Freeh to lead impartial and comprehensive assessment of University's actions, governance, protocols, decision-making and oversight
People with relevant information encouraged to call newly-established hotline
Findings and recommendations to be made public
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The special committee of The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees announced today (Nov. 21) that it has engaged former FBI Director and federal judge Louis J. Freeh to lead an independent investigative review into all aspects of the University’s actions with regard to the allegations of child abuse involving a former Penn State employee contained in the recent Grand Jury report. The special committee and Freeh said that the findings and recommendations of this work, when completed, will be made available to the public. No specific timeframe has been set for completion of the review.
Ken Frazier, chairman of the special committee, said, “Each of us in the Penn State community read the Grand Jury report with the same sense of dismay and anger that has stunned and shocked our entire nation and the wider world. We are especially heartbroken that some of these unspeakable acts could have occurred on the campus of Penn State University. We care deeply for the victims and their families whose lives have been tragically affected. The board also understands how difficult this has been for the students, faculty, staff and others who are dealing with the shock and revulsion at what happened.
“The entire Board of Trustees is intent on taking all steps necessary to ensure that our institution never again has to ask whether it did the right thing, or whether or not it could have done more. We are committed to leaving no stone unturned to get to the bottom of what happened, who knew what when, and what changes we must make to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Therefore, we are pleased that Judge Freeh has agreed to lead a thorough and independent investigative review of this matter,” concluded Frazier.
Ron Tomalis, vice-chairman of the special committee, said, “Judge Freeh is a man of complete integrity, independence and objectivity. The scope of his work will be expansive, and he is free to take his work to whatever conclusions he deems appropriate. No one at Penn State will be exempt from this review, including the Board of Trustees itself.”
Freeh commented, “I am committed to leading the investigation into this tragic and distressing series of events and making the appropriate recommendations. Our investigation will look carefully at the governance, protocols, decision-making and oversight within the University. We will cooperate fully with the law enforcement authorities, will defer to them, and will not impede their work in any way.
“I welcome the unequivocal support the special committee and the entire board have offered for full access and cooperation. They have directed me to carry out this investigation with complete independence, and take it wherever it may lead. I will proceed with all deliberate speed, but there are no limits on the duration of the investigation. We will work expeditiously as well as thoroughly.”
Freeh also announced that a confidential, toll-free hotline has been established for anyone with information that could assist in this investigation. The hotline number is 855-290-3382, which will be active starting at 5 p.m. EST today (Nov. 21). Those who wish to communicate with the investigation by email may do so at the following email address: PSUhelp@freehgroup.com.
The special committee is comprised of University Trustees, students, faculty and other individuals affiliated with the Penn State community, including:
Ken Frazier, chairman; chief executive officer and president of Merck;
Ron Tomalis, vice-chair; secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education;
Mark Dambly, president of Pennrose Properties LLC;
Jesse Arnelle, attorney at law;
Keith Eckel, sole proprietor and president of Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms, and board chairman, Nationwide Insurance ;
Karen Peetz, vice chairman, chief executive officer, Financial Markets and Treasury Services, Bank of New York Mellon;
Dan Hagen, chair, University Faculty Senate, professor of animal science, College of Agricultural Sciences; and
Rodney Hughes, doctoral student, higher education, Penn State University.
In addition, the Board of Trustees has appointed Guion Bluford Jr. as a member of the special committee. Bluford is an eminent engineer, retired colonel of the U.S. Air Force and former NASA astronaut who participated in four Space Shuttle missions between 1983 and 1992.
Freeh serves as senior managing partner of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP. He also is the founder and chairman of Freeh Group International Solutions, an affiliated investigative consultancy.
Freeh was born in Jersey City, N.J., and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers University in 1971. He received his juris doctor (JD) degree from Rutgers School of Law in 1974 and his master of laws (LLM) in criminal law from New York University School of Law in 1984. Freeh joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a special agent in 1975, working assignments in the New York field office and later transferring to Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In 1981, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York as an assistant United States attorney. Subsequently, he held positions there as chief of the Organized Crime Unit, deputy United States attorney, and associate United States attorney.
