Sandusky report clears Pennsylvania governor of suspicion

A report to the Pennsylvania attorney general found that the previous attorney general, Gov. Tom Corbett, did not stall the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation investigation.

Bradley C. Bower/AP
Pennsylvania State Attorney General Kathleen Kane (l.) along with Special Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Moulton (r.) release the results of a probe into the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation during a news conference Monday in Harrisburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) did not purposely slow down an investigation into convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky for political reasons, a report released Monday showed.

But the three-year gap between the first report of abuse of a minor in November 2008 and the charging of Mr. Sandusky in November 2011 represented missed opportunities that increased vulnerability for Sandusky’s victims, the report's authors say.

Current state Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D), who commissioned the independent report soon after taking office, suggested in her 2012 campaign that Governor Corbett, who served as state attorney general from 2005 to 2011, slowed the investigation due to his ties to the university and Sandusky’s charity, Second Mile, and was overly concerned with rushing a case that would ultimately upset the state’s largest publicly funded university. 

Some board members of Second Mile were Corbett campaign donors, but the report stated those donations did “not appear to have had a material effect on the [Sandusky] investigation.”

At a press conference, Ms. Kane deflected questions about whether it was appropriate to apologize to the governor, but reiterated that the question of timing was “a very legitimate question” to ask considering the 32-month delay in Sandusky’s arrest.

She called the report “a full, fair, factual, objective, and unbiased review” designed to “make sure the process protects children.”

Corbett became Pennsylvania governor in January 2011 and is currently running for a second term. He issued a statement Monday that said the Sandusky investigation “was never about politics. It was always about the people victimized by this man.” He added that Kane’s charges diminished the work of the prosecutors under his watch, saying “it was … difficult to see their motives and professionalism called into question.”

Sentenced in October 2012, Mr. Sandusky is serving 30-to-60 years in prison on 45 counts of sexually molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period during his tenure as an assistant football coach at Penn State University. The scandal rocked the powerhouse Big 10 football program, leading to the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno, and the launch of an internal investigation that that alleges top-ranking university officials perpetrated a coverup that spanned many years.

While saying there was no evidence of political motivations, Kane’s 141-page report, conducted by special investigator Geoffrey Moulton, raised several concerns about the investigation itself. These included ignoring pleas from state prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach that the state attorney general file multiple charges against Sandusky as early as March 2010.

The report also criticized Ms. Eshbach’s superiors, who waited for five months to proceed with the investigation until more victims surfaced. Mr. Moulton told reporters that the decision delayed the gathering of critical evidence.

“The investigation was at a complete standstill. No witnesses interviewed, no subpoenas were issued, no one new was interviewed,” Moulton said. Had Corbett’s office continued the investigation, it would have likely have found additional evidence that could have been used to charge Sandusky sooner, he added.

The report stressed the importance of swift action involving sexual predators. Studies show they tend to continue their abuse even when aware they are under investigation. Of particular concern was the reliance on a grand jury, which issued no subpoenas for testimony and only one for records over a period of 10 months.

“While I don’t agree with the decision to go to the Grand Jury, I recognize that prosecutors may differ. However, once you decide to use a Grand Jury, it is imperative that you take full and immediate advantage of its tools,” Kane said.

Three former Penn State officials – University President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley – were charged this summer with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, endangering the welfare of children, and failure to properly report suspected abuse. All three deny the allegations. The date of their trial is pending.

The NCAA hit Penn State with several sanctions following the Sandusky verdict, including a four-year bowl ban, the loss of 112 Penn State wins from 1998 through 2011, a temporary reduction in football scholarships, and a $60 million fine.

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