Perhaps the most damning details of former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report on Penn State are in emails exchanged between top university officials over two incidents in 1998 and 2001 that involved allegations of inappropriate contact between Jerry Sandusky and boys in a campus athletic facility.
Penn State’s former president and two former administrators, as well as former head football coach Joe Paterno, all have consistently told state and federal investigators, a state grand jury and the public that they didn’t know Sandusky was sexually assaulting boys.
The emails tell a different story.
In May 1998, the mother of a boy known as Victim 6 reported to Penn State’s police department that Sandusky had showered with her 11-year-old son at a football building on campus.
Gary Schultz, who was then a vice president who oversaw the campus police, notified Tim Curley, who was the Penn State athletic director at the time, and Graham Spanier, who was then the university’s president, about the investigation.
“Behavior – at best inappropriate @ worst sexual improprieties . . . at min – Poor Judgment,” Schultz wrote in his notes on the case.
Schultz continued in his handwritten notes, which were kept in a secret file investigators didn't discover until two months ago, “Is this the opening of pandora’s box? . . . Other children?"
Curley, who was Paterno’s supervisor, told Schultz and Spanier that he’d told the coach. In a follow-up email, Curley asked Schultz, “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”
Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January, later told a state grand jury that he had no knowledge of the 1998 investigation.
University police met with Sandusky in June 1998, a month after the mother reported the incident, and the account he gave them matched the boy’s. He admitted hugging the boy in the shower, but said there was nothing sexual about it and told officers that he’d done the same thing with other children. Police told Sandusky there was no basis for charges and they closed the case.
Schultz told Curley and Spanier in an email: “I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us.”
A year later, Sandusky retired from his coaching position and was paid a lump sum of $168,000. He kept an office and retained access to university facilities, including the football building’s locker room and showers.
On Feb. 9, 2001, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who later became an assistant coach, walked into the locker room and observed Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the shower. McQueary reported the assault to Paterno the next day, setting up a chain of events that became the officials’ second opportunity to stop Sandusky.
In a discussion the next week, according to the Freeh report, Spanier, Schultz and Curley first raised the possibility of reporting Sandusky to the Department of Public Welfare, the state agency that investigates child abuse cases, and informing the board chairman of Sandusky’s youth charity, the Second Mile. They agreed to inform Paterno of their plans.
But later that month, Curley sent an email to Schultz and Spanier throwing cold water on the idea “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday,” referring to Paterno.
They then devised a plan to confront Sandusky about his behavior, offer him professional help and bar him from bringing children to campus. If Sandusky didn’t cooperate, only then would they inform state authorities and the Second Mile.
“This approach is acceptable to me,” Spanier emailed Curley and Schultz. “The approach you outline is a humane and reasonable way to proceed.”
By the time Sandusky was arrested on Nov. 5, 2011, a decade had passed. And there were 10 victims instead of two.