Saturday, February 16

Ganim Preview: Article on Psych Reports Required Corrections

Sara Ganim's story on Jerry Lauro was pre-mature and demanded corrections when new information surfaced.  Those corrections never materialized.
Ray Blehar 

First off, I don't know Sara Ganim.  I've never met her or spoke to her.  I am not in the business of making personal attacks on people and I urge anyone who reads this blog not to engage in such behavior.  It is hurtful and non-productive.

After reading many of her columns, I was struck by the number of factual errors I found that could have been prevented had Sara simply done an internet search or two on her computer.  

Another important issue is "never rely on a single source" which in my employment as an analyst is rule number one.  In other words, instead of running with a story based on a single source, it may have better served Sara to wait a day until she could review the facts herself or confirm it with other sources.

Finally, there is the issue of slanting a story a certain way before the facts are known or to build on the narrative that existed at the time.  We all know the prevailing narrative was a cover up at Penn State.  However, had Ms. Ganim waited a day to review the evidence, she may have uncovered a new, completely different narrative.

The following story is one of her articles that would have been well served by all the above.

Patriot-News Special Report: 1998 Jerry Sandusky investigator would have pursued dropped case if he had seen hidden Penn State police report

1.  Headline promotes the prevailing narrrative -- PSU was covering up Sandusky's crimes.

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 6:00 AM     Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 12:23 PM
2.  Published one day before the public release of the 1998 PSU police report, the Chambers report, and the Seasock report.

By SARA GANIM, The Patriot-News The Patriot-News

The state Department of Public Welfare investigator who closed a child sexual abuse investigation against Jerry Sandusky in 1998 said he likely would not have closed it had he seen reports from two psychologists who interviewed the young accuser.

3.  Only one psychologist (Chambers) interviewed Victim 6.  The other report was that of an unlicensed counselor (Seasock).

4.  The investigation involved two boys, not one.  This should have raised questions, such as, were there evaluations done on the second boy and if not, why not?   

"The course of history could have been changed,” Lauro said.

Jerry Lauro, brought in to investigate the child abuse claims against Sandusky, said Wednesday that Penn State police never shared those conflicting reports with him before he closed the case. Lauro said he closed the case because he did not believe there was enough evidence based solely on interviews.

5.  Lauro was completely aware of the second evaluation and he instructed CYS to arrange it, according to the 1998 police report. This interview took place on May 8th.  The investigation did not close until June 1st.  So, Lauro knew of the interview and had access to it.  

6. The first psychologic evaluation, conducted by Alycia Chambers, was released to DPW  on or about May 7th.   DPW had the report in its possession for nearly a month.  The Chambers report was also released to CYS (according to my discussion with her on October 12, 2012).  Therefore, DPW could have gotten access to Chambers report through CYS.

Lauro was interviewed by the state grand jury that recently brought 52 child sex abuse charges involving 10 boys against Sandusky, but he said he did not even know that psychologists had evaluated the boy, then 11, until a reporter who acquired the 100-page report approached Lauro and showed him the reports.

7.  Again, Lauro arranged the second evaluation of the child, so he definitely knew of the evaluation conducted by John Seasock.  Ganim would have learned this on March 23rd -- if she read the police report.

Penn State “Detective [Ron] Schreffler never shared any of these with me,” Lauro said, referring to reports from psychologist John Seasock and a female psychologist. Seasock concluded that the boy was not sexually abused two days before the case was closed. The report of the female psychologist who evaluated the boy right after the incident found Sandusky was exhibiting signs of grooming a victim for sexual abuse.

8.  Lauro may have been honest about Schreffler not sharing the reports with him, but that doesn't explain how Lauro didn't see either report -- especially the one that he arranged. 

“The conclusions she had drawn in her report were pretty damaging,” Lauro said. “I would have made a different decision. ... It’s unbelievable, and it gets my blood pressure going when I think about it.”

Schreffler, when reached by phone, declined comment. “My report speaks for itself,” he said before hanging up.

9.  Shreffler did not decline comment.  He provided a very strong statement about the facts of the case (i.e., "My report speaks for itself.")  Schreffler couldn't have been more right.  His report - even just the 13 or so page version that is publicly available - is a treasure trove of information.

Information about the two psychological reports surfaced last week when Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola, made a formal request for copies of them in preparation for trial. Judge John Cleland ruled that Amendola can read them but can’t use them in court without getting his permission.

A source who reviewed the documents told The Patriot-News that he believed Seasock’s report that the boy was not abused was the reason that former and missing District Attorney Ray Gricar never pursued charges against Sandusky in 1998.

Gricar’s role has become the subject of much fodder and conjecture for two reasons: The case is the only other known time that police knew of allegations against Sandusky. And Gricar vanished in 2005. He was declared dead last summer but his case still stumps investigators, who say they have no evidence that his disappearance is linked to the Sandusky case.

When child abuse is reported, police and county Children and Youth Services typically conduct separate investigations. They work together but can have different conclusions.

In this case, since Centre County CYS worked closely with Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, Lauro was brought in from the state Department of Public Welfare to do the child abuse investigation.

10.  A search of the PA Child Protective Services Laws would have revealed that DPW was required to investigate ANY CASE involving an incident where the subject was an employee of a child welfare organization of Centre County, whether CYS had a close working relationship with that organization or not.

Schreffler and Penn State police closed the criminal investigation at Gricar’s request. But Lauro still could have decided to pursue the case within child protective services.

11. According to the police report, the investigation was concluded immediately after Schreffler and Lauro interviewed Sandusky on June 1, 1998.  Nothing in the report mentions that Gricar directed the case to be closed. 

That doesn’t mean Sandusky would have been charged. But it means the finding could have gone into the child abuse registry and The Second Mile might have been notified.

12.  A search of the laws  (Pa. 055  § 3490.91. and Pa. 055  § 3490.56.) would have revealed that  Centre County CYS was required, within 24 hours of receiving the report of suspected abuse,  to inform The Second Mile that Sandusky was under investigation and that CYS was required to notify The Second Mile at the end of the investigation, regardless of whether there was a finding of abuse.  

Lauro has said Schreffler also never told him the details of a meeting set up by police between Sandusky and the boy’s mother, in which police were listening secretly from another room. Prosecutors say Sandusky admitted to the mother that he touched her son and said, “I wish I were dead.”

“I remember my last conversation with [Schreffler] concerning him hiding in that room,” Lauro said last year. “He didn’t tell me details. All he said was, ‘There’s nothing to it — we’re going to close our case.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine, I’m going to close my case, too.’ “

13.  As an investigative reporter, how could Ganim not be suspicious or skeptical about Lauro's statement regarding not knowing the details of what transpired in that sting?  

The mother of Victim Six says that she had believed Seasock was a paid consultant for CYS when she took her son to see him.

14. An internet search would have revealed that Seasock was employed by Renaissance Psychological Associates.  A day later, Ganim had access to the police report and Seasock's report that clarified the relationship between Seasock and CYS.

The other psychologist, whom the mother had contacted as soon as her son came home and told her that Sandusky had forced him to take a shared shower, saw her son over a longer period of time, she said.

15. The mother called the psychologist the next morning not that night.  Ganim would have learned this the day after this article was written.

“And that psychologist concluded that this incident ... was a classic example of how a sexual abuser grooms his victim,” said a source who saw the report.

<end of article>

March 23, 2012:  1998 Police Report, Seasock Report, and Chambers Report

The day after the publishing of the above article, the 1998 Police Report, the Seasock Report, and the Chambers report were released to the public.

The 1998 police report blows quite a few holes in Lauro's version of the 1998 investigation and what he knew or didn't know.  It strains credulity that Lauro could have set up the second evaluation and then never asked or sought out the report before closing his case.

The Chambers report provides information to correct the date and time that the mother of Victim 6 called the psychologist.

The Seasock report states for whom he was employed and the police report shows that he was brought into the investigation by CYS -- at the request of DPW and, most significantly, against the orders of Assistant District Attorney Karen Arnold.

The latter is quite a development and would seem rather newsworthy, but the Patriot News did not report those facts in the days following the release of the three reports (or ever, based on searches of their web-site).

The Lauro narrative became the accepted version of events -- that somehow the Chambers report "got lost" and that Seascock mysteriously appeared and provided the fateful evaluation that cleared Sandusky.

Many of us have known for some time that Lauro's narrative was questionable, if not false. 

REPEAT:  Please refrain from any personal attacks on Ms. Ganim or anyone else associated with the Patriot News.  


  1. Great work as always Ray . . . so without getting personal about the author or the paper, can you speculate on a motivation to run this article the day before these reports were released? Seems like it would have been more accurate and responsible to wait for the release of the reports, read them, and modify the article as needed.

  2. Jeffrey,
    The author wrote about them the reports the day before, as well.

    I haven't checked beyond that. This all allegedly got started when Amendola made a motion with the court to obtain the psych reports.

    I guess the choice was to "scoop" everyone and risk getting the facts wrong. Not a big risk to the PN. They'd just issue a correction the next day.....oh, wait.

    1. well now Ganim is on to bigger and better things, like question where the money raised from THON is going . . . despite the annual reports being online . . .

    2. And she can find that on the PSU report on Philanthropy. Time to revoke her degree....along with her Pulitzer.

  3. This is a general media question I have been pondering for a while, but perhaps you could answer it:

    Is there a written code of ethics in the journalism profession for online articles such as the American Bar Assn, Medical profession and others follow ?

    If so, one of the rules should be if you find new facts, a correction or update should be provided and linked to the original article (not hidden as in the olden days on a back page).

    I have also noticed that many (not all) in the media that I have approached (and I have never approached this particular one ) with a legitimate question about what they have written are rather defensive.

    1. Yes, there is a journalists code of fact, different countries have different codes.

      Common among them:
      Accuracy and standards for factual reporting:
      -- Reporters are expected to be as accurate as possible given the time allotted to story preparation and the space available, and to seek reliable sources.

      -- Events with a single eyewitness are reported with attribution. Events with two or more independent eyewitnesses may be reported as fact. Controversial facts are reported with attribution.

      -- Independent fact-checking by another employee of the publisher is desirable

      -- Corrections are published when errors are discovered

      -- Defendants at trial are treated only as having "allegedly" committed crimes, until conviction, when their crimes are generally reported as fact (unless, that is, there is serious controversy about wrongful conviction).

      -- Opinion surveys and statistical information deserve special treatment to communicate in precise terms any conclusions, to contextualize the results, and to specify accuracy, including estimated error and methodological criticism or flaws.