STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Former Penn State president Graham Spanier filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday that accuses ex-FBI director Louis Freeh of scapegoating him in Freeh’s scathing report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The long-promised lawsuit called the Freeh report “a public relations product” that faulted Spanier, then-football coach Joe Paterno and other school leaders in order to vindicate the board, which had hired Freeh to conduct the internal probe amid allegations concerning Sandusky, a former assistant coach.
The suit also accused the university of breach of contract.
“The Penn State Board of Trustees needed Freeh to assign blame for Sandusky’s behavior and to justify the hasty personnel decisions made in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal,” Spanier’s lawyer, Libby Locke, wrote in a press release.
By the time of the July 2012 report, the board had fired Paterno, gotten Spanier to resign and sent vice president Gary Schultz back into retirement, the lawsuit noted.
Spanier, Schultz and former athletic director Timothy Curley are still awaiting a criminal trial over their handling of complaints that Sandusky was molesting children.
Freeh also knew the NCAA expected him to target high-level school officials “to justify the NCAA’s highly dubious claim to have jurisdiction to punish Penn State for Sandusky’s actions,” the lawsuit said.
New Penn State President Eric Barron has pledged to review both the report and the source material, given the acrimony that has developed in its wake. Freeh’s report was issued shortly before a consent decree between Penn State and the NCAA that resulted in a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine and a temporary loss of football scholarships. The NCAA recently ended the bowl ban and restored the scholarships.
Freeh’s office did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment. A university spokesman said officials would have no comment until they can review the complaint.