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Paterno family: Freeh report 'factually wrong'

By Steve Almasy, CNN
February 11, 2013 -- Updated 1025 GMT (1825 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Louis Freeh says family review was 'self-serving'
  • Paterno widow says Freeh report must be corrected
  • Report from family of late coach comes seven months after university-funded review
  • Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh led family probe

(CNN) -- The family of the late Joe Paterno released a report Sunday morning that absolved the coaching great of blame in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and said a prior review commissioned by Penn State University was "factually wrong, speculative and fundamentally flawed. "

Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh put together the new report, the Paterno family said in a written statement.

"The experts determined that the conclusions of the (university) report are based on raw speculation and unsupported opinion -- not facts and evidence," Thornburgh said, according to the statement.

Louis Freeh, who authored the university report released in July, said the family review was "self-serving."

Read Freeh's statement

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died on January 22. He was 85. The legendary coach, seen here in 1988, was fired in November 2011 during his 46th season at the helm of the Nittany Lions program. Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died on January 22. He was 85. The legendary coach, seen here in 1988, was fired in November 2011 during his 46th season at the helm of the Nittany Lions program.
Paterno as Penn State coach
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The former FBI director said Paterno and three other former university officials showed no empathy for Sandusky's victims and chose not to report his conduct to authorities.

"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," Freeh said in a lengthy written statement.

The family statement said Paterno never attempted to hide any information or impede any investigation into Sandusky's activities while using Penn State facilities.

The university responded to the report, saying Freeh had been tasked with conducting an internal review to identify failures in the school's response to allegations.

"It is understandable and appreciated that people will draw their own conclusions and opinions from the facts uncovered in the Freeh report," Penn State said in a written statement.

The school had acted on most of the 119 recommendations made in the report, the statement said.

After Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, the university fired Paterno and funded a review of the scandal led by Freeh.

Official: Penn State paid Paterno's estate $5.76 million after his death

Freeh's 267-page review blamed Paterno, former university President Graham Spanier, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz for allegedly taking part in a cover-up to avoid bad publicity.

The family disputed that, saying the "allegation is false" that Paterno participated in a conspiracy.

The Paterno family review also skewered the Freeh report for failing to interview key witnesses, allowing some to testify anonymously and using an incomplete string of e-mails for evidence. Most of the e-mails from that time are unavailable, the family said.

Freeh's team concluded that the school's top administrators had "empowered" Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the football team, to continue his abuse. The report said the panel interviewed more than 430 witnesses.

A lawyer for one of Sandusky's victims said Sunday that Paterno should have taken action after reports of Sandusky's behavior.

The family's complaints about witnesses and e-mails "do not erase the shocking and striking documents which Freeh did uncover and which form an unassailable finding made by Mr. Freeh that Joe Paterno tragically had knowledge in 1998 and again in 2001 that Jerry Sandusky was a threat, which was never dealt with properly by the former Penn State coach," said Thomas Kline, attorney for Victim No. 5 in the Sandusky trial.

In an online letter to Penn State's current and former players, Paterno's widow, Sue, wrote on Friday: "The Freeh report failed and if it is not challenged and corrected, nothing worthwhile will have come from these tragic events."

The family, she said, wants a full record of what happened.

The university panicked after the Freeh report was released, she claimed, and Penn State's board of trustees should have challenged the report.

Penn State review recasts story of football hero Paterno

She told the players that they -- and his family -- were Joe Paterno's legacy, not a report.

She also criticized the Freeh report's depiction of her husband.

"When the Freeh report was released last July, I was as shocked as anyone by the findings and by Mr. Freeh's extraordinary attack on Joe's character and integrity. I did not recognize the man Mr. Freeh described," she said.

The university's board of trustees fired Paterno after a 46-year career because, it said, his "decision to do his minimum legal duty and not to do more to follow up constituted a failure of leadership."

In July, the NCAA imposed on Penn State some of the most severe penalties ever, including a $60 million fine.

The governing body of major college sports also vacated Penn State's football wins dating back to 1998, the year when allegations that Sandusky was abusing children were first made. That penalty removed Paterno from the top of the list of Division I college football's winningest coaches. Paterno died in January 2012.

Sandusky, who ran a charity for disadvantaged children after he retired in 1999, was convicted last June on 45 counts of child sex abuse. In October, the 68-year-old former coach was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Spanier, Curley and Schultz face charges stemming from the Sandusky scandal, including perjury, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children. All three are awaiting court dates and have said they are innocent, according to their lawyers.

Do sanctions alter history books on Penn State and Paterno's legacy?

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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