What did Hintz and Baldwin know?
While the Penn State family has largely been captivated by the day-to-day events of the Sandusky trial this week, I’ve been focused on documents that confirm Penn State’s top administrators conspired to cover up the horrible allegations. To me, this is the only real news of the week, and it’s unfortunate it hasn’t gotten much attention from alumni and the media. After all, what administrators knew and did about about the allegations is why we’re still reeling from the events of November.
Until now, the evidence only revealed some kind of horrible miscommunication or a Whisper Down the Lane situation. But now we know there was an extensive discussion about the allegations, and a deliberate effort to keep it quiet.
In a court filing Monday, prosecutors said they have a file “containing documents relating to incident’s[sic] involving Sandusky,” as well as e-mails that were recently recovered during the course of Penn State’s internal investigation. They indicate administrators conducted some kind of legal research, NBC News reported Monday, and say Graham Spanier called keeping the allegations quiet “humane.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the documents say Joe Paterno was “consulted” about the situation. And in their court filing, prosecutors say the documents prove that Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz lied to the grand jury so many times they couldn’t respond to every lie.
We don’t know exactly what information those documents contain, and probably won’t for a long time. But it’s clear the decision to keep the allegation quiet wasn’t taken lightly, and given the extent of their deliberations, it’s likely that discussions weren’t limited to Spanier, Curley and Schultz, which was many of us previously thought.
So who else knew about the 2001 allegation? As former trustee Ben Novak wrote, “there is almost no distinction between the (wealthiest trustees) and the administration itself.” And since this allegation commanded so much of Spanier’s attention, it’s likely that he’d keep his bosses informed.
So here’s a look at others who probably knew about the 2001 allegation.
1. Ed Hintz
Ed Hintz (as in the Hintz Family Alumni Center) was the president of the Board of Trustees in 2001. He’s also a filthy rich financial executive who amassed his wealth by managing money for large institutions. (I’m sure Penn State wasn’t one of them. That would have been unethical). He’s a renowned alumnus, having donated millions to Penn State over the years, and is still regarded as one of the most influential trustees. As president and one of the most powerful board members in 2001, he was among the closest to Spanier, and was likely involved in discussions surrounding the Sandusky allegation.
Hintz, like clockwork, was reappointed to another three-year term last month.
I tried to contact Hintz about the role he might have played in 2001, but couldn’t find a phone number or e-mail for him. I couldn’t even find one for his business, Hintz Capital Management, whose principal office appears to be at his house in Chatham, N.J. An e-mail to the trustees’ office asking for his contact information wasn’t returned.
2. Cynthia Baldwin
Baldwin is perhaps the most dirty, unethical player in the entire situation. In 2001, she was the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees and also among the closest to Spanier. She chaired the board from 2004 through 2007, and stepped down from the trustees in January 2010 to become Penn State’s first in-house lawyer.
The timing of her appointment is highly suspicious, because it occurred nine-months into the grand jury investigation, and just as the investigation was taking on new urgency. Though it would be a another year before Curley, Schultz and Paterno would testify, word of the Sandusky investigation had been out since 2008. And Wendell Courtney, whose firm served as Penn State’s general counsel before Baldwin’s appointment, said he knew about the Sandusky investigation in 2009 when The Second Mile asked him for advice.
Baldwin’s appointment was supposed to be temporary. Instead, Spanier decided to keep her on board for two years. In January, she decided to make way for a new, permanent general counsel.
A person familiar with Spanier’s thinking told me this week that he believes Spanier appointed Baldwin because she knew about the allegation in 2001, and Spanier wanted to keep details of his administration’s handling to those who already knew.
Speculation that Baldwin knew about the allegations in 2001, or at least participated in concealing them, fits with other details that came out this week..
Despite being served with subpoenas during the grand-jury investigation, Penn State, through Baldwin, failed to turn over key documents to prosecutors, including the file Schultz kept on the Sandusky incidents. And an investigator testified this week that Spanier’s administration wasn’t eager to help investigators. “Penn State, to be quite frank, was not very quick in getting us our information,” Detective Anthony Sassano said, as reported by the Centre Daily Times.