During this time, Freeh was the lead prosecutor in the "Pizza Connection" case, one of the largest and most complex investigations ever undertaken at the time by the U.S. government. The case involved an extensive drug-trafficking operation in the United States by Sicilian organized crime members. Following the investigation, Freeh served as the federal government's principal courtroom attorney in the 14-month trial and won the conviction of 16 of 17 co-defendants. In 1990, he was appointed a special prosecutor by the attorney general to oversee the investigation into the mail-bomb murders of Federal Judge Robert Vance of Birmingham, Ala., and civil rights leader Robert Robinson of Savannah, Ga. This case became known as the VANPAC case. After extensive investigation, a suspect was apprehended, prosecuted and convicted.
In July 1991, former President George Bush appointed Freeh as U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York. While serving in this position he was nominated to be the director of the FBI by President William Clinton on July 20, 1993. He was confirmed by the Senate and was sworn in as director on Sept. 1, 1993 where Freeh remained through June 2001.
The full text of the prepared remarks from today’s press conference follows:
The Spoken Word Shall Prevail
I am Ken Frazier, the Chair of the Special Committee established by the Penn State Board of Trustees, and along with Ron Tomalis, my colleague and Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee, we appreciate your joining us this morning on short notice. We are here today in response to the shocking and horrendous Grand Jury report and the charges of child sexual abuse that have been made public.
Each of us in the Penn State community read that report with the same sense of dismay and anger that has stunned and shocked our entire nation and the wider world. People from all walks of life have been deeply affected by the reports of these crimes. Society is rightly outraged about reports of innocent children being preyed upon with impunity -- and for so long. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is undertaking its investigation to determine criminal responsibility. At the same time, people are asking completely valid questions about why actions were not taken that might have saved any of the victims from harm.
Words alone cannot express the heartbreak and sorrow we feel for the victims, even more so because they were defenseless young children.
We are especially heartbroken that some of these unspeakable acts could have occurred on the campus of Penn State University. We care deeply for the victims and their families whose lives have been tragically affected. The Board also understands how difficult this has been for the students, faculty, staff and others who are dealing with the shock and revulsion at what happened.
We sincerely hope that, in the future, the pain and anguish suffered by the victims will serve as the starkest of reminders to all of us – it is a clear and absolute imperative for anyone ever in a position to do so to properly report and put a stop to such crimes. Any caring, responsible person must take immediate and appropriate action to end the silence that so often gives safe haven to people who would do such horrific things. What occurred must never be allowed to happen again. But for now, let me say again, and on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire Penn State University community, we are deeply, deeply sorry.
At the same time, as the law enforcement authorities investigate those people who should be held criminally responsible for those acts, the Board of Trustees is intent on taking all steps necessary to ensure that our institution never again has to ask whether it did the right thing, or whether or not it could or should have done more. As a first step we are commissioning a comprehensive and independent investigation into what occurred.
We are committed to leaving no stone unturned to get to the bottom of what happened -- who knew what, when, and what changes we must make to ensure this doesn’t happen again. And that means in any area of the university… not just the football program. No one, no one, is above scrutiny, including every member of the Administration, every member of the Board of Trustees, and every employee of Penn State University.
To that end, the Board of Trustees has formed a Special Committee. The composition of the committee, which includes Trustees as well as people affiliated with the Penn State community, is covered in the press release we are issuing today.
To add further outside perspective to our committee, we have appointed an independent and distinguished member – and Penn State graduate – to the Special Committee: the eminent engineer, Air Force Officer, and former Astronaut, Dr. Guion Bluford.
To lead the independent investigation, we sought a person whose personal integrity and professional background are beyond reproach. I am pleased to report that we have more than met that standard. To conduct this investigation, we have engaged an outstanding firm led by a man with unimpeachable credentials and unparalleled experience in law and criminal justice, former FBI director Louis J. Freeh.
Judge Freeh will be our Special Investigative Counsel. He has complete rein to follow any lead, look into every corner of the University to get to the bottom of what happened, and to make recommendations that will help ensure it doesn’t happen again. He will conduct the investigation with complete independence. Once his work is completed, he will make his findings and recommendations public.
