"The jury verdict is a vindication of the thoroughness of that investigation. 45 of 48 counts cannot be argued with." Kevin Harley, spokesman for Governor Tom Corbett, Scranton Times-Tribune, 9/27/12
As criticism mounts of the creeping pace of Tom Corbett's nearly 3-year investigation of child rapist Jerry Sandusky, Corbett's go-to defense is that Sandusky was convicted on nearly all 48 counts.
According to Corbett, this fact alone justifies the investigation's many, many flaws.
As Attorney General Candidate Kathleen Kane points out, there's no reason to believe Sandusky wouldn't have been convicted on most - or all - counts if the case had been brought years earlier. How the investigation was served by waiting nearly two years even to begin interviewing witnesses is unclear.
But if a conviction rate alone is proof of an unimpeachible criminal investigation, what then should we infer from the fact that defendants affiliated with the House Democratic Caucus who went to trial were acquitted of 117 of the combined 139 charges against them?
If Corbett thinks conviction on a majority of charges means an investigation was pure and ethical, what does he think acquittal on a majority of charges means?
We don't need the dismal conviction rate to know the investigation of Mike Veon and a crew of staffers was flawed, starting with the fact that the Leader of the House Democratic Caucus, H. William DeWeese, was permitted to pick and choose what evidence to turn over to Corbett.
DeWeese himself was not charged in connection with any of the evidence he turned over, nor were his top aides Tom Andrews and Kevin Sidella, despite the fact that emails in the case directly implicated them.
Virtually every witness in the case against Team Veon was represented by a lawyer hired and paid by Caucus Leader DeWeese. The very prosecutor who carried out Corbett's case against Veon acknowledged - in another case - that such an arrangement represented a conflict of interest "because the lawyers ... were being paid by the [institution] while advising potential witnesses whose testimony could hurt the [institution] and its leaders."
"You don't have to stretch your imagination to see the chilling effect that will have," the prosecutor said.
The witnesses' lawyers in the case against Team Veon were being paid by the Caucus while advising potential witnesses whose testimony could hurt the Caucus and its leaders. But Corbett wasn't concerned about any "chilling effect" on the witnesses in that case, because he'd already decided not to charge DeWeese before even examining the evidence (that DeWeese himself had personally selected) or hearing from those witnesses (who were counseled by lawyers hired and paid by DeWeese).
That decision to spare DeWeese would, of course, come back to haunt Corbett in 2009 when a "smoking gun" email surfaced, in which DeWeese acknowledged awarding taxpayer-funded bonuses in exchange for campaign work. That revelation was followed by a wider examination of an abundance of evidence implicating DeWeese and his aides.
His scheme to spare DeWeese now exposed, Corbett became desperate to build a separate case against DeWeese as a distraction.
Corbett already was facing accusations of partisanship, having charged only Democrats in his signature corruption case, and was on an equally desperate mission to build a case against deposed Republican Speaker of the House John Perzel.
Corbett had to bring both indictments by the end of 2009, or "he risks being accused of using [the investigation] to launch what many expect will be a gubernatorial bid in 2010," according to the Patriot-News.
It was precisely when DeWeese's "U R welcome" email surfaced, in March 2009, that the Sandusky complaint landed on Corbett's desk. Faced with a choice of trying to salvage his politically-motivated legislative investigation in politically-expedient time, or taking a serial child rapist off the street, Corbett chose politics over protecting children.
Kane says she will review Corbett's Sandusky investigation, precisely to determine where Corbett went wrong.