Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing boys, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, after waiving his preliminary hearing. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(CBS/AP) Penn State's internal investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal found that senior leaders at the university displayed "total disregard" for the children victimized by the former assistant football coach, according to a report released Thursday.
A team led by former federal judge and FBI director Louis Freeh interviewed hundreds of people to learn how the university responded to warning signs that its once-revered former defensive coordinator -- a man who helped Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno win two national titles while touting "success with honor" -- was a serial child molester.
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State," Freeh told reporters during a morning press conference. "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
After an eight-month inquiry, Freeh's firm produced a 267-page report finding that Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, university vice president Gary Schultz, who oversaw the campus police department, and university president Graham Spanier "never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky's victims until after Sandusky's arrest."
Sexual abuse might have been prevented if university officials had banned Sandusky from bringing children onto campus after a 1998 inquiry, the report said. Despite their knowledge of the police probe into Sandusky showering with a boy in a football locker room, Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no action to limit his access to campus, the investigation found.
The May 1998 complaint by a woman whose son came home with wet hair after showering with Sandusky didn't result in charges at the time. The report says Schultz was worried the matter could be opening "Pandora's box."
Officials later did bar him from bringing children to campus.
Karen Peetz, the chairwoman of Penn State's board of trustees, said the panel believes Paterno's "61 years of excellent service to the university is now marred" by the scandal and how he handled the accusations.
Peetz also said the board "accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred," but that no board members would be stepping down.
Another trustee, Kenneth Frazier, said, "Our hearts remain heavy and we are deeply ashamed."
Freeh called the officials' disregard for child victims "callous and shocking."
Freeh also said Sandusky's conduct was in part a result of the school's lack of transparency, which stemmed from a "failure of governance" on the part of officials and the board of trustees. He said the collective inaction and mindset at the top of the university trickled all the way down to a school janitor who was afraid for his job and opted to not report seeing sex abuse in a school locker room in 2000.
The report also singled out the revered Penn State football program for criticism. It says Paterno and university leaders allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, "not as a suspected child predator, but as a valued member of the Penn State football legacy, with future 'visibility' at Penn State,'" allowing him to groom victims.
Investigators, however, found no evidence linking his $168,000 retirement package in 1999 to the 1998 police investigation. Freeh called the payout unprecedented but said there was no evidence it was an attempt to buy Sandusky's silence.
In 2001, Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant, told Paterno he saw Sandusky with a young boy in the football team shower. Paterno, in turn, alerted Curley, who investigated the report along with Schultz. Curley and Schultz ultimately decided not to alert law enforcement or child welfare authorities.
Curley, who's on leave, and the now-retired Schultz, are awaiting trial on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating Sandusky and failed to report the McQueary complaint to civil authorities as required.
Curley and Schultz declined to be interviewed by the investigators on the advice of counsel, according to the report. They stated through their attorneys that the "humane" thing to do in response to the incident McQueary witnessed was to "carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague but troubling allegations," according to the report.
The report found that Curley, Schultz and Spanier initially planned to report the 2001 shower incident to the state Department of Public Welfare only to back off after Curley had a conversation with Paterno. The three officials then agreed to tell Sandusky "we feel there is a problem" and offer him "professional help." The officials also agreed to report Sandusky if he didn't cooperate.
"I didn't know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was," Paterno told The Washington Post after the scandal broke, according to the report. "So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn't work out that way."
More than 430 current or former school employees were interviewed since November, including nearly everyone associated with the football program under Paterno. The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer in January at age 85, two months after being fired as coach following Sandusky's arrest, without telling Freeh's team his account of what happened.