Nov. 17, 2011
It is beyond question that the investigation of Jerry Sandusky was delayed. Three years between complaint and arrest is simply incomprehensible. We don't yet know how many more children may have been victimized between the time Corbett received the complaint and his successor finally brought charges against Sandusky.
It's also very clear why Corbett didn't aggressively pursue the Sandusky case. He was frantically trying to fix his botched investigation of the legislature before launching his gubernatorial campaign.
Corbett received the Sandusky complaint in March of 2009. A single state trooper was assigned to the case. Investigators from the Office of Attorney General weren't assigned to the case until the fall of 2010 - assuring that no charges could be brought until after the election.
By March of 2009, Corbett had spent two years investigating the General Assembly. He'd had plenty of time and resources to devote to it long before the Sandusky allegations came along. But, as Corbett's opponent in the 2008 Attorney General campaign pointed out, Corbett "botched" it by failing to investigate all four caucuses at once - not that he ever had any intention of investigating all four caucuses.
"A series of contempt hearings before the Supervising Judge of the grand
jury from October 2008 to December 2008, which was held for the purpose of
forcing the [House Republican] caucus into compliance with subpoenas and court orders."
That's right. Corbett didn't get serious about investigating House Republicans until October 2008, nearly two years after announcing that he was investigating all four legislative caucuses.
Corbett had issued subpoenas to House Republicans as early as October 2007 - or at least, someone told the Associated Press that he did. The subpoenas were, as reporter Mark Scolforo wrote, "the first tangible evidence that the probe has extended to any of the other three caucuses ... House Democrats have complained that the focus in recent weeks has appeared to be on them."
It wasn't just House Democrats complaining. Days before the leak to the AP, Capitolwire Bureau Chief Peter L. DeCoursey had published a column suggesting Corbett's political ties to Republican politicians might inhibit the investigation. A Morning Call editorial called for Corbett to turn over the investigation to an independent prosecutor - "someone who is not seeking re-election."
But House Republicans didn't respond to the October 2007 subpoenas, which appear to have been issued merely to provide "tangible evidence" that the investigation wasn't partisan. And Corbett remained unconcerned about their lack of response for an entire year.
But by the fall of 2008 scrutiny of Corbett's partisan investigation was growing more specific. The Patriot-News revealed that Corbett had allowed House Republicans to replace all their computers in the summer of 2007, confirming that he'd never had any real intention of investigating the caucus at all.
That decision would come back to haunt him when he realized the political reality that he would need to indict a Republican.
As he scrambled to play catch-up in the face of mounting accusations of partisanship, Corbett discovered, to absolutely no one else's surprise, that House Republicans hadn't obediently preserved evidence of their crimes for the two years Corbett had waited to go looking for it.
Imagine the growing panic that consumed the investigative arm of Corbett's gubernatorial campaign. "If this goes much further Corbett risks being accused of using it to launch what many expect will be a gubernatorial bid in 2010," the the Patriot-News opined in July of 2009. By then, Corbett was scrambling to recover lost evidence. The grand jury presentment outlining charges against House Republicans is rife with lamentations about the difficulty of hunting for missing documents.
Even as Corbett desperately was chasing down a nice shiny Republican indictment he could wear as an emblem of impartiality, more embarrassment beset the investigative arm of his campaign.
In March, 2009, precisely when Corbett received the Sandusky complaint, the Tribune-Review published an email, which Corbett had turned over to defendants' lawyers, in which a House Democratic staffer thanked caucus Leader Bill DeWeese for "the bonus for campaigning." DeWeese responded, "U R welcome."
Three weeks later, the Philadelphia Inquirer outlined evidence that DeWeese also used a state-paid contractor for poltical work.
Unable to explain why DeWeese hadn't been charged for these offenses, Corbett frantically dispatched investigators to pull together some kind of case against DeWeese.
Meanwhile, the Sandusky complaint, shielded from public eyes as it was, posed no threat to Corbett's campaign. It received a proportional amount of Corbett's attention.
As if overwhelmed OAG investigators hadn't enough to do playing catch-up on both House Republicans and DeWeese, more embarrassment hit in June 2009 - when Corbett should have been in the thick of a Sandusky investigation, if not making an arrest - as the Post-Gazette revealed that Corbett failed to act on testimony that Steve Stetler, then chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, authorized illegal campaign work.
Corbett managed to put together indictments of House Republicans, Bill DeWeese and Steve Stetler just under the wire.
So surely he was able to devote his full attention to the Sandusky complaint in early 2010, right?
Nope. The trial of Mike Veon and three aides, from jury selection to verdict, lasted nearly nine weeks, the longest trial in recent Dauphin County history. At least 10 agents from the Office of Attorney General were present in the courtroom all day, each day of the trial.
After the trial ended (with 117 acquittals) did Corbett then turn his attention to the Sandusky complaint?
Nope, again. Instead of using the grand jury to investigate Sandusky, Corbett was using it improperly to gather information he hoped would maximize the sentence of someone already convicted, and to subpoena Twitter for the identities of his online critics.
Investigators from the Office of Attorney General weren't assigned to the case until the fall of 2010.
By then, Corbett's victory in the gubernatorial race was virtually assured.
Corbett's failure to conduct an impartial and sincere investigation of the General Assembly in 2007 and 2008 forced him to compromise the Sandusky investigation in 2009 and 2010. As conservative activist Chris Freind points out, "Giving priority to children who are at risk of rape and molestation is a no-brainer. But inexplicably, that wasn’t done."