Did Gov. Corbett slow walk the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation while Attorney General and -- concurrently -- campaigning for governor in 2010? Was it obvious then that expanding the probe to include a possible cover-up by top Penn State officials would anger a constituency Corbett needed to win the election?
Popular head football coach Joe Paterno functioned as Sandusky’s supervisor for thirty years, and then allowed the now-convicted child molester to roam freely through the athletic facilities after he retired. Did Corbett fear that an escalation of the investigation involving the sacred PSU and legendary coach might jeopardize some votes?
Or was it strictly a matter of money? Board members of the Second Mile, a charity that last employed Sandusky and is now in ruins, together contributed over $200,000 to his campaign. Add in former directors, friends, family and business associates and the amount swells to over $600,000.
A county district attorney referred the first reported victim of Sandusky’s sordid conduct to Corbett in early 2009. He was just beginning his second term as attorney general and gearing up to run for governor the following year. Corbett opened his probe, but only assigned a single investigator.
The investigation remained at that intensity throughout the period when Corbett was responsible. When his hand-picked successor for AG, Linda Kelly, took over in January, 2011 she immediately cranked up the probe. Most of the time she used at least seven investigators. They interviewed victims as they came forward or were named by others. They hunted for evidence and testimony from supporting witnesses.
Corbett has escaped criticism for his role (or lack of interest) in not getting Sandusky off the street as quick as possible. At recent press conferences, reporters threw softball questions.
Reporter: “Why did you not put more staff on the case early on?”
Corbett: “Because these cases need time to develop, time for more witnesses to come forward.”
Reporter: “Were you concerned about leaving Sandusky out on the street?”
Corbett: “From experience we were pretty sure that as soon as Sandusky knew we were on to him, he would stop molesting.”
Corbett can be a very strong orator, but these questions were answered just barely above a whisper.
Reporter: “What about . . .”
Corbett (his voice raising): “Sorry, it is somebody else’s turn.”
Paterno died in January at age 85, reportedly from lung cancer. In November. America’s most winning football coach announced he would resign as head coach at the end of that season. However, close to Thanksgiving, Trustees voted to fire JoePa and long-time president Graham Spanier.
Trustees claimed Paterno did not show leadership when Sandusky allegedly showered with a boy in the football locker room in 2001. Graduate assistant Mike McQueary testified he had witnessed the incident and told Paterno about it.
Paterno claimed he had passed the report on to athletic director Tim Curley. ESPN Magazine reported Corbett not only attended the Trustee meeting, but landed at State College the night before. He joined fellow trustees in a bar. ESPN claimed Corbett played a leadership role in the dismissal of Paterno.
“It’s about the children,” Corbett was quoted later.
Governors are automatically made members of the PSU Board of Trustees, but seldom attend meetings.
The Paterno family has demanded a complete airing of all the evidence. They believe someone involved in the investigation is trying to smear the late coach.
Other Paterno supporters believe nothing less than the appointment of a special prosecutor will fully resolve the public’s concern. Special prosecutors are more common in Federal investigations and in states where leaders give a damn about the public interest.
Elsewhere, special prosecutors could be quickly appointed by the Governor, the legislature or the Attorney General. Here, the procedure is so rare there may not be rules to follow, powers to bestow or methods to pay.