Saturday, August 3, 2019

Scandal-Plagued NCAA Hires Tainted Investigator Louis Freeh

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

It took him nine years to get there, but former FBI Director Louis Freeh is right where he always wanted to be. This week, after nine years of trying, Freeh and some friends were finally hired as the "go-to investigators" for the scandal-plagued NCAA.

According to a report from CBS Sports yesterday, five employees of the Freeh Group International Solutions were among the 16 independent investigators appointed to the NCAA's new Complex Case Unit.

According to the NCAA, the new unit will be paid to investigate allegations of infractions of "core NCAA values, such as alleged failures to prioritize academics and the well-being of student athletes; the possibility of major penalties; or conduct contrary to the cooperative principles of the existing infractions process."

Freeh, of course, shows up at his new post with plenty of baggage from his notoriously bungled investigation of Penn State, which was the basis for draconian sanctions the NCAA issued against the university.

A confidential review of Freeh's report, done by seven Penn State trustees, leaked to the media in February, found that the $8.3 million Freeh Report on PSU was tainted by bias, factual mistakes, and faulty opinions dressed up as facts. The trustees ripped the Freeh Report for its "flawed methodology & conclusions," as well as Freeh himself, for not disclosing a personal conflict of interest, namely that he was using his supposedly independent investigation of Penn State as leverage to get hired as the "go-to investigators" for the NCAA.

Freeh's alleged conflict of interest was laid out in internal emails that the trustees had access to, among the so-called "source materials" for the Freeh Report, thousands of pages of documents that are still confidential due to a judge's order that makes no sense. But the trustees' report publicized some of the revelations in the source materials.

Such as, back on July 7, 2012, a week before the release of the Freeh Report on Penn State, Omar McNeill, a senior investigator for Freeh, wrote to Freeh and one of his partners at the firm. Freeh and his staff apparently saw the Penn State investigation as an opportunity to land a client with deep pockets, and plenty of other scandals to ride herd on.

"This has opened up an opportunity to have the dialogue with [NCAA President Mark] Emmert about possibly being the go to internal investigator for the NCAA," McNeill wrote. "It appears we have Emmert's attention now."

In response, Freeh wrote back, "Let's try to meet with him and make a deal -- a very good cost contract to be the NCAA's 'go to investigators' -- we can even craft a big discounted rate given the unique importance of such a client. Most likely he will agree to a meeting -- if he does not ask for one first."

It was a ploy that finally paid off this week. But according to the Penn State trustees' report, Freeh had begun casting his eyes on the NCAA as a potential client a few years earlier.

"Freeh's Group began speculating in January of 2010 about ways to get business from the NCAA," the trustees wrote. It began when Freeh noted in writing NCAA President Emmert's comments that he "intends to increase enforcement actions by adding new investigative resources."

That amounted to "an ideal time to launch" a business development plan, Freeh wrote, that would offer the NCAA the services of the Freeh Group for "athletic compliance and investigations."

"Documents outlining their services offer a view into their early perspectives on their investigative approach," the trustees wrote, "including a focus on assessing 'the student-athlete culture' and a comment about 'typical corruption issues which fall into our sweet-spot.'"

The PSU trustees, however, wound up panning the Freeh Report on 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 wrote. 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." 

"Our university paid $8.3 million for an 'independent investigation' that was neither independent nor a fair and thorough investigation," the trustees concluded.

Alice Pope, a Penn State trustee, has publicly voiced concerns about the high degree of "cooperation between the PA Office of Attorney General and Freeh" during their parallel investigations into the Penn State sex abuse scandal.

In an "Executive Summary of Findings" of the internal review of the source materials for the Freeh Report, dated Jan. 8, 2017, Penn State's trustees expressed concerns about alleged "interference in Louis Freeh's investigation by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General."

That interference was defined in the executive summary as: "information gathered in the criminal investigations of Penn State officials" that was "improperly (and perhaps illegally) shared with Louis Freeh and his team."

The interference came through regular leaks from former deputy attorney Frank Fina, now facing the possibility of a suspended law license for a year and a day, for other excesses committed during the Penn State investigation.

Freeh has been mum on the topic of Fina's leaks that benefitted his investigators. When I asked Freeh, as a private citizen during the Penn State probe, whether he was authorized to have access to grand jury secrets, the former FBI director through a spokesperson declined comment. 

A spokesperson for the NCAA did not respond to a request for comment about how they could possibly hire a long-standing conflict of interest like Freeh. 

1 comments:

  1. Freeh and NCAA's Emmert seem cut from the same cloth. Both seem like con men out to line their own pockets at other's expense.

    I hope the federal courts quickly toss the PA Attorney General's appeal in the Spanier case so Spanier can proceed with his lawsuit against Freeh. The revelations that Freeh was angling for an NCAA contract while investigating PSU should help Spanier's case.

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