PA's Attorney General Releases Report On Jerry Sandusky

06.24.14 | Sarah Harnisch

Jerry Sandusky was an icon. He built the defense that helped Penn State football win two national championships and then retired to run The Second Mile charity for underprivileged boys.

This was not the type of person Tom Corbett's staff at the state attorney general's office thought they could convict quickly on the testimony of one teenager. In 2008, the boy told officials in his Clinton County high school he was the "victim of inappropriate conduct by Sandusky."

More victims were needed. The best way to build a case that would stick against this icon, prosecutors thought, was through a grand jury, where victims testify in secret and search warrants and subpoenas are issued under seal.

But Corbett and his top lieutenants failed to properly use the secret grand jury process, creating "crucial missteps and inexplicable delays" that may have prolonged the Sandusky investigation, according to a report issued Monday by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

"The facts show an inexcusable lack of urgency in charging and stopping a serial sexual predator," Kane said.

The report found no evidence that Corbett purposely delayed the Sandusky probe for political purposes while seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2010. In Kane's 2012 run to be the state's first Democrat to be elected attorney general, she suggested there had been deliberate delays.

Instead, the report paints Corbett as a hands-off leader and his top lieutenants as failing to adequately help front-line investigators make decisions.

Written by Widener University law professor and former federal prosecutor H. Geoffrey Moulton, the report does not say Corbett and his deputies were wrong to use a grand jury or they failed to adequately staff the Sandusky probe while also prosecuting several high-profile cases involving the Legislature.

"In short, there is no clearly 'right' answer to the question whether Sandusky should have been charged in 2010, particularly since the question turned to a great degree on the necessarily speculative forecast of how [Victim 1] would fare as a trial witness," Moulton wrote.

But the report found shortcomings in the investigation of Sandusky, who was arrested Nov. 5, 2011, and convicted June 22, 2012.

• Between May and August 2010, supervisors did not review a front-line prosecutor's suggestion in a draft indictment that Sandusky be arrested based on Victim 1's testimony.

• Investigators did not ask State College police if they had old criminal reports involving Sandusky until Jan. 3, 2011. Borough police had investigated Sandusky in 1998 after a child and his mother reported inappropriate contact, but Sandusky was not prosecuted.

• Supervisors did not approve a search of Sandusky's home until June 20, 2011 — nearly two years after an investigator suggested it. The search uncovered pictures of boys and a list of names with asterisks, which led to more victims.

Those delays were compounded by legally expunged child-abuse records in the 1998 investigation, and by Penn State and Second Mile officials who fought subpoenas, the report says.

Corbett told Moulton that he recognized the significance of the Sandusky case shortly after his agency took it over, according to Moulton's report. In another section, Frank Fina, a top prosecutor who helped convict Sandusky, said, "Corbett never made any substantive decisions related to the conduct of the [Sandusky] investigation."

During a news conference Monday, Kane refused to apologize for alleging Corbett put politics ahead of children.

"This report found no direct evidence — no email, no confession, no statement from anybody — indicating that [Corbett's staffers] were told to slow this down because of politics," Kane said. "This report also shows long periods of inexcusable — by inexcusable I mean even the parties involved couldn't offer an excuse — for the delays that are quite honestly unfathomable to most of us."

Asked if the report shows Corbett mismanaged the case, Kane replied, "I'm not saying that."

In a statement, the governor said: "Because of the complexity of the case and for the sake of the victims, the investigators were careful to explore all evidence to the fullest extent. As made clear by the Moulton Report, this investigation was never about politics."

Still, the report could further damage Corbett's chances at winning re-election in November against Democrat Tom Wolf, even though Sandusky was convicted. Part of Corbett's record-low approval ratings stem from simmering resentment among Penn State alumni and football fans, who believe the 3-year probe was too long and sullied the reputation of legendary head coach Joe Paterno. Paterno died Jan. 22, 2012, two months after he was fired in the wake of Sandusky's arrest.

But former prosecutors and investigators who helped convict Sandusky did not appear to have politics or football on their minds Monday. They were focused on their reputations.

Fina, lead prosecutor Joseph E. McGettigan and Randy Feathers, who led the attorney general's criminal investigation division, blasted Kane during their own news conference in the Capitol.

Sandusky might not be behind bars, they said, if law enforcement had rushed to prosecute. They accused Kane of politicizing the original investigation by questioning how it was done, and said such gamesmanship not only tarnishes law enforcement but also could make future victims fearful of coming forward.

"We didn't do no movies, we didn't write no books," Feathers said. "We protected victims."

Moulton had the benefit of hindsight in writing a 300-plus-page report that is nothing more than a "door stop," McGettigan said.

When Moulton could not turn up evidence of political interference, Fina said, Kane turned her attention to an unfair review of the pace of the Sandusky investigation. Getting children to talk about being victims of sexual assault is not easy, Fina said. It is unfathomable for anyone to suggest law enforcement failed because they did not find more victims among thousands Sandusky interacted with, he said.

"She has to come up with something else sensational to detract that she posited a series of falsehoods to the public during the campaign," said Fina, who also has battled Kane over her refusal to prosecute Philadelphia lawmakers caught on tape accepting cash from an undercover informant.

During Kane's news conference, she alleged Sandusky assaulted two boys in fall 2009, months after the attorney general's office got the case from local prosecutors. She implied that the lengthy investigation allowed additional victims. Kane declined to elaborate on the boys, saying she wanted to protect their identities. She said the boys were not part of the Sandusky trial.

Moulton's report does not mention the two boys. Feathers, McGettigan and Fina said that's because they do not exist.

During the investigation, Fina said, there was one boy who gave multiple dates for when Sandusky assaulted him. One of those dates was in fall 2009, but the boy's story was not deemed credible, he said.

Victim 1, a Clinton County high school student named Aaron Fisher, made his identity public after the trial. He wrote a book about his ordeal, including how he repeatedly got handed off to new troopers when those handling the case were transferred.

Michael W. Gillum, a Williamsport psychologist for Fisher, wrote Moulton on June 11 in part to say the transfers caused angst for Fisher and his mother. Gillum said manpower went to the Bonusgate scandal over bonuses allegedly paid to legislative staffers for illegally doing campaign work while on the job.

Moulton said he does not know why the troopers were transferred; state police declined to participate in his review. In a written response, state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Moulton's hindsight does not compare to real-time decisions police made in the face of roadblocks and obstacles to convicting Sandusky.

After the Sandusky case, the Legislature rewrote about two dozen laws to improve child-abuse investigations by law enforcement and social workers.