Report vs. Report: Standing at the Urinal

by Ben Goldfarb on February 11, 2013

in Penn State Football, Penn State Scandal

The biggest deal thus far on Catch-Up Monday is the issuance of the report compiled by the law firm of King & Spalding commissioned by the Paterno Family (see Sue’s letter to lettermen), which critiques and impugns the Freeh Report. My irreverent post title is not an attempt to demean the efforts that resulted in the document entitled “Critique of the Freeh Report: The Rush to Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno”, which since its publication yesterday has been referred to colloquially as the Sollers Report and the Paterno Report; nevertheless, I can’t get the image of dueling reports out of my twisted brain — I have to wonder whether Louis Freeh will counter this report with another formal report that invalidates its findings. The page count thus far between the two existing reports has topped five hundred. The report pissing contest has indeed commenced.

“Rank speculation. Innuendo. Subjective opinions. This rhetoric, not objective facts and evidence, forms the core of the Freeh report’s conclusions regarding Joe Paterno.” —The Rush to Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno

Wick Sollers, Managing Partner of the Washington D.C. office of the law firm of King & Spalding, is the Paterno Family’s attorney, whom they chose to coordinate an investigation of the notorious Freeh Report. The Freeh Report has been impugned, maligned, and assailed since the day it was first released, due to its many inconsistencies, shoddy investigative procedures, and improperly derived conclusions, yet it was never questioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees, who commissioned it. Furthermore, it served as the basis for the NCAA’s draconian sanctions levied against the University. With such far-reaching consequences in mind, it is remarkable that the Board of Trustees merely accepted the report, leading many to believe that the BoT essentially paid Freeh to corroborate a version of a story that the BoT previously subscribed to.

One of the significant “findings” of the Freeh report involved the conduct of Joe Paterno in relation to the Sandusky affair. Without ever having interviewed Paterno, and basing its conclusions on mainly hearsay with many leaps of faith, the Freeh Report essentially implicated Paterno in a cover-up, alluding to his status as an unassailable football god at Penn State. His character thus besmirched, as mentioned above, his widow Sue felt compelled to vindicate what she and her progeny believed to be a gross misrepresentation of the family patriarch.

Sollers assembled a team led by former U.S. Attorney General and former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh (I’ll see your former FBI Director and raise you a former Attorney General) to investigate the Freeh report. The result, available on paterno.com, is tiled “Critique of the Freeh Report: The Rush to Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno.”

If the BoT hired Freeh to hammer down their favored story of what happened, and the Paterno family hired Thornburgh to say it wasn’t so, what’s the next move? The BoT engages Bill Clinton to say Thornburgh’s report is full of shit? It’s a grand scale pissing contest! Just kidding. I digress.

Nevertheless, when you dig into the report, you’ll find that it is a summary, stand-alone report, backed by three separate stand-alone efforts by three preeminent investigators from three different backgrounds, which are included as appendixes. Some of these appendixes have appendixes of their own, and by the time I skimmed the entire document, I was getting appendicitis, already.

Among other things, the Sollers Report found that:

  1. The allegation is false that Joe Paterno participated in a conspiracy to cover up Sandusky’s actions.
  2. There is no evidence to support the allegation that the football culture at Penn State was to blame for Sandusky’s crimes.
  3. Freeh’s failure to conduct interviews with most of the key witnesses is a glaring deficiency.
  4. Freeh investigators did not have subpoena power and no one testified under oath. Worse, witnesses were allowed to speak anonymously.
  5. The conspiracy claim made by the Freeh report based on a string of three emails falls apart under scrutiny. Because of a technology switch in 2004, most of the Penn State emails for the time in question are not accessible.
  6. The validity and thoroughness of the Freeh report was oversold to the public, leading to the report being accepted in full and without review by the Board of Trustees and the NCAA.

Thornburgh condemns the whole thing as a “rush to injustice” and says that “by supplying judgments without fact, it undermines our faith in justice and due process.”

In the report, a preeminent physician and psychologist from the Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine, which is I think where House worked, Dr. Fred Berlin concluded:

“I have not seen evidence supporting a conclusion the Joe Paterno had acted in bad faith, nor have I seen evidence supporting a conclusion that he has ever been a man who lacked a genuine concern about the wellbeing [sic] of others — including the wellbeing [sic] of children.

“In my professional opinion, there is absolutely nothing about the way in which Mr. Paterno had led his life, or about his characterological makeup, that would support the unsupported inference that ‘in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity,’ he had been one of the ‘powerful leaders’ at Penn State who had ‘repeatedly concealed critical facts related to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.’”

