PSU trustees hire former FBI chief for probe
Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh acknowledged he has no subpoena powers and cannot force people to cooperate in the independent investigation he will lead into Penn State University’s handling of child sex abuse allegations against a former football coach.
He agreed to take the job because of assurances from the university’s Board of Trustees that no one would interfere with the work.
“We have been asked to investigate the matter fully, fairly and completely,” Freeh said on Monday during a news conference at Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. “The special investigative committee has assured us of total independence.”
Freeh will lead a group of former federal prosecutors and FBI agents to investigate “without any fear or favor” what led to 40 charges against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and to determine “who knew what, when and what changes need to be made going forward,” trustee Ken Frazier announced.
Frazier, who is CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck, is leading a separate committee of trustees, a graduate student, a representative of the University Senate and former astronaut Guion Bluford Jr., a 1964 Penn State graduate.
Though Frazier said Freeh has “complete rein to follow every lead,” he doesn’t have the investigative powers of the state Attorney General’s Office, which convened a grand jury investigation that brought the charges against Sandusky.
“We will attempt to interview all witnesses, and we expect that we’ll have a lot of information to turn over to the public,” Freeh said.
Asked whether this investigation might interfere with the Attorney General’s work, Gov. Tom Corbett said: “I think one of the reasons Mr. Freeh was appointed was he understands the role of the grand jury, he understands the role of the prosecutors, and he will work well with Attorney General Linda Kelly to make sure that does not happen.”
Freeh said trustees during the weekend retained the services of his law firm, Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, and his team is reviewing records. Frazier said the university has no estimate on how much the investigation will cost.
“What we’ve pledged is to go as far as we need to go to uncover the facts,” Frazier said. The intent is to determine “if our institution did the right thing or if we could or should have done more.”
Frazier said several times that the trustees chose Freeh partly because he has “no connection whatsoever to Penn State or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
But Freeh’s wife, Marilyn A. Coyle, grew up in Squirrel Hill and graduated from Sacred Heart High School in Shadyside before attending Mercyhurst College in Erie, said her father, Roger Coyle.
The senior counsel for Freeh’s consulting firm, Stanley Sporkin, attended Penn State from 1949 to 1953.
Marilyn Coyle is the oldest of three children of Roger and Mary Coyle, who live near Frick Park in Squirrel Hill. Roger Coyle, 78, a retired metallurgical engineer for U.S. Steel, said he and his wife often visit their daughter and son-in-law at their home in Wilmington, Del., and keep in touch with the couple’s six boys, who range in age from 14 to 27.
Coyle said his son-in-law has the experience to get to the bottom of the Penn State scandal.
“I think that something has to be done. It was an awful thing that happened (at Penn State),” Roger Coyle said. “I’m sure that he’ll do a great job on it. He’s a wonderful person. No matter what he undertakes, he does a great job.”
Sandusky, 67, is charged with abusing eight boys between 1994 and 2009. Authorities said some of the incidents occurred on campus, inside the football team facilities. The grand jury determined that Sandusky met his victims through The Second Mile, a charity he founded in 1977 to help disadvantaged kids.
Within a week of Sandusky’s arrest, university President Graham Spanier resigned and legendary football coach Joe Paterno was fired as critics questioned whether they did enough when they learned of allegations against Sandusky a decade ago.
“People are asking completely valid questions about why action wasn’t taken that might have prevented further abuse,” Frazier said. “This must never be allowed to happen again.”
The grand jury investigation, begun in 2009 under the direction of then-state Attorney General Corbett, led to perjury charges against Athletic Director Tim Curley and university senior Vice President Gary Schultz, contending they lied about an incident that was brought to their attention in 2002.
Corbett defended the decision not to arrest Sandusky in 2009 for that incident as prosecutors built a larger case. Asked whether someone should have revoked Sandusky’s privileges to an office and gym pass at the university, Corbett said, “It would have revealed what we were doing in the grand jury. I gave thought to it on a constant basis.”
Grand jury investigations are secret by law. Corbett said state police Commissioner Frank Noonan and Kevin Harley — Corbett’s spokesman in the Attorney General’s and governor’s offices — were the only members of his administration who knew of the investigation.
The Patriot-News in Harrisburg reported the investigation in March.
To share a tip
Penn State investigators set up a hot line, 855-290-3382, and an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org , to gather tips and information.
Who is looking at Penn State?
— The state Attorney General’s Office, which convened a grand jury beginning in 2009
— The U.S. Department of Education
— The NCAA
— A nine-member board of Penn State trustees, a representative from the University Senate, a graduate student and alumnus Guion Bluford Jr., a former astronaut
— A team of former federal prosecutors and FBI agents — some with experience investigating pedophiles — led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh
Louis Joseph Freeh
Occupation: Founder of consulting firm Freeh Group International Solutions LLC and law firm Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, with offices in Washington, New York and Wilmington, Del.
Education: Received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and attended Rutgers School of Law-Newark. He obtained a master’s of law from New York University School of Law.
Background: Served as a federal judge until President Clinton appointed him as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His tenure from September 1993 to June 2001 included the 1992 shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho; the siege at Waco, Texas; and the 1996 apprehension of the ‘Unabomber.’
In June 2001, he resigned amid criticism that the FBI needed stronger leadership, particularly after allegations of spying by Robert Hanssen. Freeh called the security breach ‘exceptionally grave’ and appointed a panel to review the damage done by Hanssen’s espionage.