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Paterno family: Freeh report 'factually wrong'

Sue Paterno: Accusations made me ill

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Story highlights

  • Louis Freeh says family review was 'self-serving'
  • Paterno widow says Freeh report must be corrected
  • Report from family of late coach comes seven months after university-funded review
  • Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh led family probe

The family of the late Joe Paterno released a report Sunday morning that absolved the coaching great of blame in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and said a prior review commissioned by Penn State University was "factually wrong, speculative and fundamentally flawed. "

Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh put together the new report, the Paterno family said in a written statement.

"The experts determined that the conclusions of the (university) report are based on raw speculation and unsupported opinion -- not facts and evidence," Thornburgh said, according to the statement.

Louis Freeh, who authored the university report released in July, said the family review was "self-serving."

Read Freeh's statement

The former FBI director said Paterno and three other former university officials showed no empathy for Sandusky's victims and chose not to report his conduct to authorities.

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"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," Freeh said in a lengthy written statement.

The family statement said Paterno never attempted to hide any information or impede any investigation into Sandusky's activities while using Penn State facilities.

The university responded to the report, saying Freeh had been tasked with conducting an internal review to identify failures in the school's response to allegations.

"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," Penn State said in a written statement.

The school had acted on most of the 119 recommendations made in the report, the statement said.

After Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, the university fired Paterno and funded a review of the scandal led by Freeh.

Official: Penn State paid Paterno's estate $5.76 million after his death

Freeh's 267-page review blamed Paterno, former university President Graham Spanier, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz for allegedly taking part in a cover-up to avoid bad publicity.

The family disputed that, saying the "allegation is false" that Paterno participated in a conspiracy.

The Paterno family review also skewered the Freeh report for failing to interview key witnesses, allowing some to testify anonymously and using an incomplete string of e-mails for evidence. Most of the e-mails from that time are unavailable, the family said.

Freeh's team concluded that the school's top administrators had "empowered" Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the football team, to continue his abuse. The report said the panel interviewed more than 430 witnesses.

A lawyer for one of Sandusky's victims said Sunday that Paterno should have taken action after reports of Sandusky's behavior.

The family's complaints about witnesses and e-mails "do not erase the shocking and striking documents which Freeh did uncover and which form an unassailable finding made by Mr. Freeh that Joe Paterno tragically had knowledge in 1998 and again in 2001 that Jerry Sandusky was a threat, which was never dealt with properly by the former Penn State coach," said Thomas Kline, attorney for Victim No. 5 in the Sandusky trial.

In an online letter to Penn State's current and former players, Paterno's widow, Sue, wrote on Friday: "The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events."

The family, she said, wants a full record of what happened.

The university panicked after the Freeh report was released, she claimed, and Penn State's board of trustees should have challenged the report.

Penn State review recasts story of football hero Paterno

She told the players that they -- and his family -- were Joe Paterno's legacy, not a report.

She also criticized the Freeh report's depiction of her husband.

"When the Freeh report was released last July, I was as shocked as anyone by the findings and by Mr. Freeh's extraordinary attack on Joe's character and integrity. I did not recognize the man Mr. Freeh described," she said.

The university's board of trustees fired Paterno after a 46-year career because, it said, his "decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership."

In July, the NCAA imposed on Penn State some of the most severe penalties ever, including a $60 million fine.

The governing body of major college sports also vacated Penn State's football wins dating back to 1998, the year when allegations that Sandusky was abusing children were first made. That penalty removed Paterno from the top of the list of Division I college football's winningest coaches. Paterno died in January 2012.

Sandusky, who ran a charity for disadvantaged children after he retired in 1999, was convicted last June on 45 counts of child sex abuse. In October, the 68-year-old former coach was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz face charges stemming from the Sandusky scandal, including perjury, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children. All three are awaiting court dates and have said they are innocent, according to their lawyers.

Do sanctions alter history books on Penn State and Paterno's legacy?

      Scandal at Penn State

    • The family of Joe Paterno plans to file a lawsuit Thursday against the NCAA seeking to overturn its sanctions against Penn State University over a child sex abuse scandal.
    • Penn State students work on a banner at "Nittanyville" outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania, on Friday.

      In many ways, football is life at Penn State, a tradition synonymous with the campus. Nittany Lion fans are deeply religious about their football. Now, they begin a new era.
    • The site sits empty on Sunday where the Paterno statue once stood.

      It's an old, old story. We've all placed people on pedestals, and then, almost inevitably, they let us down. They violate our trust. They betray us. They fall off the pedestal, or we remove them.
    • BTS.Emmert.Penn State Sanctions_00002615

      The NCAA announced a $60 million fine against Penn State University and stripped 14 seasons of football victories from the late head coach Joe Paterno.
    • STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Head coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State Nittany Lions look on before facing the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 23, 2004 in State College, Pennsylvania.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 6-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

      The most powerful former leaders at Penn State University have been accused of showing "total and consistent disregard" for child sex abuse victims.
    • With the same decision announced on count after count -- guilty, guilty, guilty -- Jerry Sandusky's emphatic denials he had sexually abused boys became obsolete.
    • Jerry Sandusky admitted showering with boys but denied the sex accusations. Here is what Sandusky has said publicly in the months before the trial.
    • Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse following his child sexual-abuse trial on June 18, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Today the defense began their argument in the sexual abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky who is charged with 52 criminal counts of alleged sexual abuse of children.

      Jerry Sandusky's writings in a 2000 memoir about the difficult relationship with his adopted son are similar to several letters he wrote to a boy now known as alleged victim No. 4.
    • Holloway Sandusky

      The words came haltingly, punctuated by ragged sighs, groans and cracking voices as two teenage boys bared their darkest secrets to a packed courtroom.