In this Nov. 9, 2011 file photo, former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno and his wife, Sue Paterno, stand on their porch to thank supporters gathered outside their home in State College, Pa. / Gene J. Puskar/AP
A report commissioned by the family of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno concluded that Paterno "did not hide any information or hinder or impede any investigation" related to the sexual molestation crimes of former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky and sharply critiqued both the conclusions drawn and investigative techniques used by former FBI director Louis Freeh, whose July 2012 report stated that Paterno was among several university officials complicit in a decade-long cover-up.
Penn State's Board of Trustees commissioned and accepted the findings in the Freeh Report, which was used as the basis for the NCAA leveling historic sanctions against the Nittany Lions' football program and the removal of Paterno's statue from in front of Beaver Stadium.
The Paternos' 238-page rebuttal, released Sunday by Washington, D.C., law firm King & Spalding, relies heavily on expert opinion to attack the Freeh Report as "deeply flawed" and asserting that key conclusions regarding Paterno's conduct are "the unsubstantiated personal view" of Freeh.
The report is also critical of the NCAA, the Penn State Board of Trustees and the media for reporting the Freeh Report as fact, allowing a "false narrative" to solidify around Paterno as a coach who put the interests of his football program above the safety of children.
Rather, the Paterno-commissioned rebuttal reiterated the family's long-held stance that Paterno was fooled by Sandusky and would have had no more reason to believe he was a child molester than trained professionals, who had looked into allegations about Sandusky's behavior in 1998 and did not charge him with any crimes.
It also cleared Paterno of any wrongdoing in February 2001 when assistant coach Mike McQueary reported to him that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers of the Penn State football locker room.
Shortly after the release of the report Sunday morning, Freeh issued a statement defending his work.
"I respect the right of the Paterno family to hire private lawyers and former government officials to conduct public media campaigns in an effort to shape the legacy of Joe Paterno.
"However, the self-serving report the Paterno family has issued today does not change the facts established in the Freeh Report or alter the conclusions reached in the Freeh Report. ...
"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."
In the statement, Freeh cited Paterno's grand jury testimony. He also said Paterno's attorney was contacted for an interview with the coach.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn, in an email Sunday to USA TODAY Sports, said the organization stands by its previous statements on the matter and "do not have anything further to share at this time."
Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler whose opinion is cited throughout the rebuttal, concluded that "the (McQueary) report was couched in too vague and general terms for Joe Paterno, as a 72-year-old football coach who was untrained in the complicated, counterintuitive dynamics of child sexual victimization and who came from a traditional background where even consensual sex was not discussed, to conclude that Sandusky was a child molester."
"At worst, he believed that Sandusky was a touchy-feely guy who had boundary issues," Clemente said.
The rebuttal also concludes that Paterno "honestly conveyed what he remembered" during a seven-minute grand jury testimony in 2011 when he said he reported the incident to athletics director Tim Curley (which legally cleared Paterno of any wrongdoing) and that he had no knowledge of any abuse allegations against Sandusky prior to that incident.
That piece of testimony was refuted in the Freeh Report, which used e-mail exchanges between Curley, university President Graham Spanier and vice president Gary Schultz to assert that Paterno had knowledge of the 1998 complaint against Sandusky.
The rebuttal pokes holes in Freeh's techniques, questioning the context of the e-mail exchanges and the conclusions drawn from them without corroboration from Schultz, Spanier or Curley.
Freeh's group did not have subpoena power and thus relied heavily on documentation, another key criticism in the rebuttal. Despite Freeh's assertion that his investigators had reviewed more than 3.5 million documents and interviewed 430 people, the rebuttal points out that the most damning conclusions about Paterno are drawn from a handful of e-mails, "none of which Joe Paterno authored or received, to make assertions about Joe Paterno, and shockingly does so even though Mr. Freeh never interviewed the actual authors of the emails."
The rebuttal also states that if Paterno's knowledge of the 1998 Sandusky complaint can't be proven, it paints his actions regarding the McQueary accusation in a different light than the Freeh Report, which concluded that Paterno and other university officials were covering up for Sandusky to protect the football program from bad publicity.
Two weeks after the Freeh Report was released in July 2012, the NCAA - citing the conclusions of the report - handed down unprecedented sanctions against the school and football program, including a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason football games, vacating all 111 of Paterno's wins from 1998-2011 and the reduction of 20 football scholarships a year for each of four years.
Paterno died in January 2012 at age 85. Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation in June and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
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