By Ralph Cipriano
WJAC-TV reporter Gary Sinderson went on the air in Johnstown tonight with a big scoop: somebody leaked the confidential internal review of the Louis Freeh Report on Penn State.
The internal review, compiled over two years by seven minority members of the Penn State Board of Trustees, gave the former FBI director a failing grade for his supposedly independent investigation. The internal review found that Freeh's investigation wasn't so independent after all; it was also tainted by bias, factual mistakes, and faulty opinions dressed up as facts. The trustees also ripped the Freeh Report for its "flawed methodology & conclusions," as well as Louis Freeh himself, for not disclosing a personal conflict of interest.
The internal review, the preliminary contents of which were posted on Big Trial last June, had been the subject of a nine-month cover up by the majority of the board of trustees at Penn State, led by PSU board president Mark Dambly. He's a shady character who in his younger days got mixed up in a multimillion dollar cocaine ring but beat the rap by wearing a wire. Under Dambly's "leadership," the Penn State trustees have been ardently stonewalling, refusing to release the final version of the internal review of the Freeh Report, so they can continue to cover up their own corruption and failures.
"It's a document Penn State doesn't want you to see,"the WJAC anchorman told his audience before introducing Sinderson. "Penn State has kept it under wraps," Sinderson agreed. Then, to officially end the cover up, WJAC-TV promptly posted the entire 113-page report online.
The Freeh Report was supposed to be an independent investigation into what happened at Penn State. But, the seven trustees wrote, "the NCAA was closely involved with the Freeh investigation; the NCAA knew that their own rules prevented them from punishing Penn State, and the NCAA decided to punish Penn State in order to enhance its own reputation."
The NCAA used the Freeh Report to justify draconian sanctions against Penn State, including a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl game ban, the loss of 40 athletic scholarships, and the vacating of 111 Joe Paterno wins.
In their report, the seven trustees note that an independent federal investigation done by former NCIS Special Agent John Snedden, another Big Trial scoop, came to the opposite conclusion that Freeh did, that there was no official cover up at Penn State.
Why did Snedden come to that conclusion? Because during a six-month confidential investigation done on the Penn State campus back in 2012, an investigation that was subsequently revealed in 2017, Snedden determined that Mike McQueary's story about witnessing Jerry Sandusky allegedly raping a 10-year-old boy in the showers, made no sense, and that McQueary wasn't a credible witness.
Another big fact that supports Snedden's conclusion: after two decades, no alleged victim of the shower rape has ever come forward, despite an avalanche of publicity and the certainty of a multimillion dollar payout from the overly generous trustees at Penn State. The identity of the victim, the prosecutors claimed at trial, was "known only to God."
Without a victim and a credible witness the infamous rape in the showers never happened. It's the work of fiction writers in the attorney general's office who, according to McQueary himself, "twisted" his words about "whatever it was" he actually saw in the shower. Even McQueary doesn't know what he saw nearly 20 years ago.
In their review of the Freeh Report, the seven trustees, who pored over thousands of pages of confidential documents, came to the same conclusion that Snedden did, that there was no official cover up at Penn State.
"We found no support for the Freeh Report's conclusion that Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley or Gary Schultz knew that Sandusky had harmed children," the trustees wrote.
"We found no support for the Freeh Report's conclusion that Penn State's culture was responsible for allowing Sandusky to harm children." The trustees also concluded that the alleged "independence of the Freeh Report appears to have been fatally compromised by Louis Freeh's collaboration with three interested parties -- the NCAA, Governor [Tom] Corbett and his Office of Attorney General, and members of the Penn State Board of Trustees."
"The NCAA, Governor Corbett, and the Penn State Board of Trustees appear to have had their own conflicts of interest that influenced the unsupported conclusions of the Freeh Report," the trustees wrote. They also ripped Freeh for his having his own undisclosed conflict of interest, namely a stated desire to use the Penn State investigation as a step ladder on his way to becoming the "go-to investigators" for the scandal-plagued NCAA.
The Freeh Report, the trustees found, was "rife with investigative and reporting flaws." Freeh's investigators were biased, used "unreliable methods of conducting and analyzing interviews, [and] failed to interview most of the individuals with direct knowledge of the events under investigation." Such as Joe Paterno, Sandusky, McQueary, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.
Freeh also supplied "motivations and casual factors supported only by speculation and conjecture,"the trustees wrote. They accused Freeh of cherry-picking facts and "withholding the vast majority of investigative findings, which were contrary to the report's conclusions."
The trustees also concluded that Freeh failed in is obligation to conduct an "independent and comprehensive investigation;" they formally repudiated Freeh's conclusions as "unsupported by the investigative data."
The Freeh Report, the seven trustees concluded, has caused "grievous harm to the university," "profound repetitional damage," and has cost the university to date more than $300 million.
The trustees have publicly suggested that the university cut its losses by going after Freeh to recoup the $8.3 million paid to him.
