STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno's family is firing back.
At 9 a.m. Sunday a report commissioned by the Paterno family was released. It challenges the conclusion by former FBI director Louis Freeh that the late Penn State coach conspired to conceal sex abuse allegations.
An independent review of that report claims it's factually wrong, deeply flawed and an unfair rush to injustice. The 238-page analysis took six months to complete.
It's made up of four separate independent expert reviews including former Pa. Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
Back in July former FBI Director Louis Freeh gave another black eye to the blue and white. After an 8-month long investigation the report found top leaders at Penn State, including legendary football coach Joe Paterno, allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse in order to avoid bad publicity.
"The most powerful men at Penn state failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children Sandusky victimized," said Freeh during a July press conference.
The report was commissioned by the PSU Board of Trustees and details how Joe Paterno and others conspired to conceal sex abuse allegations against Sandusky. Less than two weeks later the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions on the football program and stripped 111 wins from Paterno.
"The clarity that's come out of the report which showed 61 years of excellent service that Joe gave to the university is now marred and we have to step back and ask what does that mean," said PSU Board of Trustee Karen Peetz during a July press conference.
Sunday morning the Paterno family fired back, calling Freeh's report a disservice to JoePa, the university community and Sandusky's victims. In what's billed as an exhaustive response, a team of experts concluded "late Penn State Coach Joe Paterno did not attempt to hide any information or hinder or impede any investigation related to the crimes or conduct of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky." The critique argues the Freeh report's findings were unsupported by the facts.
"I found the report to be inaccurate in some respects, to be speculative and unsupported by the record that was compiled in the course of preparing the report," explained Thornburgh in a video posted on Paterno.com. "In short, fundamentally flawed with respect to the determinations made as to the role is any that Mr. Paterno played in any of this."
He says Freeh's effort was incomplete and he didn't interview key players.
Freeh released a statement Sunday defending his work saying in part, "I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade." He went on to say he respects the right of the Paterno family to conduct a media campaign in an effort to "shape the legacy of Joe Paterno" but the coach should have done more to stop Sandusky.
The new report is once again putting Penn State and the scandal back in the spotlight, and it's getting mixed reviews.
"I think it's really nice that we're finally going to get the facts and get to the bottom of it," said Patrick Hensinger.
"I think it's a good thing that they came out and spoke their opinion," added Lori Kram. "The family had every right."
"I think the Freeh report was an opinion that could be taken different ways," shared Chris Rood.
Eighty-five-year-old Paterno died of lung cancer last January. His statue outside Beaver Stadium was taken down just 10 days after the Freeh report was released. Some people say their minds are already made up about JoePa, and we should all move on.
"I think that he knew and I think he could have taken it to the upper level and he didn't," explained John Lucas. "I think the opportunity was there and I think at that time he owed it to the school, the students and the faculty and everybody involved."
"I don't think it's going to change anyone's opinion one way or the other," said Bill Hagan.
Paterno loyalists have been waiting for this counter offensive to come out. They hope people take something away from the report.
"The truth," shared Jennifer Audette. "I think not only was the Freeh report negative for the university but it really didn't do anything to serve justice to the victims of Sandusky."
"My image of him doesn't change," added Brendan Kuhn. "He was a man with honor, dedication and dignity."
"Penn State can get back to Penn State and focus on the good that they do and the football program can get back to just playing football," said Hensinger.
You can find the report at this link: Paterno.com
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