Penn State Lawsuits Likely After Freeh Report Traces Cover-Up

NEW YORK -- Jerry Sandusky's sexual assaults at Penn State University will likely fuel civil lawsuits against the school, legal experts said Thursday.

An investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh revealed a widespread Penn State administrative cover-up of crimes by Sandusky, the former assistant football coach who was convicted last month of abusing children.

Daniel Filler, a Drexel University law professor with 22 years of experience in the Pennsylvania court system, told The Huffington Post the 267-page Freeh report “certainly provides a roadmap for any victims who want to sue.”

"Any trial lawyer on behalf of the victims would start with this report as his or her very first step in designing a case," Filler said. The Freeh report "gives you a beautiful timeline," he added, and "lays out various statements, emails and seems to point out logical inconsistencies, even if it doesn’t actually call [Penn State officials] liars."

Former top Penn State officials, including President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tim Curley and the late head football coach Joe Paterno communicated extensively in emails included in the report. Freeh concluded the officials showed "no concern" for the child victims.

While victims would likely name the university in lawsuits, they may also sue Penn State leaders, Filler said. Sandusky was found guilty last month of 45 criminal counts relating to the assault of 10 boys over a 15-year period. Filler predicted the school will make fierce attempts to settle lawsuits out of court.

"The last thing on this earth Penn State wants is to have a trial where this evidence" surfaces, Filler said. The Freeh report "is only going to make Penn State want to settle the cases even more."

Michael McCann, a University of Vermont law professor, said the report increases the likelihood Sandusky victims will sue the university. He predicted Penn State officials will try to settle claims out of court.

Freeh's report found a "total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims." Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno "empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events," the report said.

"Some of us were concerned that this report might be a little more of a cover-up," said Chris Mallios, an attorney advisor for Aequitas, a resource for prosecutors on violence against women. "It's not a cover-up. It is very frank and very critical in its assessment of Penn State. … And they're essentially documenting the university-wide cover-up of a serial child rapist in their midst."

Curley and Schultz still face criminal charges of failing to report child abuse allegations against Sandusky to law enforcement or child protection authorities. "The evidence in this report reflects poorly on the chances" the two men have of winning acquittal, McCann said.

Spanier, the former Penn State president, "has the most to lose," said McCann. He may still be charged with failure to report a crime or perjury, the lawyer said. "There are moral and legal reasons to hold them accountable," McCann said.

John McLafferty, a Boston lawyer with Day Pitney LLP, whose practice involves employment discrimination and harassment, said he found the report "scathing."

"The scandal isn't as much Sandusky -- as disgusting as that is -- but the monumental failures and catastrophic failures to act at so many junctures along the way by so many otherwise good people," McLafferty said.

Another university faces a lawsuit over sexual crimes a former student allegedly endured at the hands of a university employee. The parents of Elgin Stafford, a 23-year-old former congressional intern and UC Berkeley student, are suing the UC regents for the wrongful death of their son, who they say committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by a university doctor. A university spokesman has said the school will fight the lawsuit.

Tyler Kingkade contributed to this article.