One of the most compelling sections of the report is Section VI: The Freeh report is based on numerous errors and unsupported opinions, categorically:

  1. That Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester and concealed it in 1998.
  2. That Joe Paterno lied in his Grand Jury Testimony, particularly about the 1998 incident.
  3. That Joe Paterno concealed the 2001 incident reported by Mike McQueary as part of a 14-year conspiracy to avoid the consequences of “bad publicity”.
  4. That Jerry Sandusky’s Office was “steps away” from Joe Paterno’s office, and, as one of the most “powerful” people at Penn State, Joe Paterno must have known but concealed that Sandusky was a pedophile.
  5. That a janitor who apparently witnessed Sandusky’s sexual misconduct in the Fall of 2000 chose not to report it for fear of losing his job because Joe Paterno must have known that Jerry Sandusky was a child molester and actively created a culture to harbor a pedophile.
  6. That the Freeh report is neutral and free of bias.
  7. That the Freeh report adequately evaluated Joe Paterno’s  lifetime of integrity in reaching its conclusions.

Precisely what will come of this is anyone’s guess at the moment. However, Louis Freeh has already stuck his foot in his mouth in voicing his response to the report. He stated that during the investigation “we contacted Mr. Paterno’s attorney in an attempt to interview Mr. Paterno. Although Mr. Paterno was willing to speak with a news reporter and a biographer at that time, he elected not to speak with us.” Yet the actual Freeh report sings a different tune, to wit: “The Special Investigative Counsel requested an interview with Paterno in December 2011. Through his counsel. Paterno expressed interest in participating but died before he could be interviewed.” Astounding assholatry on the part of Freeh, don’t you think? You can find the full text of his comments about what he refers to as “the self-serving report” here. The battle of report generating egos has begun.

Well, what did you expect Freeh to say? Something like: “Oh, yeah. Thornburgh is right. We screwed up.”? Nah, he has to go offensively on the defense. The best defense is a good offense. Did Darrell Royal say that? I dunno, but Machiavelli and Mao subscribed to it. Perhaps he was pissed off over the following two paragraphs, which appear on Page One of the report:

In short, Mr. Freeh unilaterally anointed himself the judge, jury, and executioner by deciding to redefine Jerry Sandusky’s personal crimes as a Penn State and Joe Paterno football scandal. That bell can never be unrung, but the many associated errors can be corrected.

Mr. Freeh also violated the most basic notions of due process by offering his one-sided viewpoint without affording any meaningful opportunity for Joe Paterno, his representatives, or any neutral third-party to test and respond to Mr. Freeh’s opinions before he announced them as gospel at a national press conference.

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

The Sollers report has a two-pronged thrust. First, and most obvious, it is out to redeem the name of Joe Paterno by discrediting the Freeh report, which excoriated him. This is what Sue paid for. But second, Sollers & Company cleverly include dissemination of information about child abusers and their victims, thus presumably playing the “vvvvvvvvvvictimmmmmms” card obliquely or in the very least defusing critics who would play that same card against them. The retention of Jim Clemente, former FBI profiler and internationally recognized expert in the fields of sex crimes investigations, sex offender behavior, child sexual victimization, and child pornography, as part of the team lends credibility to its findings in that area. Clemente makes several key points about the stealth and cunning of perverts like Sandusky, and the ease with which they cloak their clandestine activities from the rest of us unsuspecting and trusting colleagues and friends. Clemente’s findings, incorporated into the report and presented separately as Appendix B, are quite impressive. It is a grandiose, 72-page treatise on pedophilia and child sexual victimization, generally and with specificity to Jerry Sandusky. It has appendixes of its own that provide information in excess of the 72-page body of the Clemente Report.

Additionally, separate reports by Thornburgh and Berlin are included as appendixes.

If you’re keeping score, the Freeh report still wins the poundage battle by a score of 267 pages to 238, although as you know, much of the Freeh report consisted of reproduced emails and scrawled notes.

One more early reaction to the Sollers report comes from Phil Knight, chairman of Nike, a long-time friend of Joe Paterno who turned against him in the wake of the Freeh report. “According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences,” Knight said at the time. “I missed that Joe missed it, and I’m extremely saddened on this day.” However, now he sings a different tune. He says he didn’t read the full 267 pages. Knight was indeed swayed by the Sollers report:

“With the release of the report by the King and Spalding law firm, including analysis by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former FBI profiler James Clemente, it is clear that the findings of the Freeh Report were unjustified and unsubstantiated.”

Knight said a lot more. If you want to read it, check out “Knight reverses course on Paterno” on ESPN.com. Big thanks to intrepid Penn State news junkie Joe for the pointer.

I suspect that there will be a cascade of similar reversals in the wake of this report. Reading it will open some eyes, even if a very few read and digest the plethora of facts and opinions incorporated in it. Compared to this report, the Freeh report gives one the impression of a shoddily assembled collection of pseudo-factoids shakily used to draw biased, pre-ordained conclusions. In this writer’s opinion, in spite of the poundage advantage of Freeh’s 267 pages, Sollers and company have won the pissing contest.

Now, let us sit back and wait for the next crow-eater to emerge. This should be fun. You can find all of the information you’ll ever want about the Sollers report and the three sub-reports at the PATERNO website.

Joe February 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

Well done. I hope the numbness has left your cheeks after spending so much time on your favorite reading chair!

