STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A potentially explosive report into whether football coach Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials took steps to conceal that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was a child molester will be released Thursday — online for all to see, officials said Tuesday.
Attorneys for the university's deposed president, meanwhile, broke a monthslong silence and denied suggestions that Graham Spanier participated in a cover-up with the image of Penn State and its powerful and lucrative football program at stake.
The internal report by former FBI chief Louis Freeh is expected to reveal how the university treated Sandusky, Paterno's one-time heir apparent, after top administrators fielded complaints about his encounters with young boys more than a decade ago. It is also expected to cast light on how the Hall of Fame coach, who died in January, exerted control over the football program while Sandusky worked under him and after Sandusky retired from coaching.
And the report could influence how Paterno is remembered while affecting an ongoing NCAA probe into the school's conduct and the criminal cases against two Penn State administrators.
Freeh's spokesman said the report will be published online at 9 a.m. Thursday. Investigators will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia to discuss its findings and recommendations. The university trustees, who are meeting in Scranton on Thursday, said they will respond shortly thereafter.
Paterno's family said in a statement Tuesday that the late coach "did not cover up for Jerry Sandusky. Joe Paterno did not know that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile. Joe Paterno did not act in any way to prevent a proper investigation of Jerry Sandusky. To claim otherwise is a distortion of the truth."
Paterno supported the decision by the board of trustees to hire Freeh to conduct a thorough investigation of the Sandusky allegations, but recent news leaks raised questions about fairness and confidentiality, the family said in the lengthy statement. They said the Freeh group turned down an offer for the family to respond to allegations after also asking to review the findings to prepare a response.
The winningest coach in major college football, Paterno never got a chance to speak to the Freeh group before he died of lung cancer on Jan. 22 at age 85.
"It is our firm belief that the report would be stronger and more credible if we were simply given a chance to review the findings concerning Joe Paterno in order to present the case he was never allowed to make," the family said.
Trustee Ryan McCombie — who was elected to the board this spring and was not a trustee when Paterno was fired in November — said he hoped the report took a broader look beyond Paterno "and addresses the university as a whole — and how this culture was handled or mishandled correctly — and comes to some closure on that."
"The people who loved Joe Paterno will still love him when this is over," McCombie said. "The people who disliked him may feel they have ammunition to continue to dislike him."
Tuesday's announcement that Freeh and his team of investigators have completed their work came a few hours after lawyers for Spanier denied that he was ever told of any criminality by Sandusky. The lawyers were rebutting reports that indicate Spanier, who was interviewed by Freeh investigators on Friday, might have tried to cover up the abuse.
"At no time in the more than 16 years of his presidency at Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct or criminality of any kind, and he reiterated that during his interview with Louis Freeh and his colleagues," said a statement from the lawyers, Peter Vaira and Elizabeth Ainslie.
Both Spanier, 63, and Paterno were ousted by school trustees a few days after Sandusky's November arrest. Prosecutors described how Sandusky, 68, culled the most vulnerable children from his charity for at-risk youth and used gifts and his access to Penn State facilities to abuse them over a 15-year span. Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 counts of abuse involving 10 boys and will likely die in prison.