Last Thursday afternoon was not the most comfortable experience that I have ever had. Reading the Freeh Report and somehow not throwing up all over my desk and surrounding carpet is I think an achievement in itself. There will be many people who don’t even know what the Freeh Report is – well I’ll tell you this – it is a 267 report into the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal and more importantly it is the report into how Penn State as a university dealt with a paedophile on campus.
I didn’t go to Penn State – I went to the slightly less well know Surrey Institute of Art & Design University College which doesn’t even exist any more as it is part of the Universities & Colleges for the Creative Arts but there is a reason I have drank at the foot of Penn State – and that was a curmudgeonly old man who ran the football programme at said university. Well that old man died earlier this year mere months after the biggest scandal ever in American sports and possibly only Watergate can trump it in modern American history happened under his watch. It is that big.
Bob Ryan said last week that Joe Paterno was the most famous and important person to ever come out of Pennsylvania with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin but that it was probably a push. So this isn’t some unknown guy. However now the Freeh Report has decided that he was as culpable for Jerry Sandusky’s action as three other men everyone is ready to spit on his grave. This is a sad symptom of the reactionary culture that we live in. The Freeh Report is full of holes and did not speak to many of the important people involved due to various reasons. Basically if I was using another American scandal I’d say it was the Mitchell Report which was ready to bury people based on just one source – Brian McNamee.
This time round Louis Freeh is ready to bury people on the strength of 14 and 11 year-old e-mails that may or may not be out of context. We all know that if this was a prosecution case in a criminal trial then no-one would be found guilty but the court of public opinion is a very different one to that of a court of law.
One thing I have learned in my 29 years on this Earth though is that going against the herd is not what you do unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb. One other thing I have learned is that going against the herd when a paedophile is involved in tantamount to signing your own death warrant. The voices are just so loud that rational thought processes are not allowed to prosper. People want justice – but not real justice – they want vigilante justice. This is what is happening in this case.
The other three men who Freeh says were involved have kept their counsel. The two with criminal cases to answer still believe that when their side of the story is told that they’ll be proved to have not done anything against the law.
The counsel for Gary Schultz release the following statement last week:
When the complete factual story is told before an impartial jury, it will be clear that Mike McQueary never told Mr. Schultz that he witnessed Mr. Sandusky engaging in anal intercourse with a young boy, that Mr. Schultz did not possess or maintain any secret files about Mr. Sandusky, and that there were no efforts between and among Messrs. Schultz, Curley, Paterno and Spanier to conceal Mr. Sandusky’s behavior.
The council for Tim Curley released the following statement last week:
Thus, the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report are based on an incomplete record.
A complete record can and will be made in a court of law, aided by the power of subpoena, where all of the witnesses are subject to thorough cross examination. Fortunately for Mr. Curley, the Constitution guarantees that the criminal charges pending against him will be decided by twelve citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania based upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and not upon mere opinions drawn from limited sources.
Now I am still what you call old school. You are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and deserve to be treated as such. You are not innocent until a report into your conduct which only looks at a small portion of the evidence deems you as such. That isn’t how we do it in the democratic world – well it isn’t how it should be done anyway. However the court of public opinion has spoken and even if Curley and Schultz are found not guilty their names will only be cleared legally. Their names will never be cleared in the minds of most people.
Unsurprisingly away from the lives that have been damaged so cruelly by a man so evil that you just hope the rest of his life is a sheer living hell, my thought process is about Joe Paterno. The criminal cases will play out and I like to let these things play out before saying anything due to my aforementioned crazy ideal of innocent until proven guilty. Paterno has since passed on but his legacy is still up in the air. People have made judgements already without seeing how things play out. There are some horrific pieces of journalism around – flat out horrific – not just from bums like me but people who should know better.
Sports writers are just like any other journalist or indeed any other person. They want to be the loudest and the most veracious when it comes to showing moral outrage. The problem with most of them in this instance is Joe Paterno was beloved until what was it eight or so months ago. Many journalists wrote so many amazing things about the man but now Louis Freeh says that Paterno knew everything – not only that but he covered it all up – then that alone is enough to change the minds of everyone.
An e-mail that said that Joe had been spoken to and they decided they weren’t comfortable with going to the police any more is not enough to convict Paterno on any charge. He may have talked PSU out of their plan but it is also feasible that Paterno told them that it would cost the university millions of dollars but it was the right thing to do. No-one knows. As of today there is no record of that conversation but apparently that is enough for Louis Freeh. This was a man who was head of the FBI for eight years mainly through the Clinton administration so he isn’t some chump. Surely he knows you can’t essentially convict a man based on not only second-hand evidence but when that evidence is supposition. He doesn’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. I don’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. Rick Reilly certainly doesn’t know what Joe Paterno said to Tim Curley. One man does and that is Tim Curley himself and he’ll take the stand at some point so we’ll see what comes out.
There is surely plenty of blame to go around. We just don’t know where the blame should be laid yet. We all have opinions but opinions and knowledge are two very different kettles of fish.
I want to save my final blurb for the aforementioned Rick Reilly. Who I have never been a fan of but heck at this point he’s just trying to scream the loudest like many of his brethren:
I hope Penn State loses civil suits until the walls of the accounting office cave in. I hope that Spanier, Schultz and Curley go to prison for perjury.
What happens Rick if they haven’t committed said crime of perjury? Do you just hope that they get done for perjury because it will fit in with your narrative? What the rational person will say is that they hope justice is carried out. If they are guilty then we hope they get found as such. If they are not then we hope that they are found not guilty. Obviously being rational is beyond Rick’s comprehension – or indeed most people when it comes to crime of this nature.
If anyone believes that the Freeh Report is an 100% accurate representation of what happened at Penn State then they are morons. Rick Reilly and others seem to believe that it is and therefore they are morons. A report can never be 100% accurate when it doesn’t speak to the vast majority of the people with first-hand evidence of what went on. It might be accurate but we don’t know that and we shouldn’t take it as gospel. To do so is irresponsible journalism and irresponsible on a human level.
The fall-out from Jerry Sandusky’s actions haven’t even scratched the surface yet. As depressing as that is it is the truth. When people like Mike McQueary, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz etc… start speaking publicly and/or under oath then we might start getting the full picture. Until then we have seen half the story and to form an opinion based on half a story is not much further elvolved than what happened at the Salem witch trials.
Update 25/08/12: Lots of people have read this today after being linked to on the BWI Rivals message board. For all my thoughts on PSU please click on this link for all Penn State blogs on this site