One point; you state “With such far-reaching consequences in mind, it is remarkable that the Board of Trustees merely accepted the report, leading many to believe that the BoT essentially paid Freeh to corroborate a version of a story that the BoT previously subscribed to.”

I don’t have an issue with your belief of the BoT’s ultimate (ulterior) motive, in fact I agree with it, but what I’ve never seen is a straight answer to the question “Did the BoT ever take a vote to accept the Freeh report?”. From comments I’ve heard from various BoT members, the answer is a resounding no! What has been said is they accepted the recommendations, but never the findings of the report itself. (How they could do one without the other baffles me, but supposedly that’s what they did.) Surma and Frazier may have accepted it individually, but the BoT as a whole did not.

This is important, because the NCAA has made this point of perceived acceptance as giving them the green light to shove the sanctions up Penn State’s ass.

I’m also not sure you’ll see a large group of “crow eaters” emerge just yet, as I think by and large the national and local media missed the point that the Sollers report was making-that Freeh had his head up his ass and that Sandusky was so good he fooled everyone 12 years ago.

Here’s one that did:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/sports/collins-perhaps-now-joe-paterno-deserves-the-benefit-of-doubt-1.1442653

And here’s a bunch that didn’t (including your good friend Davey Jones):

http://www.pennlive.com/pennstatefootball/index.ssf/2013/02/media_joe_paterno_report_penn_state.html

But at this point in the battle of the reports, my card gives Sollers the first round.

The Nittany Turkey February 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

Good point regarding formalized acceptance versus the tacit acceptance that many of us believe happened behind closed doors. The distinction is certainly significant because the NCAA is indeed hanging its hat on Penn State (via the BoT) having agreed with the findings of the Freeh report.

Thanks for the links, as always. My head will be spinning this week with what I anticipate will be a shitload of reactions from the college football community and beyond.

We’ll see just how vituperative Ms. Perky gets this afternoon with Sue.

—TNT

BigAl February 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I think Freeh decided on the recommendations prior to writing the body of the report and then wrote the report so that it would support the recommendations as much as possible.

This is a half assed technique used by incompetent internal auditors (and what Freeh did was an internal audit rather than an “investigation”)

Interal auditing standards require that the following steps be completed IN ORDER:
1) identify the relevant standards/laws;
2) identify deviations from the standards/laws;
3) determine WHY the deviations occurred; and finally
4) propose recommendations that will hopefully eliminate the above WHY from reoccuring.

As much as I hate the BOT, I still don’t think transferring the blame to the 4 stooges was the primary reason for commissioning the Freeh report. I think BOT realized they were too stupid/incompetent to fix the problems and they wanted somebody/anybody to to tell them what to do. That’s why they swallowed Freeh’s recommendations like a starving dog swallows a piece of rotten meat.

The Nittany Turkey February 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

I hadn’t read any of the reactions other than Freeh’s and Knight’s before I wrote my missive, but now I notice that Bob Flounders of the Patriot-News used my poker metaphor, albeit with respect to pages instead of star power. I’d say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the time stamp on Bobby’s piece confirms that he thought of the analogy first.

—TNT

lawrence February 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

What really sickens me is that Louis Freeh ripped off PSU for $6 million to produce this worthless pile of garbage. He did this knowing he had a complicit BOT willing to pay any price to take the spotlight off them and the lackadaiscal work they did for the University. If Freeh was really smart he would have called Mark (not the sharpest tool in the shed) Emmert and said: “Hey, I did this thing…it’s pretty shabby…would get ripped to shreds in a court of law by a fresh out of law school attorney…but you wanna buy a copy of it for, oh…let’s say $3 million?”
That something like this can happen to a University like PSU is shameful. The BOT, Louis Freeh, Mark Emmert and everyone involved with this should be ashamed of what they have done…I am sure they will tell they are not ashamed. Please tell the university to have the students stop calling me for money. I have sent 3 sons through there during this mess..I went through 35 years ago..I buy season football tickets..I will not send them another dime until everyone on the BOT at the time is gone…especially John Surma and Karen Peetz. My guess is they used to really like being a part of the BOT…now maybe it’s an annoyance or source of embarrassment for them…good…they made their bed and now they must lay in it. I’m sure they will either resign or elect to not run for another term…far to shallow to need this sh#t anymore.

Joe February 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Jeez, Mr Clemens now thinks the BoT should take another look at the Freeh report in light of the Soller’s Report-and just what the hell were you thinking the last 14 months Mr Clemens?

He did definitely state that the BoT DID NOT approve the Freeh report.

http://onwardstate.com/2013/02/11/trustee-alvin-clemens-says-penn-state-should-reexamine-freeh-report/

Joe February 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

Are there cracks starting to form in the foundation? Maisel has been pretty level headed through this, but it’s interesting that we’re starting to see more and more of this type of response as the snakes come out of their dens and start to smell the change in the wind!

http://espn.go.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/76922/3-point-stance-freeh-report-not-last-word

jd February 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

this is proving to be an interesting sociological experiment.

The Nittany Turkey February 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Sociology being a pseudo-science, that characterization is completely appropriate.

—TNT

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: