|FIS Special Agent John Snedden|
What if everything you thought you knew about the so-called Penn State sex abuse scandal wasn't true?
What if that infamous locker room incident that Mike McQueary supposedly witnessed 16 years ago -- featuring a naked Jerry Sandusky cavorting in the showers with an underage boy -- had nothing to do with sex? And what if the only two officials at PSU who ever spoke directly to former PSU President Graham Spanier about that incident really did describe it as just "horseplay" and not sex?
And what if the guy advancing this contrarian story line was not some crackpot conspiracy theorist, but a decorated U.S. special agent? A guy who had already done a top-secret federal investigation five years ago into the so-called Penn State scandal but nobody knew about it until now?
There would be no pedophilia scandal at Penn State to cover up. And no trio of top PSU officials to convict of child endangerment. The whole lurid saga starring a naked Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing little boys in the shower would be fake news. A hoax foisted on the public by an unholy trio of overzealous prosecutors, lazy and gullible reporters, and greedy plaintiff's lawyers.
Back in 2012, at a time when nobody at Penn State was talking, Snedden showed up in Happy Valley and interviewed everybody that mattered.
Because Snedden was on a mission of the highest importance on behalf of the federal government. Special Agent Snedden had to decide whether Graham Spanier's high-level security clearance should be renewed amid widespread public accusations of a coverup.
And what did Snedden find?
"There was no coverup," Snedden flatly declared on Ziegler's podcast. "There was no conspiracy. There was nothing to cover up."
The whole world could have already known by now about John Snedden's top secret investigation of Spanier and PSU. That's because Snedden was scheduled to be the star witness at the trial last week of former Penn State President Graham Spanier.
But at the last minute, Spanier's legal team decided that the government's case was so lame that they didn't even have to put on a defense. Spanier's defense team didn't call one witness before resting their case.
On Ziegler's podcast, "The World According To Zig," the reporter raged about that decision, calling Spanier's lawyers "a bunch of wussies" who set their client up for a fall.
Indeed, the defenseless Spanier was convicted by a Dauphin County jury on just one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child. But the jury also found Spanier not guilty on two felony counts. Yesterday, I asked Samuel W. Silver, the Philadelphia lawyer who was Spanier's lead defender, why they decided not to put Snedden on the stand.
"No, cannot share that," he responded in an email. "Sorry."
On Ziegler's podcast, Snedden, who was on the witness list for the Spanier trial, expressed his disappointment about not getting a chance to testify.
"I tried to contact the legal team the night before," Snedden said. "They were going to call me back. I subsequently got an email [saying] that they chose not to use my testimony that day."
|"Whistle-blower" Mike McQueary|
wasn't going to be called as a witness "not today or not ever. They indicated that they had chosen to go a minimalistic route," Snedden said.
What may have been behind the lawyers' decision, Snedden said, was some legal "intel" -- namely that jurors in the Mike McQueary libel case against Penn State, which resulted in a disasterous $12 million verdict against the university, supposedly "didn't like Spanier at all."
"The sad part is that if I were to have testified all the interviews I did would have gone in" as evidence, Snedden said. "And I certainly think the jury should have heard all of that."
So what happened with Spanier's high-level clearance which was above top-secret -- [SCI -- Sensitive Compartmented Information] -- Ziegler asked Snedden.
"It was renewed," Snedden said, after he put Spanier under oath and questioned him for eight hours.
In his analysis of what actually happened at Penn State, Snedden said, there was "some degree of political maneuvering there."
"The governor took an active role," Snedden said, referring to former Gov. Tom Corbett. "He had not previously done so," Snedden said, "until this occurred."
As the special agent wrote in his 110-page report:
"In March 2011 [Gov.] Corbett proposed a 52 percent cut in PSU funding," Snedden wrote. "Spanier fought back," publicly declaring the governor's proposed cutback "the largest ever proposed and that it would be devastating" to Penn State.
At his trial last week, Graham Spanier didn't take the witness stand. But under oath while talking to Snedden back in 2012, Spanier had plenty to say.
"[Spanier] feels that his departure from the position as PSU president was retribution by Gov. Corbett against [Spanier] for having spoken out about the proposed PSU budget cuts," Snedden wrote.
As far as Snedden was concerned, a political battle between Spanier and Gov. Corbett, and unfounded accusations of a coverup, did not warrant revoking Spanier's high-level security clearance. The special agent concluded his six-month investigation of the PSU scandal by renewing the clearance and giving Spanier a ringing endorsement.
"The circumstances surrounding subject's departure from his position as PSU president do not cast doubt on subject's current reliability, trustworthiness or good judgment and do not cast doubt on his ability to properly safeguard national security information," Snedden wrote about Spanier.
Spanier was next in the sights of prosecutors from the attorney general's office. And former FBI Director Louie Freeh was about to release his report that said there was a coverup at Penn State masterminded by Spanier, Curley and Schultz, with an assist from Joe Paterno.
Snedden, however, wasn't buying into Freeh's conspiracy theory that reigns today in the mainstream media, the court of public opinion, and in the minds of jurors in the Spanier case.
"I did not find any indication of any coverup," Snedden told Ziegler on the podcast. He added that he did not find "any indication of any conspiracy, or anything to cover up."
Snedden also said that Cynthia Baldwin, Penn State's former general counsel, "provided information to me inconsistent to what she provided to the state." Baldwin told Snedden that "Gov. Corbett was very unhappy" with Spanier because he "took the lead in fighting the governor's proposed budget cuts to PSU."
That, of course, was before the prosecutors turned Baldwin into a cooperating witness. The attorney-client privilege went out the window. And Baldwin began testifying against Spanier, Curley and Schultz.
But as far as Snedden was concerned, "Dr. Spanier was very forthcoming, he wanted to get everything out," Snedden said.
"Isn't possible that he just duped you," Ziegler asked.
"No," Snedden deadpanned. "I can pretty well determine which way we're going on an interview." Even though he was a Penn State alumni, Snedden said, his mission was to find the truth.
"I am a Navy veteran," Snedden said. "You're talking about a potential risk to national security" if Spanier was deemed untrustworthy. Instead, "He was very forthcoming," Snedden said of Spanier. "He answered every question."
On the podcast, Ziegler asked Snedden if he turned up any evidence during his investigation that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile.
"It was not sexual," Snedden said about what Mike McQueary allegedly heard and saw in the Penn State showers, before the prosecutors got through hyping the story, with the full cooperation of the media. "It was not sexual," Snedden insisted. "Nothing at all relative to a sexual circumstance. Nothing."
About PSU's top administrators, Snedden said, "They had no information that would make a person believe" that Sandusky was a pedophile.
As for Joe Paterno, Snedden said, "His involvement was very minimal in passing it [McQueary's account of the shower incident] to the people he reported to," meaning Schultz and Curley.
Spanier, 68, who was born in Cape Town, South Africa, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1955. When Snedden interviewed Spanier, he couldn't recall the exact date that he was approached by Curley and Schultz with the news about the shower incident supposedly witnessed by McQueary.
It was "approximately in the early 2000 decade," Snedden wrote, when Spanier recalled being approached by Schultz and Curley in between university meetings. The two PSU administrators told Spanier they wanted to give him a "head's up" about a report they had received from Joe Paterno.
"A staff member," Snedden wrote, "had seen Jerry Sandusky in the locker room after a work out showering with one of his Second Mile kids. [Spanier] knew at the time that Jerry Sandusky was very involved with the Second Mile charity," Snedden wrote. "And, at that time, [Spanier] believed that it only involved high school kids. [Spanier] has since learned that the charity involves younger disadvantaged children."
Because it was Spanier's "understanding at that time that the charity only involved high school kids it did not send off any alarms," Snedden wrote. Then the prosecutors and their friends in the media went to work.
"Curley and Schultz said that the person who had given the report was not sure what he had seen but that they were concerned about the situation with the kid in the shower," Snedden wrote.
Curley and Schultz told Spanier that the person who had given the report "was not sure what he saw because it was around the corner and that what he has reported was described as "horse play" or "horsing around." In his report, Snedden said that Spanier "assumed the terminology of horse play or horsing around came from Joe Paterno."
"They all agreed that Curley would talk to Jerry Sandusky, tell him not to bring kids into the locker room facilities," Snedden wrote. "And Curley was to tell the Second Mile management that it was not good for any of the Second Mile kids to come to the athletic locker room facilities, and that they should suspend that practice."
Spanier, Snedden wrote, never was told "who the person was who made the report. But "nothing was described as a sexual or criminal in any way," Snedden wrote.
The initial conversation between Spanier, Curley and Schultz about the Sandusky shower incident lasted 10 minutes, Snedden wrote. A few days later, Curley told Spanier "in person that the discussion had taken place and that everything went well."
"The issue never came up again with Curley, Schultz, Paterno, Sandusky, or anyone," Snedden wrote. "It did not appear very significant to anyone at the time."
Schultz believed the source of Curley's information was Joe Paterno, and that the conduct involved was horseplay.
"McQueary did not say anything of a sexual nature took place," Snedden wrote after interviewing Schultz. "McQueary did not say anything indicative of an incident of a serious sexual nature."
Ironically, one of the things Spanier told Freeh was that Snedden was also investigating what happened at Penn State. But that didn't seem to effect the conclusions of the Louie Freeh report, Snedden said. He wondered why.
He also wondered why his report had no effect on the attorney general's office, which had already indicted Curley and Schultz, and was planning to indict Spanier.
"I certainly think that if the powers that be . . . knew what was in his report, Snedden said, "They would certainly have to take a hard look at what they were doing."
Freeh and the AG, Snedden said, should have wanted to know "who was interviewed [by Sneddedn] and what did they say. I mean this is kind of pertinent to what we're doing," Snedden said of the investigations conducted by Freeh and the AG.
"If your goal in any investigation is to determine the facts of the case period, the circumstance should have been hey, we'll be happy to obtain any and all facts," Snedden said.
Snedden said he understood, however, why Freeh was uninterested in his report.
"It doesn't fit the narrative that he's [Louie Freeh] going for," Snedden said.
Freeh was on a tight deadline, Ziegler reminded Snedden. Freeh had to get his report out at a highly-anticipated press conference. And the Freeh report had to come out before the start of the football season. So the NCAA could drop the hammer on Penn State.
"He [Freeh] doesn't have time to read a hundred page report," Snedden said. He agreed with Ziegler that the whole disclosure of the Freeh report was "orchestrated" to come out right before the football season started.
It may have been good timing for the news media and the NCAA, Snedden said about the release of the Louie Freeh report. But it didn't make much sense from an investigator's point of view.
Snedden was aghast about the cost of the Louie Freeh report. His six-month federal investigation, Snedden said, "probably cost the federal government and the taxpayers $50,000 at the most. And he [Freeh] spent $8.3 million," Snedden said. "Unbelievable."
In a statement released March 24th, Freeh hailed the conviction of Spanier as having confirmed and verified "all the findings and facts" of the Freeh report. On Ziegler's podcast, however, Snedden was dismissive of Freeh's statement.
"It's like a preemptive strike to divert people's attention from the actual conviction for a misdemeanor," Snedden said about Freeh. Along with the fact that he jury found "no cover up no conspiracy," Snedden said.
"In a rational world Louie Freeh is completely discredited," Ziegler said. "The Freeh report is a joke." On the podcast, Ziegler ripped the "mainstream media morons" who said that the jury verdict vindicated Freeh.
"Which is horrendous," Snedden added.
Ziegler asked Snedden if he had any doubt that an innocent man was convicted last week.
"That's what I believe, one hundred percent," Snedden said about the "insane jury verdict."
About the Penn State scandal, Snedden said, "I've got to say it needs to be examined thoroughly and it needs to be examined by a competent law enforcement authority." And that's a law enforcement authority that "doesn't have any political connections with anybody on the boards of trustees when this thing hit the fan."
As for Snedden, he left the Penn State campus thinking, "Where is the crime?"
"This case has been all about emotion," Ziegler said. "It was never about facts."
"Exactly," Snedden said.
As someone who has spent the past five years investigating the "Billy Doe" case, I can testify that when the subject is sex abuse, and the media is involved, the next stop is the Twilight Zone. Where hysteria reigns, and logic and common sense go out the window.
Earlier in the podcast, Ziegler talked about the "dog and pony show" put on by the prosecution at the Spanier trial. It's a good example of what happens once you've entered the Twilight Zone.
|Live At The Spanier Trial|
As extra sheriff's deputies patrolled the courtroom, the judge announced to the jury that the next witness would be referred to as "John Doe."
I was in the courtroom that day, and I thought the hoopla over Victim No. 5's appearance was bizarre and prejudicial to the case. In several sex abuse trials that I have covered in Philadelphia, the victim's real name was always used in court, starting from the moment when he or she was sworn in in the courtroom as a witness.
The judges and the prosecutors could always count on the media to censor itself, by not printing the real names of alleged victims out of some misguided social justice policy that borders on lunacy. At the exact same time they're hanging the defendants out to dry.
Talk about rigging a contest by what's supposed to be an impartial media.
At the Spanier trial, the prosecutor proceeded to place a box of Kleenex next to the witness stand. John Doe seemed composed until the prosecutor asked if he had ever been sexually abused. Right on cue, the witness started whimpering.
"Yes," he said.
By whom, the prosecutor asked.
By Jerry Sandusky, John Doe said, continuing to whimper.
The actual details of the alleged sex abuse were never explained. The jury could have left the courtroom believing that Victim No. 5 had been sexually assaulted or raped.
But the sexual abuse Victim No. 5 was allegedly subjected to was that Sandusky allegedly soaped the boy up in the shower and may have touched his penis.
For that alleged abuse, Victim No. 5 collected $8 million.
|The $93 Million Gold Rush At Penn State|
There was also much confusion over the date of the abuse.
First, John Doe said that the abuse took place when he was 10 years old, back in 1998. Then, the victim changed his story to say he was abused the first time he met Sandusky, back when he was 12 or 13 years old, in 2000 or 2001, but definitely before 9/11, because he could never forget 9/11. Next, the victim said that he was abused after 9/11, when he would have been 14.
At the Spanier trial, the prosecution used "John Doe" or Victim No. 5 for one main purpose: to prove to the jury that he had been abused after the infamous Mike McQueary shower incident of February, 2001. To show the jury that more victims were abused after Spanier, Curley and Schultz had decided to initiate their alleged coverup following the February 2001 shower incident.
But there was only one problem. To prove John Doe had a relationship with Sandusky, the prosecution introduced as an exhibit a photo taken of the victim with Sandusky.
Keep in mind it was John Doe/Victim No. 5's previous testimony that Sandusky abused him at their first meeting. The only problem, as Ziegler disclosed on his podcast, was the photo of Victim No. 5 was taken from a book, "Touched, The Jerry Sandusky Story," by Jerry Sandusky. And according to Amazon, that book was published on Nov. 17, 2000.
Three months before the alleged shower incident witnessed by Mike McQueary. Meaning that in a real world where facts matter, John Doe/Victim No. 5 was totally irrelevant to the case.
It was the kind of thing that a defense lawyer would typically jump on during cross-examination, confusion over the date of the abuse. Excuse me, Mr. Doe, we all know you have suffered terribly, but when did the abuse happen? Was it in 1998, or was it 2000, or 2001 or even 2002? And hey, what's the deal with that photo?
But the Spanier trial was conducted in the Twilight Zone. Spanier's lawyers chose not to ask a single question of John Doe. As Samuel W. Silver explained why to the jury in his closing statement: he did not want to add to the suffering of a sainted victim of sex abuse by subjecting him to cross-examination. Like you would have done with any normal human being when the freedom of your client was at stake.
That left Spanier in the Twilight Zone, where he was convicted by a jury on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
To add to the curious nature of the conviction, the statute of limitations for endangering the welfare of a child is two years. But the incident that Spanier, Schultz and Curley were accused of covering up, the infamous Mike McQueary shower incident, happened back in 2001.
At the Spanier trial, the prosecution was only able to try the defendant on a charge that had long ago expired by throwing in a conspiracy charge. In theory, that meant that the defendant and his co-conspirators could still be prosecuted, because they'd allegedly been engaging in a pattern of illegal conduct over sixteen years -- the coverup that never happened --- which kept the original child endangerment charge on artificial respiration until the jury could decide the issue.
That means that Spanier was convicted on a single misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, dating back to 2001. A crime that the statute of limitations had long ago expired on.
On this issue, Silver was willing to express an opinion.
"We certainly will be pursuing the statute of limitations as one of our post-trial issues," he wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, Graham Spanier remains a prisoner in the Twilight Zone. And until there's a credible investigation of what really happened, all of Penn State nation remains trapped in there with him.