Paterno family to launch its own probe of Penn State scandal

Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:07pm IST

* Freeh blamed Paterno, others for cover-up

* Sandusky convicted of sexually abusing boys

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA, July 16 (Reuters) - The family of Joe Paterno, angered by a report critical of the late Penn State head coach, said on Monday it will conduct its own probe of the child sex abuse scandal surrounding Paterno's assistant that has stained the football legend's legacy.

Family members said they "are dismayed by, and vehemently disagree with" findings in the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that accused Paterno and other Pennsylvania State University officials of failing to take steps for 14 years to protect the children victimized by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Freeh, in the report commissioned by the Penn State board of trustees, blamed them for conducting a cover-up to avoid consequences of bad publicity that could upset donors and damage the Penn State brand.

Sandusky, 68, was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years and faces up to 373 years in prison.

The Paterno family said it has asked its attorneys and experts to conduct a comprehensive review of Freeh's report and comments, and "we have also asked them to go beyond the report and identify additional information that should be analyzed."

They said they asked Freeh to preserve all his records, notes and other materials "as we expect they will be the subject of great interest in the future."

"To those who are convinced that the Freeh report is the last word on this matter, that is absolutely not the case," the family said. "It is highly likely that additional critical information will emerge."

Paterno's estate could be sued for damages by victims of Sandusky's abuse, according to legal experts.

The scandal rocked the world of college sports with Sandusky's arrest in November, and Freeh's report underscored what it called callous disregard and inaction by Penn State officials. It said they had known about allegations against Sandusky since 1998, when university police investigated a complaint of abuse but let him off with a warning.

There are calls for Penn State's highly regarded football program to be penalized and for the taking down of a campus statue of Paterno, who won more games than any coach in major college football history.

A university spokesman said on Monday that neither the board of trustees nor the Penn State administration had made a decision on the statue.

Paterno was fired by the board in November and died in January of lung cancer.

"To claim that he knowingly, intentionally protected a pedophile is false," his family said in the statement.

The Freeh report said emails exchanged in 1998 and 2001 showed school officials discussed reporting allegations about Sandusky to authorities. After speaking to Paterno, "they changed the plan and decided not to make a report," Freeh said.

The Paterno family said it did not intend to duplicate Freeh's efforts and would not make further comments until its attorneys have an update on the progress of their investigation. (Writing By Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Vicki Allen)