Thursday, February 14

Freeh: No Evidence of Protecting "JP or the Football Program"

The alumni-elected trustees report confirmed that Freeh and his team knew their findings were on shaky ground -- but they chose to align with the prevailing narrative instead of following the evidence 

Ray Blehar
February 14, 2019, 11:40 AM EST

After WJAC's report on leaked alumni-elected trustees critique of the Freeh Report, the true "deniers" quickly appeared on the scene to denounce and criticize the report. 

Mark Dambly and Eric Barron stated the report merely reflects the opinions of its authors, while Louis Freeh's statement accused the authors of "blindly disregarding the incontrovertible facts."

Given the speed of the response from key "denier" Freeh, it was obvious he responded without reading the alumni report.  In fact, his rebuttal states he hadn't obtained a copy of it.

As it turns out, Freeh will be surprised to learn he is the alumni report's star witness.

No Evidence of Protecting "JP or the Football Program"

Page 29 of the alumni report refers to a late June 2012 discussion of the draft Freeh Report, where Freeh commented:

"I understand -- there is a stronger case to be made for "protecting the university" than JP or the 'Football Program' -- which is never really articulated in any of the evidence I've seen."

As history shows, the (unsupported) finding of a "culture of reverence to the football program" smashed the University's reputation, resulted in sanctioning by the NCAA, and cost PSU hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, legal fees, and settlement claims.

How did that happen?

The alumni-elected trustee report shows that former trustee, Ken Frazier, who was overseeing the Freeh investigation as co-chair of the PSU Board of Trustees Special Investigations Task Force, sent a July 23, 2012  ESPN column to the Freeh team that may have had undue influence on shifting the focus to football.   The column, written by Howard Bryant, speculated that PSU and others didn't report Sandusky to protect Paterno and the football program.

Freeh and his team discussed the ESPN column and how it fit with public expectations to put the focus on Paterno and the football program for enabling Sandusky crimes. 

However, there was push back from within the ranks about assigning motivations to the actions of PSU officials "since only the principals truly know" (and they hadn't been interviewed).  Another team member added, "I still maintain we should not say anything that we can't support."

Focus on Scant Evidence, Not Fact Checking

Apparently, the time frame from the end of the trial (when Bryant's column was published) and the release of the Freeh Report was used to put emphasis on highlighting the scant information to indict Paterno and the football program instead of verifying that the information in the draft report was accurate.

You know, things like making sure the report accurately reflected what just transpired at the trial.

At Freeh's press conference in July 2012, he commented that the football culture existed from the top to bottom, citing the janitors "were afraid of being fired for reporting a powerful football coach." And amazingly, Freeh doubled down on the janitor incident in his rebuttal to the alumni report, stating that it demonstrated the culture problem.

The alumni elected trustees' report simply blows the janitor incident out of the water.

It reveals that 8 janitors were interviewed by Freeh's team including the three that were present during the incident.  All three who were present that night were consistent in that they encouraged Janitor A (Calhoun) to report the incident. 

As it turns out, the Freeh Report's theme "of fear of being fired" relied on a single statement from a janitor -- who was not even present that evening. 

As demonstrated, the Freeh Report's version of the janitor incident was not consistent with facts provided during the Sandusky trial.

Nor were his inflammatory press conference statements regarding it.

“The janitors, that’s the tone on the bottom. Ok. These are the employees of Penn State who clean the locker rooms in the Lasch building where young boys are being raped. They witness, what is probably, in the report, the most horrific rape, that’s described.”

The testimony and verdicts from the Sandusky trial were clear that no one was anally raped in the Lasch Building.  Moreover, there was no evidence presented at the trial that any victim alleged being subjected to an anal rape on the PSU campus, let alone the football facilities.

The evidence surrounding the janitor incident exemplifies that it was Freeh who was, and still is, "blindly ignoring" the facts.

Next: Fact-Checking Freeh's Rebuttal

Saturday, February 2

The Ropes & Gray Report on Nassar is Nonsense, Harmful

The Ropes & Gray report on the Nassar scandal is a public relations document for the sole purpose of "corporate cleansing." Its findings and conclusions are nonsense and repeat the same mistakes of the Freeh Report.  It seems entirely appropriate that I publish this column on Groundhog's Day.

Ray Blehar
February 2, 2019, 5:20 PM, Updated 5:51 PM

On January 2018, nearly 160 women came forward to tell their stories of victimization at the hands of former medical doctor Larry Nassar.   

Many of the women spoke out were athletes.  Some were very famous former Olympic gymnasts.  

The sentencing caused a scandal that wasn't at all about sports (but wrongly focused on sports all along) became focused on elite women's gymnastics. 

Shortly after the sentencing concluded, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) hired the Ropes and Gray (R&G) law firm to conduct a so-called independent investigation to determine who received reports about Nassar's and what they did with the information.  

USOC stated:

“Ropes & Gray will have full discretion to conduct the investigation and make findings in whatever way Ms. McPhee and Mr. Dowden decide is appropriate,” said Susanne Lyons, the independent director of the USOC who is leading the board’s special committee.

“Ropes & Gray will prepare a written report, which will be released in its entirety to the public. The investigation will be professional, independent and thorough, and will take as long as necessary to get to the truth.

“The United States Olympic Committee pledges its full support to Ropes & Gray and will provide access to relevant documents and witnesses. USA Gymnastics (USAG) has confirmed that it will do the same.

“Once the investigation is complete and the report has been published, we will work diligently to ensure that appropriate action is taken based on the facts that emerge.”

“We must ensure that a tragedy of this magnitude can never happen again.”

The USOC announcement wasn't met with confidence from the gymnasts/survivors from the Nassar case.   They refused to speak with R&G because of their concerns over the independence of the investigation (at 15).

Their concerns were on the mark.