In a scathing report that takes to task former head football coach Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials, an independent report from investigators led by former FBI director Louis Freeh says there was a "total disregard for the safety and welfare" of Jerry Sandusky's child victims "by the most senior leaders" at the school.
That is "our most saddening and sobering finding," Freeh concludes about his investigation into the scandal that rocked the school last year.
Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at the university was arrested last November. He was convicted last month on 45 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a 15-year period.
According to a statement from Freeh:
"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
The men he's referring to:
— Paterno, who was fired after the scandal broke and died in January.
— Former school president Graham Spanier, who was fired after the scandal broke.
— Athletic director Tim Curley, who is on leave.
— University Vice President Gary Schultz, who has retired since the scandal broke last November.
We'll have more from Freeh's statement and the 267-page report he's releasing today shortly.
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. Freeh Says Paterno Could Have Stopped Sandusky:
Asked if he thinks Paterno was powerful enough on campus to have put a stop to what Sandusky was doing years before the assistant coach's 2011 arrest, Freeh just said the former head football coach was "one of the most powerful leaders" at Penn State. "He could have done so if he'd wished to," Freeh said.
His report includes evidence that Paterno had known since at least 1998 of reports that Sandusky was having inappropriate relationships with young boys.
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. In Short, Freeh Says, "Nothing Was Done":
At a news conference a moment ago, Freeh said that none of those four men alerted the board of trustees or other authorities — and none of them ever even talked to Sandusky about the first incident they were told of, in 1998.
"In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity," Freeh added.
The four men showed, he said, a "callous and shocking disregard for child victims." And asked if what they did was illegal, the former FBI director said he would have to leave that to authorities to decide — but added that the report does contain evidence of an "active agreement to conceal" what was happening.
Update at 10:25 a.m. ET. Janitors Saw An Assault, But Feared For Their Jobs:
The report places heavy blame on senior Penn State leaders, whose concealment of child abuse and failure to communicate with police drifted to lower level university employees. In the fall of 2000, Sandusky assaulted a boy in the athletic building showers, and that attack was seen by a janitor. A second janitor saw suspicious behavior by Sandusky and a boy later that same night. The two told a third custodian, and all of them knew they could call the police.
But they didn't. The report quotes one janitor saying that to tell police "would have been like going against the president of the United States in my eyes. ... I know Paterno has so much power, if he wanted to get rid of someone, I would have been gone."
Added the janitor: "Football runs this university."
Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. What Did Paterno Do?
The report offers some more details about how Paterno reacted in February 2001 after being told by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary that he (McQueary) had seen Sandusky engaging in some sort of sexual act with a young boy in a Penn State shower.
According to the report, "Paterno tells McQueary, 'you did what you had to do. It's my job now to figure out what we want to do.' "
But Paterno never notified law enforcement and didn't tell his superiors until the day after McQueary reported the incident — or two days after the assault in teh shower. Paterno called Curry and Schultz. The report says Paterno didn't "want to interfere with their weekends."
Update at 9:40 a.m. ET. "Striking Lack Of Empathy":
Freeh's report is now online here. In its executive summary, the four Penn State officials are said to have "exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims." And, says the report, "these individuals, unchecked by the Board of Trustees that did not perform its oversight duties, empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University's facilities."
Wednesday, as we reported, Paterno's family issued a pre-report statement saying that he never covered up anything. The family also questioned "the fairness and confidentiality of the investigative process."