by Rahul Rose
Louis Freeh’s defence that statements from an US$8 million internal investigation report cannot be defamatory as they are expressions of pure opinion is absurd, says a former US university president accused of failing to act on sex abuse allegations.
The former president of Pennsylvania State University, Graham Spanier, is suing investigator and former FBI director Louis Freeh in Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas of Centre County over allegations made in a 2012 report. The report accuses Spanier of failing to report allegations of child sex abuse against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant American football coach for Pennsylvania State University.
Freeh claims the case should be dismissed before proceeding to discovery, as the statements that Spanier cites as defamatory are expressions of opinion. Generally under Pennsylvania and federal US law a statement that is an expression of opinion, rather than fact, is not defamatory.
However, in an 11 May brief, Spanier dismissed calls for the case to be tossed, arguing that the investigation report was “expressly intended to be interpreted as objective statements of fact.”
Spanier says the report fails to provide any indicators that the allegedly defamatory statements are opinion and not fact. “None of the statements at issue contain language such as ‘we think’, or ‘we believe’, or ‘in our opinion’,” Spanier says. “Instead, the report squarely accuses Dr Spanier of reprehensible and criminal conduct.”
He adds: “It defies logic to argue that Penn State paid Freeh and FSS [Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan] more than [US]$8 million for an opinion piece.”