Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
A long-awaited review of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case has exonerated Republican Governor Tom Corbett of suggestions the investigation was slowed by political calculations. But state Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she still sees flaws in the prosecution and is openly inviting speculation on how it was handled.
In 2012, Kane was a Democratic candidate running to be the state's top law enforcement official, state attorney general. While campaigning, she promised to make investigating the Sandusky case a top priority. The case lasted three years before charges were filed. Kane questioned whether there was a lag due to political considerations on the part of Corbett, attorney general at the time, and running for governor in the middle of the investigation.
The release of the report was a campaign promise, delivered. Its contents gave Corbett absolution.
"There was no direct evidence," said Kane at a press conference Monday, referring to questions of political interference in the Sandusky case. "There was no e-mail, there was no confession, there was no statement that indicated that the attorney general at the time did it for political reasons." The report finds Corbett didn't have much of a hand at all in the major decisions of the case.
But Kane said the investigation still took too long.
The report faulted the office of attorney general for things not done in the investigation. The case was transferred to the attorney general's office in 2009, and an agent recommended searching Sandusky's home that same year. But the search didn't happen until 2011. The report finds that at least once, a prosecutor urged Sandusky be charged on the basis of one alleged victim's claims.
Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator and founder of The Second Mile nonprofit, was ultimately charged and convicted with abusing not one but 10 boys. His sentence is expected to keep him in jail for life.
Geoff Moulton was the special deputy hired to compile the review, which reportedly cost the commonwealth $180,000.
Moulton directed efforts to interview those involved in the investigation and recover deleted e-mails. With Kane at his side on Monday, he recognized prosecutors for a job well done.
"But even a highly successful final result does not mean that the investigation itself was a complete success," Moulton said.
Randy Feathers, the lead agent on the Sandusky case, stood outside the Capitol newsroom after the press conferences.
"This will be a one-word story tomorrow: politics," said Feathers.
"She went after another politician and it wasn't there, so what did she do?" Feathers continued, referring to Kane. "She turned on the cops and the prosecutors."
Joe McGettigan, a former state prosecutor who was on the team that tried the Sandusky case in court, bristled at the notion the report offered law enforcement anything useful.
"It's a good door stop," he said.
For all the shortcomings listed by the report, it finds that the decisions made in the Sandusky case were within the "acceptable bounds of prosecutorial discretion."
Jennifer Storm, who leads the state's Office of the Victim Advocate, said there's a reason sexual abuse cases take a long time to prosecute.
"I've worked a decade with victims of child sex assault and victims of sex assault," Storm said. "I've seen far too many cases fall in the face of a single accuser because of a rush to judgment, or because unfortunately, the mentality of the general public when it comes to sex abuse cases is: we don't believe them."
But Moulton insisted that delaying the arrest of a suspected child molester can have serious consequences, chief of them being that the target has more time to prey on children.
Kane surprised a lot of people when, during the press conference, she answered one reporter's question: D¬¬id the office know of any victims who claimed they were abused during the course of the investigation?
"Yes," Kane said. "We do have two individuals who indicated that they were abused by Sandusky both in the fall of 2009."
She said the two alleged victims were not among the 10 who testified against Sandusky in court, and that the attorney general's office learned of them in 2011, before she was in office.
The alleged victims were not mentioned in the report, and Kane wouldn't give any further identifying information or address whether they were considered credible.
"It's not true," Feathers told reporters later.
"We tried the case and we don't know who she's talking about," said McGettigan.
Will the speculation surrounding the Sandusky investigation cease? Don't bet on it.
Kane said that, though there's no evidence that prosecutors' foot-dragging was due to a political call, she still believes the Sandusky investigation suffered from a "lack of urgency."
"Why? We don't know that," she said. "That's going to be up to the public to decide."
Published in State House Sound Bites
Support for witf is provided by:
Support for witf is provided by: