FBI director Louis Freeh, tapped to lead Penn State's investigation into the child sex-abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach, said his inquiry will go as far back as 1975, a much longer period than a grand jury report issued earlier this month.
Freeh was named Monday to oversee the university board of trustees' internal investigation into the abuse allegations that ultimately led to the ouster of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier.
Freeh said his goal was to conduct a comprehensive, fair and quick review. His team of former FBI agents, federal prosecutors and others has already begun the process of reading the grand jury report and looking at records.
"We will immediately report any evidence of criminality to law enforcement authorities," said Freeh, who has no direct connection to Penn State.
Penn State has faced criticism since announcing that its internal investigation would be led by two university trustees, Merck pharmaceutical company CEO Kenneth Frazier and state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis.
Faculty members on Friday called for an independent investigation of how the university handled abuse allegations, and the faculty senate endorsed a resolution asking for an independent investigation.
In announcing Freeh's appointment, Frazier stressed the former FBI director's independence. Freeh will be empowered to investigate employees up to and including the board of trustees itself, Frazier said.
"No one is above scrutiny," Frazier said. "He has complete rein to follow any lead, to look into every corner of the university to get to the bottom of what happened and then to make recommendations that will help ensure that it never happens again."
Freeh said he had been assured there would be "no favouritism." He called that assurance "the main condition of my engagement."
Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of molesting eight boys over a 15-year period beginning in the mid-1990s. Authorities say some assaults happened on campus and were reported to administrators but not to police.
Authorities say Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, met the children through The Second Mile, a youth charity that he started in 1977. By going back as far as 1975, Freeh's investigation would cover the entire time The Second Mile has existed and 24 of the 30 years that Sandusky worked at Penn State.
Amid the scandal, Penn State's trustees ousted Spanier and Paterno. The trustees said Spanier and Paterno failed to act after a graduate assistant claimed he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in a campus shower in 2002.
Paterno, who has the most wins of any major college football coach, has conceded he should have done more. Spanier has said he would have reported a crime if he had suspected one had been committed.
Sandusky has said he is innocent. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but said he never molested them.
Former school administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are charged with not properly alerting authorities to suspected abuse and with perjury. They maintain their innocence.
Freeh founded an investigation firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, after leading the FBI from 1993 to 2001. He previously served six years as a special agent.
After his time at the FBI, Freeh also did work for credit card giant MBNA, which has business relationships with Penn State and its alumni association. But a spokeswoman for Freeh's investigation said in a statement that it would not compromise the probe. The statement said Freeh has "no previous personal connection to Penn State" and had no role in negotiating MBNA's longstanding business deal with the school.
Freeh's law firm was hired to look into the bribery case involving FIFA's presidential election. Soccer's governing body banned candidate Mohamed bin Hammam for life for bribing voters. The ruling body also banned 11 Caribbean soccer leaders and disciplined others in the corruption scandal.
Freeh said he spoke with Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly on Sunday night and was determined not to interfere with the ongoing criminal case. A spokesman for Kelly said she was aware of the Penn State trustees' special committee, but declined comment about it.
Gov. Tom Corbett called Freeh's selection "a good one," noting his familiarity with grand juries and the role of prosecutors.
Rod Erickson, Penn State's new president, also lauded the selection. He vowed complete co-operation and said Freeh's findings "will prompt immediate actions for which I will remain responsible."
Freeh will report to a special committee comprised of six university trustees; Dan Hagen, chair of the university's faculty senate; Rodney Hughes, a doctoral student in higher education at Penn State; and retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Guion Bluford, a 1964 Penn State graduate.
Officials also announced that anyone who has information related to the probe can contact investigators at a telephone hotline — 855-290-3382 — and a special email, PSUhelp(at)freehgroup.com.
Meanwhile, Penn State police have referred a report of an indecent assault at an outdoor swimming pool building to the attorney general's office.
A police log noted the report referred to an incident that occurred sometime between June 1, 2000, and Aug. 30, 2000. The report was made to campus police Wednesday and was noted on Thursday's police log.
When asked if the report was related to allegations against Sandusky, Penn State Police Chief Tyrone Parham said Monday: "We can never describe anything related to a victim or suspect."
State open records laws do not require Penn State to release the full police report.
A state lawmaker who represents the State College area said he was sponsoring a bill that would reverse the exemption — which currently applies to Penn State and three other universities that rely heavily on state funding but are independently run.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff said a "more open climate" might prevent future scandals.
Associated Press writers Genaro C. Armas in State College, Pa.; Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa.; and Fred Lief in New York contributed to this report.