PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Penn State University trustees named former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh on Monday to head an independent investigation into the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the university.
Freeh told a news conference that the investigative team run by his law firm would examine gaps in Penn State’s “control environment,” oversight and culture that allowed years of alleged abuse to go undetected and unreported.
“The scope of our work will be broad, covering a lengthy period of time,” Freeh said.
Word of the investigation came as a psychologist working with one of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged abuse victims, now a senior in high school, said his client had been forced to leave school because of bullying.
Sandusky, 67, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was charged this month with multiple counts of sexually abusing eight young boys over a 15-year period. In a nationally-televised interview, Sandusky denied he abused the boys and said he is not a pedophile.
Two former university officials were charged in an alleged cover-up. They have also said they were innocent.
The board of trustees fired legendary football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State’s president for failing to tell police about the allegation of abuse once they learned of it.
Paterno’s dismissal was said to have triggered the bullying that a youth, known in court papers as “Victim One,” has suffered, a local newspaper reported.
Students at Central Mountain High School in Mill Hall, about 30 miles northwest of the Penn State campus in State College, blamed the 17-year-old for Paterno’s firing, psychologist Michael Gillum told the Patriot News.
Paterno’s lawyer, J. Sedgwick “Wick” Sollers, said in a statement that his client condemned the bullying:
“Coach Paterno strongly condemns harassment or bullying of any kind, and he asks anyone who truly cares about Penn State to conduct themselves honorably and with respect for others.”
Victim One, like Sandusky’s other alleged victims, met the former linebacker coach through the charity “The Second Mile” that Sandusky started in 1977 to help at-risk children. The survival of the charity is now in question.
Multiple investigations have been launched into what led to Sandusky’s alleged crimes and the university’s response, including the one by the board of trustees that has now engaged Freeh and his law firm.
“We have to do an investigation that is perceived by everyone as fully impartial and comprehensive,” said Ken Frazier, chairman of the trustees’ special committee. Freeh, FBI director from 1993 to 2001, has no ties to Penn State.
“The scope of his work will be expansive, and he is free to take his work to whatever conclusions he deems appropriate,” Frazier said, adding that no one, including the trustees, would be exempt from the review.
Some have criticized the trustees for being blind-sided by the grand jury report into Sandusky’s alleged crimes and the role that university officials might have played in covering them up, even though the existence of an investigation was reported earlier this year.
There is no specific time-frame for Freeh to complete his investigation and the findings and recommendations will be made public.
Freeh said investigators he has assembled include former FBI agents and prosecutors with decades of experience, including some with experience in pedophile cases.
The team has established its own toll-free hotline and e-mail address for tips relevant to the case.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in State College;
Writing by Ros Krasny; Editing by Greg McCune, Vicki Allen and Cynthia Johnston)