(Second in a series.)
Tragedies such as the Sandusky-Penn State scandal normally spit off nothing but victims. This scandal had its share, but there was also one winner.
Gov. Tom Corbett, the only scandal player to control his own destiny, used his command position to maximum personal advantage. If this was a chess game, Corbett, maneuvering his way to a four-year residency at the governor’s mansion, had two more Queens sitting on the sidelines ready to be called to battle.
Corbett was going to be elected governor regardless the damage to the reputation of Joe Paterno, the coach’s beloved Penn State, and one of the most admired football programs in the America.
Corbett controlled just enough of the events to insure fallout on his candidacy did not happen. There is no proof that he broke any laws, although he would not be the first prosecutor to blur the lines. Mostly he used his powers as Attorney-General to manipulate timing of events. Here are some examples.
The Governor has been accused of “slow-walking” the investigation. He first was aware of the complaints against Sandusky in March 2009, for certain, and maybe as early as 2008 while he was campaigning for a second term as Attorney-General. Done with one campaign, the Allegheny County Republican geared up for the run for Governor in 2010.
Only a single investigator was assigned to the probe even though a Harrisburg sitting grand jury included it on their agenda. By comparison, he had assigned a small army to probe the House of Representatives in the “Bonusgate” scandal, even getting a gang of Democrats to trial before the Governor’s election in 2010.
Corbett was not yet sworn in as Governor when an unusual event occurred in the grand jury room on Jan. 12, 2011. Former PA Supreme Court Justice and also former Penn State Chief Counsel Cynthia Baldwin actually sat in the super-secret grand jury room while two University officials testified. They believed she was representing them because, after all, she had driven them to Harrisburg in response to the subpoenas. She maintains she was there representing PSU.
No attorney (or anyone else) is permitted to attend a PA grand jury process and this stunt could only have occurred with the approval of Corbett.
Jerry Sandusky, a former coaching assistant under Paterno, is accused of child molestation while he was running “the Second Mile,” a very popular charity that helps wayward boys in Central Pennsylvania. Current and former board members donated over $200,000 to Corbett’s governor campaign while unknowing of the investigation into Sandusky’s activities.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell had given tentative approval to a $3 million grant to Second Mile which, due to timing of legal documents, had to be finally approved by Corbett. Following the indictments against Sandusky, Corbett quietly Okayed processing of the grant. When media began questioning his actions, he put a hold on the grant again.
Unless Corbett has a hook on the judges involved in the remainder of the proceedings he will not have as much control on the outcomes. Corbett’s ideal is plea bargains with all defendants. No trials and no appeals would end the scandal as a news event in the next few months, far in advance of his re-election campaign in 2014.
Corbett has benefitted from the state’s largest newspapers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh not assigning reporters to the story and, with some events, using wire coverage. Inside the state coverage has been more intense by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, highlighted by 24-year-old Sara Ganim’s Pulitzer Prize winning coverage. TV bureaus around the state have also carried first-run stories.
In 2014 will the Democrats put up a “better-than-normal” candidate for the mid-term race and will Penn State alumni vote en bloc against Corbett.
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