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Louie Freeh 'Sold Penn State Down The River


By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

Dr. John Nichols, a professor emeritus of communications at Penn State, is the founder of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, a national alliance created to give college faculty a voice on sports issues.

He's testified before Congress on how to reform the NCAA; he's served as chair of the university's faculty senate. He also was a member of the search committee that hired Bill O'Brien to replace Joe Paterno as Penn State football coach.

Last week, Nichols appeared on Search Warrant, the cop-hosted podcast, to air his longstanding grievances with the 2012 Freeh Report on the sex scandal at Penn State. Nichols also decried the ongoing coverup of the scandal behind the scandal by Penn State's stonewalling board of trustees.

In an episode entitled A Smoking Gun? Part 1, Nichols charged that rather than serve Penn State, the client that paid him $8 million to investigate the sex scandal, former FBI Director Louis Freeh's main motivation was to "ingratiate himself with the NCAA," so he could become their "go-to investigator" for future collegiate scandals.

"He [Freeh] sold his client Penn State down the river in anticipation of making big bucks in the form of further business from the NCAA," Nichols said. Then, after the Freeh Report issued its faulty conclusions on Penn State based on nonexistent facts, Nichols said, "the vultures . . . swooped down on this sad case to make political hay out of this case, or to make big bucks out of the case."

The vultures were preying on "a board of trustees that had an open checkbook," Nichols said. "I think that's despicable."

"Careers were ruined, people were fired, peoples' reputations were destroyed," Nichols said. And it was all "based on a series of accusations that Freeh did not have evidence for, and knew that he did not have evidence for."

When the scandal hit, the trustees, many of whom were corporate leaders, adopted a "standard corporate model" for dealing with scandal, Nichols said.

The plan was to "fire a lot of people, scapegoat a lot of people, to express maximum contrition regardless of not having the facts to support that," Nichols said. And to "pay huge sums of money so the problem goes away."

As disclosed previously on Big Trial, Penn State paid out $118 million to 36 alleged victims of abuse. They gave away the cash without checking to see whether the alleged victims had criminal records [a third of them did]. The trustees also didn't do anything to vet any of the outlandish and often contradictory tales by the claimants. None of the alleged victims were interviewed by detectives, deposed by lawyers, examined by psychiatrists, or subjected to polygraph tests.

Instead, the university's board of trustees just wrote out lottery checks that averaged more than $3 million each.

"This is someone body else's money," Nichols said, so it's "easy for them [the trustees] to pay off settlements without substantive backup because its not their money and they don't have to worry about it."

As far as the board of trustees is concerned, "it's been radio silence since then," Nichols said. "The board has taken the position to look the other way, to let sleeping dogs lie. To keep it buried, to keep it quiet and to hope that the whole unfortunate mess goes away."

Nichols has his own first-hand experiences with Louie Fresh's team of investigators, who interviewed Nichols four times. The tenor of the interviews still rankles Nichols.

"A lot of their questions were accusatory," he said; "It was not looking for the truth." Instead, Fresh's investigators were looking for "evidence or information that might support a predetermined conclusion that would scapegoat certain individuals," he said. Or support the "highly inflammatory and highly accusatory" claims that Freeh made at his press conference announcing the findings of his report.

For example, Nichols said, Fresh's investigators asked him, since he was a campus insider, at what point did he know about Sandusky's sex crimes. Nichols insisted that he didn't know anything about the subject.

But Freeh's guys weren't buying it. Their attitude was, "Obviously you knew as well, everybody knew," Nichols said. "It led me to believe . . . that they had already reached the conclusion that everybody knew that Sandusky was doing this but they were looking the other way to protect football. They had already reached the conclusion," he said, and they "wanted me to verify that."

But when Nichols read the Freeh Report, "the evidence [for a cover up] wasn't there," Nichols said. "I was taken back, I was shocked."

"It became clear to me," he said, that "the executive summary and Freeh's oral comments [at his press conference] were wild accusations that had no basis in factual support in the main report."

"His goal was not to find the truth and help Penn State, the people who paid him to $8 million to do this, but to build a case like a prosecutor, but without evidence or with flimsy evidence."

John Snedden, the former NCIS special agent who hosted the podcast, said it was clear from email exchanges and a copy of Freeh's preliminary report that Freeh didn't care that he was making unfounded accusations. In the emails, and in handwritten notes on a preliminary draft of the report, Fresh's own investigators pointed out that Freeh's accusations had no basis in facts or evidence.

But Freeh made his unfounded accusations anyway, because, according to Freeh's own emails, the "media was clamoring for what he intended to say," Snedden said.

Nichols recalled that Freeh's investigators were also "pretty intimidating" when they interviewed him.

"It was made clear to all that were interviewed [that] we must cooperate fully and freely with the Freeh investigators at the cost of our employment," Nichols said.

Snedden described the interviews conducted by Fresh's team of investigators as an "exercise in support of their predetermined conclusions."

Nichols said when he talked it over with his senior colleagues, "Every faculty senate chair came to the same conclusion that the Freeh report in our view was at odds with the truth." But that didn't stop the NCAA with issuing "huge, massive, unprecedented sanctions based on the Freeh Report," Nichols said.

When a group of former faculty Senate chairs put out a joint statement attacking the conclusions of the Freeh Report, "the board of trustees, they didn't care," Nichols said. "They didn't want to be knocked off their story line." Ditto for the media, Nichols said.

Nichols said it was "outrageous" for the NCAA to hire Freeh and his investigators as employees.
But he added, "I think the NCAA lost its moral compass long before they hired Louie Freeh."

About Graham Spanier, Nichols said, "they destroyed a great university president's career based on a hyperbolic, mean spirited, sell interested fact-void report."

And that's just the first episode of the podcast, which concludes that the Freeh Report found no smoking gun at Penn State, nor any evidence to backup their claims that it was Penn State's football-mad culture that inspired university officials to cover up and look the other way when it came to Sandusky's alleged crimes against children.

In the Smoking Gun? Part 2, Snedden and Nichols continued the discussion. Nichols said the unfounded charges in the Freeh Report, such as that Penn State "had a culture of supporting football over the well being of their own children."

"That's what Freeh alleged and that's what the NCAA parroted," Nichols said. It led to a "media feeding frenzy," the idea that the Penn State community "was so corrupt as to throw their children to the lions to protect football."

bigtrial.net at 4:38 PM
 
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