Baldwin also probably botched the Commonwealth’s case against Curly and Schultz, as outlined in this Patriot-News story.
When Baldwin and Spanier discussed the grand jury investigation with trustees in May 2011, they provided few details. Most trustees claim they didn’t even remember the discussion, and neither Spanier nor Baldwin mentioned the 2001 allegations, despite the fact that administrators went to the grand jury five months earlier. If Baldwin didn’t know about the allegations in 2001, she certainly knew by May 2011.
It’s clear that Baldwin wasn’t eager to comply with the state’s investigation. It’s also clear she kept significant details from her own Board of Trustees. Either she did so at Spanier’s request, or she didn’t want to reveal the role she and other trustees played in deciding to keep it quiet a decade earlier.
Baldwin didn’t respond to an e-mail for this blog post. Last month, she hired her own attorney, but won’t say why. But it’s clear she’s being targeted for possible criminal charges, maybe even obstruction of justice if she intentionally botched the grand jury’s investigation and conspired to conceal documents. At the least, she’s facing disbarment.
3. Steve Garban
Garban chaired the trustees when Sandusky was charged in November. He was first elected to the board in 1998 after working for Penn State for 33 years, and spent his final years as Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations, a position that reported directly to Spanier.
Garban spent most, if not all, of his professional career inside Old Main, and according to my insider friend, was one of those guys who knew about everything that happened in that place, whether he was directly involved or not. If he wasn’t directly involved in discussions about what to do about the 2001 allegation, he knew about it for sure, according to my friendly trustee insider.
4. Wendell Courtney
Courtney, Penn State’s lead attorney, has vehemently denied knowing about the 1998 or 2001 investigations until 2009. “Had I had any idea that there was even remotely improper conduct with children on any day since the beginning of time, nothing in the world would have kept me from being absolutely certain that it was reported to the police immediately,” he told the New York Times.
I tend to believe Courtney, but I’m adding his name to the list of those who might have known because of the “legal research” administrators conducted in 2001. Normally administrators would have asked their lead attorney for such research. That’s where Courtney comes in. But it’s likely Spanier farmed the work out to Baldwin, or maybe even another firm, in an attempt to keep the allegation quiet.
5. Joe Paterno
Before you vilify me, just hear me out. I hate this possibility more than you could ever imagine. Joe was no doubt a good man of impeccable character who made a bad decision in 2001. None of use were in his shoes at the time, and shouldn’t judge his decision until we know more.
But “more” is starting to dribble out. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the documents prosecutors revealed this week say Joe was “consulted” about the allegation. We don’t know if that consultation was simply his first meeting with Curley and Schultz, or whether there were additional meetings with him about what to do with Sandusky. But the Inquirer report raises the specter that his involvement in the discussions went beyond pushing it up the chain of command. Whether you choose to believe it or not, it appears the investigation is heading in that direction.
As you can see, the plot is widening substantially. The timeline of events suggests that the Sandusky investigation was the wort kept secret in State College, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a number of trustees were complicit in the decision to keep the 2001 allegation quiet. At the very least, many of them knew or had an inkling about what went down.
The Penn State family is going to have a hard time putting this behind us until all of the facts come out. Hopefully, Joe Posnanski’s Paterno biography will shed some additional light on Paterno’s role in 2001. It’s expected to be published by the end of the summer.
A report by Penn State’s internal investigation, led by former FBI chief Louis Freeh, is expected to be released around the same time as Paterno’s biography. But I’m also highly skeptical that it will shed any light on the trustees’ roles.
And Curley and Schultz aren’t expected to be tried until early 2013, so the public probably won’t get a look at the documents that emerged this week for at least another six months. Since they’re keeping quiet while charges are pending, it’s also unlikely they’d say much to Freeh’s team.
Until then, we’ll have to wait for details to dribble out, and hope they provide more answers than questions.