The seven trustees also found that the full Penn State Board of Trustees breached their fiduciary duty "resulting in harm to the university" by "failing to formally review or evaluate the Freeh Report," and failing to vote to either accept or reject it.
Now that's pure cowardice. But it's only the start of the problems.
The trustees, as Big Trial reported, also failed in their fiduciary duty to vet the stories told by 36 alleged victims, who were paid a total of $118 million, an average of $3.3 million each, without the university asking any questions.
No depositions by lawyers, no personal interviews with psychiatrists or trained investigators, no lie detector tests. Almost all of the alleged victims in the case didn't even have to publicly state their real names. How's that for easy money?
The seven trustees who wrote their internal review also ripped Freeh for faulty methadology.
When Freeh interviewed more than 400 witnesses, the trustees found, the interviews weren't tape-recorded, or authenticated by the witnesses. In addition, multiple witnesses complained of "coercive tactics" employed by Freeh's investigators, the trustees wrote.
Freeh's investigators shouted at and insulted witnesses. They also demanded specific information such as, "Tell me that Joe Paterno knew Sandusky was abusing kids." One witness stated he was fired for not telling Freeh's investigators the story they were demanding.
Freeh's investigators were also routinely talking to prosecutors in the attorney general's office such as Frank Fina, whose brazen leaking of grand jury secrets was another story broken by Big Trial. According to the seven trustees at Penn State, Fina was routinely supplying Freeh's investigators with secret grand jury transcripts.
And Anthony Sassano, the AG's lead investigator, was supplying Freeh with documents obtained from Sandusky's house through search warrants. As well as an AG interview with the son of a Penn State trustee who supposedly could provide information about "Sandusky showering with boys."
It was a real "cozy relationship" between Freeh's investigators and the state attorney general's office, the trustees charge, a relationship that tainted both probes since Freeh and his team were not authorized to be privy to any grand jury secrets.
Last year, I actually got a chance to ask Louis Freeh, through a spokesperson, to explain how he was authorized to access grand jury secrets. In a telling exchange, he declined comment.
But Freeh was clearly playing follow the leader.
Early on in his probe, in February 2012, Freeh emailed his team saying, "We should try to make sure the [grand jury] is not onto something new . . . which totally 'scoops' us."
Meanwhile, Freeh allegedly was also taking direction in his investigation from certain Penn State trustees such as Keith Masser, the vice chair. Masser told the Associated Press, before any investigation had been conducted, that he was convinced that there had been an official cover up at Penn State. The same conclusion was subsequently reached by Freeh, at the direction of trustees like Masser, the internal review stated.
Ken Frazier, the chairman of the Penn State board of trustees, also sent Freeh an ESPN story which claimed that Sandusky wasn't stopped earlier "because no one dared challenge the power of Penn State and Paterno, no one dared challenge the legacy of the football powerhouse and the great man himself."
"I happened to find this ESPN piece by Howard Bryant well written and well reasoned," Frazier wrote Freeh. "It focuses on the larger lessons to be learned from excessive respect for 'icons' [Coach Paterno and PS football.]"
Freeh dutifully sent along the story to his underlings, adding in an email and adding that "many people" were expecting his investigation to explain why the failure to report sex abuse at Penn State was because of "the desire to protect Paterno and the [football] program."
That opinion found its way into the Freeh Report, even though in an internal email, Freeh told one of his investigators that the allegation that Penn State was out to protect Paterno and the football team was "never really articulated in any evidence I have seen."
But Freeh wasn't going to let the facts get in the way of a good story.
In his report, Freeh wrote that Sandusky was allowed to continue abusing children because of Penn Sate's "culture of reverence for the football program." Instead of searching for facts, the Freeh Report became an echo chamber for the prejudices of certain trustees, and the media-driven narrative on the evils of Paterno and his highly-successful football program.
"Our university paid $8.3 million for an 'independent investigation' that was neither independent nor a fair and though investigation," the trustees concluded.
It was the end of a long journey for the seven minority trustees, who had to go to court in 2015 to sue their own university to gain access to the so-called "source materials" for the Freeh Report. Along the way, the trustees had to spend about $500,000 of their own money before a judge in 2016 approved reimbursement.
The trustees were granted access to review the so-called source materials that are still under a confidentiality seal from a Common Pleas Court judge. But as somebody who's read hundreds of pages of that stuff, there's nothing in there that should be marked confidential.
All of it should be revealed to the public, which has lingering and well-placed doubts about what happened at Penn State. The only people with a motive to continue the cover up are people who are trying to cover up proof of their own incompetence, breach of duties, and stunning ineptitude.
The fallout from the internal review: the official narrative of the Penn State scandal is a house of cards in the process of tumbling down.
To be fair, the internal report on Freeh didn't go far enough. It doesn't state an opinion on whether Sandusky is guilty or innocent, or whether he was railroaded, and deserves a new trial because of a botched prosecution, official conflicts of interest, the interference of politics in the criminal investigation, and pervasive media malpractice. Even though the internal review extensively quotes two of Big Trial's blog posts on former NCIS Special Agent John Snedden, and his finding of no cover up at Penn State, the internal reviews doesn't consider the implications of Snedden's other main conclusion -- that the whole rape in the showers story, as told by Mike McQueary doesn't make sense, and didn't really happen.
But the internal review on Freeh does detail so many official conflicts of interest, so much political corruption and collusion -- on the part of the NCAA, Corbett, Louis Freeh, the Penn State board of trustees and the attorney general's office -- that any fair-minded reader would have to conclude that the whole swamp at Penn State is tainted and corrupted, and we can't trust anything they told us.
What's needed now, as Snedden has repeatedly said, is the appointment of an independent federal prosecutor and a legitimate federal investigation to find out what really happened at Penn State.
But make no mistake, in a case dominated by willful leaks from the prosecution, the reform trustees have just struck back, presumably, with a big leak of their own.
It's devastating. And WJAC-TV wasn't the only beneficiary.
After nine months of stonewalling, the internal review on Louis Freeh allegedly has been mailed out to several parties. Rumor has it that even the sleepy Philadelphia Inquirer has a copy and may even write about it some day.
Or maybe not.
Sorry, but it's hard to trust that newspaper, especially when it comes to sex abuse. Big Trial has spent the past eight years unraveling a parallel sex scandal in the Philadelphia archdiocese. A scandal where a former altar boy claimed at 10 and 11 years old that he was repeatedly raped by two priests and a Catholic schoolteacher. They all went to jail in the prosecutorial crusade led by former D.A. and future criminal Rufus Seth Williams. As did Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Catholic administrator in the country to be jailed in the nation's Catholic clergy sex scandals, not for touching a child, but for failing to adequately supervise an abusive priest.
The two Pennsylvania sex scandals both began in 2011 with grand jury reports that turned out to be works of fiction. The win scandals have amazing parallels -- Sandusky was convicted the same day as Msgr. Lynn, in two bombshells broadcast simultaneously that day on the Inquirer's front page.
Freeh's investigators also saw the twin scandals as similar in nature. In an email to Freeh, Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent who became one of Freeh's co-leaders of his investigation on Penn State, wrote, "Louie: Just wanted to reach out to you in the event that any of my experiences with the Catholic Bishops Conference would be of use to your team."
McChesney served as the executive director of the office of child and youth protection of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. She was also the editor of "Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2003-2012."
"Good luck with your investigation," McChesney wrote Freeh. "Too many sad parallels between this case and the Church."
Freeh responded by telling his staff in an email that McChesney's experience in investigating the church would come in handy at Penn State because "the church has an insularity similar to what we are seeing" at Penn State.
"It is important to note that before the investigation had begun, Freeh investigators were making assumptions about an insular culture at Penn State and making connections with the Catholic Church cover up of pedophile priests," the seven trustees note in their report.
How about that for bias and preconceived notions?
Newsweek, the former altar boy who was at the center of the Philadelphia sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church -- Danny Gallagher AKA "Billy Doe" -- turned out to be a junkie hustler and conman who made the whole story up.
As Seth Williams' former lead detective, Joe Walsh, has come forward to document, the entire Philadelphia prosecution of the church was a knowing fraud. And Gallagher was a complete liar that Detective Walsh caught in one lie after another, until Gallagher finally admitted to the detective that he made up the whole story.
And what was the Inky's response, at the paper where they have cranked out more than 60 pro-prosecution stories and editorials always presenting Billy Doe as a legitimate victim of sex abuse -- they have never outed Gallagher or wrote one story exposing him for the fraud he is.
Even after the D.A.'s office let the Catholic schoolteacher, a convicted child rapist, out of jail nearly a dozen years early, because of Walsh's testimony about prosecutorial misconduct. How often does that happen?
As I said before, it's hard to trust that newspaper; especially when it comes to sex abuse. With the Inky that topic is always black and white. The victims are anonymous and always 100 percent pure. And the perps, who are hung in the public square, are always 100 percent guilty.
The deeper problem at the Inky is that the newspaper has always been pro-prosecution. At the moment, too many Inky reporters are tied up tied up handling all the latest prosecution leaks in the newest federal corruption case against Philadelphia labor leader "Johnny Doc" Dougherty.
The idea, of course, is convict Johnny Doc in the court of public opinion before he ever goes to trial, and taint yet another jury pool.
It's just the kind of thing that the prosecutors at Penn Stated used to love to do, leak, leak, leak. Especially through a certain friendly and cooperative 23-year-old reporter at the Patriot-News who wound up with a Pulitzer for essentially being a dupe for a completely phony story line.
Maybe it's time to give that Pulitzer back. Because at Penn State, the prosecutors -- as well as their accomplices in the media -- not only blew the big story but also the case.
Ray Blehar: Louis Freeh's Desperate Arguments.
And a full point by point rebuttal on Fresh's statements, including a defense of Big Trial.