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Compliance, eDiscovery and Email Management

Email archiving and the Penn State abuse scandal

Background

You’re probably already very familiar with this news item, but just in case you aren’t, here’s a quick rundown.

  • Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach with the Penn State football team, was accused of child sexual abuse, and was eventually convicted of 45 counts.
  • It was suspected that various university officials covered up the abuses over many years, including the athletic director, the head football coach, and a university vice president.
  • Around the time Sandusky was indicted by the Pennsylvania grand jury, several other investigations were set in motion, many centered around what university officials knew, when they knew it, and whether they covered up Sandusky’s abuses.

Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina asked a judge to allow him to obtain years of emails between various officials at Penn State. The judge granted this request. Fina stated, “We think emails where people often write candid things, they write offhand comments, they write masked comments and metaphors, may prove very worthwhile to us to review.” An investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh eventually uncovered emails that appeared to be evidence supporting a cover-up. The Freeh reports are still making news, as a Penn State alum just won the right to have them released.

A story two years in the making

The Penn State officials’ court cases are still pending, and the emails they sent will become a large part of the case. It highlights the current relevance of email archiving, especially as it relates to sports teams and officials. As we’ve discussed before, there are federal requirements to archive and produce these kinds of emails under certain circumstances. While it looks likely that Penn State officials didn’t want these emails coming to light, the consequences of not archiving are in fact more dire, and speculation at what the university officials could be hiding has been perhaps more damaging than being straightforward about what emails were exchanged. At the least, officials did ask Sandusky not to bring young boys to campus anymore – certainly not the proactive or appropriate approach but it is a step up from ignoring what they suspected was going on completely. And the bottom line is that Penn State needs to be protecting itself at this point, by turning over whatever it is court ordered to. Its responsibility is to the public and the students, not to former employees.

If you run a university or sports team, email archiving is essential so you can comply with legal requirements and protect yourself and your business. Contact us to find out what we can offer your company in the way of archival solutions.

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