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Paterno family challenges accusation of coverup

A report commissioned by the family of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach, said he was unfairly tarnished and implicated in the sexual abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant who was convicted last year of sexually assaulting 10 boys.

The 238-page report, which was compiled by a team led by Richard Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general, and released Sunday, said an even larger investigation into the scandal by Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, was "factually wrong, speculative and fundamentally flawed."

According to the Thornburgh report, the Freeh inquiry, which was ordered by the Penn State board of trustees and released in July, falsely accused Paterno of helping to cover up Sandusky's repeated abuse to shield the school from adverse publicity, and wrongly blamed the "football culture" at Penn State for helping foster Sandusky's crimes.

Unlike a legal proceeding, no one testified under oath and witnesses were allowed to speak anonymously in the Freeh report, which also failed to conduct interviews with "most of the key witnesses," the Thornburgh report said, including the university's top executives and Police Department as well as the District Attorney's Office in Centre County, where Penn State is.

"Having never talked with these individuals, the Freeh report still claimed to know what they did and why they did it," the Thornburgh report said.

Since Sandusky was arrested in late 2011, the Paterno family has been adamant that Paterno, who died a year ago, did not cover up Sandusky's crimes and that he followed university protocol in 2001 when he reported the matter to his superiors.

The university fired Paterno soon after the scandal broke, driving a wedge through the Penn State community where the longtime coach had been a beloved figure. The NCAA later imposed punitive sanctions on the school and football program.

The Thornburgh report repeated many of the claims made by the family in the past. Freeh, who has declined to address criticisms of his report, issued his own statement on Sunday.

"I respect the right of the Paterno family to hire private lawyers and former government officials to conduct public media campaigns in an effort to shape the legacy of Joe Paterno," Freeh said. "However, the self-serving report the Paterno family has issued today does not change the facts established in the Freeh report."

Penn State said that it was "understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report." The university said it would continue to implement recommendations in the report.

Paterno family challenges accusation of coverup 02/10/13 [Last modified: Sunday, February 10, 2013 10:15pm]
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