Judge Freeh has led some of the most sensitive and important investigations of our generation. And beyond that, he has been an active leader and Board member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the most prominent private organization in the U.S. dedicated to protecting children from sexual crimes. As FBI director, Judge Freeh permanently assigned agents to work at the Center. He has also been a member of the Board of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, and, as Director of the FBI, he launched the Innocent Images National Initiative to protect young children.
This is the first step in a process that will put in place effective systems and controls. We know that no one can go back in time to right the wrongs that have taken place. But the Special Committee is determined, along with Judge Freeh, to do everything in our power to prevent such heinous acts in the future.
Given the nature of Judge Freeh’s work, neither he nor the Special Committee will be in a position to comment until the investigation is completed. Judge Freeh does not intend to make interim reports to the public. His work has just begun, so please understand that we will have a limited ability to respond to your questions today.
With that, let me turn it over to Judge Freeh for some brief remarks.”
“Thank you, Chairman Frazier.
The Special Committee established by the Board of Trustees of The Pennsylvania State University has hired my firm, Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, to conduct a fair and independent investigation into all the facts and circumstances that have been raised by the Grand Jury report and criminal charges which have been made public. I will personally lead this investigation.
The allegations that have been raised and the charges that have been brought are extraordinarily serious. Crimes against children have a devastating impact on the victims and their families and we will be completely sensitive to this reality as we perform our work.
I am committed to ensuring that our independent investigation be conducted in a thorough, fair, comprehensive manner, leaving no stone unturned, and without any fear or favor. We will examine all the relevant records, evidence, information and circumstances. We will attempt to interview all necessary and appropriate witnesses. While doing our work, we will liaise closely with the law enforcement authorities and ensure that nothing we do interferes with or impedes their important investigations. I have spoken with the Pennsylvania Attorney-General, and have reiterated that point to her.
We will also thoroughly study, review and test all of the University's policies, procedures, compliance and internal controls relating to the identifying and reporting of such sex crimes and misconduct. This examination will include, among other things, any failures or gaps in the University’s control environment, compliance programs and culture which may have enabled the alleged misconduct to occur, go undetected, and not be reported and addressed promptly and properly.
Most importantly, we will make recommendations to the Board of Trustees which will ensure that we rectify such failures of leadership and control environment at Penn State that allowed anyone to prey on children with impunity.
During the course of this independent investigation, we will immediately report any evidence of criminality to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. If our investigation identifies any additional victims of sexual crimes against, or exploitation of children, we will immediately report this to law enforcement authorities.
Our mandate is clear. We have been tasked to investigate this matter fully, fairly, and completely. We have been asked to do this with a commitment to show no favoritism toward any of the parties whose actions we will be reviewing, including the Board of Trustees itself. The Special Committee has assured us total independence so that this mandate can be fulfilled. This assurance is the main condition of my engagement.
We recognize that all concerned want timely and reliable answers about exactly what happened. The scope of our work will be broad, covering a lengthy period of time. We will also need the cooperation of the Pennsylvania State University community, as well as others. I have assembled a team of professionals with many decades of prior investigative, law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial experience, who are completely independent of Pennsylvania State University. We have already begun our work.
We have established a toll-free hotline for people to call if they wish to provide information to us. That hotline will be live from 5pm Eastern today, and the telephone number – which is also on the screen before you -- is (855)-290-3382. We have also established an address for people to communicate with us by email at PSUhelp@freehgroup.com. We ask that anyone who has relevant information to please come forward and provide it to us.
We will treat all information and leads received with the strictest confidence and professionalism permitted by law.
At this time let me turn the podium back to Chairman Frazier.”
“Thank you, Judge Freeh, for your remarks.
I think these comments underline the seriousness with which we take this matter. Our first thoughts are with the victims. Our thoughts are also with our students, including our student athletes, who also have been profoundly affected by these events. And with the victims at the forefront of our minds, we have established this independent investigation…we have empowered Judge Freeh to take his team’s work to wherever it leads…and we are absolutely committed to doing whatever we can to ensure that any failures involving our University are not repeated.
At this time, as I said earlier, we are extremely limited in what more we can say. So with that caveat, we are now prepared to entertain just a few brief questions.”