Thursday, June 26, 2014


Deep Throat: You let Haldeman slip away. 

Bob Woodward: Yes. 

Deep Throat: You've done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you've got people feeling sorry for him. I didn't think that was possible. In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step. If you shoot too high and miss, everybody feels more secure. You've put the investigation back months. 

Bob Woodward: Yes, we know that. And if we're wrong, we're resigning. Were we wrong?
-- All The President's Men, 1976

By any measure, Attorney General Kathleen Kane's review of Tom Corbett's investigation of serial child rapist Jerry Sandusky revealed unconscionable neglect, incompetence and sloppiness. Her central conclusion, "The facts show an inexcusable lack of urgency in charging and stopping a serial sexual predator," is undisputed. But because Kane couldn't prove that Corbett broke any laws or expressly told anyone to slow-walk the investigation, Kane's report is being hailed as a victory for Corbett.

Way to set the bar low, Pennsylvania.

We have never subscribed to - or even understood - the theory that Corbett deliberately stalled the Sandusky investigation for political reasons. What's significant - and tragic - is that the investigation was stalled. That Corbett should get a pass from the public because he didn't intentionally stall it for political reasons is baffling. 

That's not to say that the delay in prosecuting Sandusky is entirely unrelated to politics. The report confirmed what we have long alleged: Corbett's obsession with prosecuting members of the legislature, and assembling those indictments before officially launching his gubernatorial campaign, contributed heavily to the delay. 

Two of the agents on the Sandusky Task Force didn't begin working on the case until early April of 2011 - two full years after Corbett took over the case - because they had been working "almost exclusively" on Bonusgate-related investigations and prosecutions for the previous several years.

According to the report, "Bonusgate appeared to affect investigative assignments, arguably exacerbated an existing shortage of investigative resources, and certainly consumed a considerable portion of the time and attention of [Frank] Fina and other office supervisors ... is impossible to determine how the course of the Sandusky investigation would have been different had it, in its early stages, received the same intense focus as Bonusgate."

That said,  the report seems to raise more questions than it answered.  Kane, initially critical of Corbett's decision to submit the case to the slow-moving grand jury process, concluded that there were, theoretically, advantages to the grand jury process. But Corbett's team failed to avail themselves of those advantages. 

"From the beginning of January through the end of October 2010, for example, the Grand Jury issued no subpoenas for testimony and only one subpoena for records."

To be clear, the only advantages to using the grand jury are subpoena power and the ability to compel testimony under oath.

It's important to remember that - unlike Corbett - Kane did not conduct a criminal investigation and did not have subpoena power or the ability to compel testimony under oath. The review suffers from the lack.

While Kane concedes that Sandusky should have not been arrested based on the testimony of one victim, no one has been able to explain why investigators did not immediately seek a search warrant for Sandusky's home.  Because the search directly led to the identification of more victims, Sandusky could have been arrested almost immediately had the search been conducted in March of 2009, when Corbett assumed the case.

Equally incomprehensible is why investigators waited until January of 2011 to ask Penn State Police Department for copies of any criminal reports relating to Sandusky. In his response to the report, Fina vaguely retorts, "finding the 1998 Penn State University police report was not as simple as walking into the Penn State University Police Department and asking for it." But that is exactly what happened, and no one can explain why it didn't happen sooner.

Sadly, instead of examining Corbett's egregious missteps that left Sandusky free to continue victimizing children for three years, media coverage is focused on partisan bickering between the Kane and Corbett camps.  Reporters at Monday's press conference gasped audibly when Kane pointed out that Sandusky's abuse continued after Corbett took over the case in March 2009. Not only do common sense and all available evidence about the behavior of pedophiles indicate that of course he continued the abuse, Victim 9 testified as much in 2012.  Yet more is being made of Kane's misstatement that neither of the two post-March 2009 cases  were prosecuted than of the fact that Sandusky still was abusing children while Corbett dawdled over the investigation.

In the summer of 2010, Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach wrote to her bosses: "Does anyone want to answer my questions about why we are stalled since winter?"

Four years later, the answer still is no.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Attorney General Kathleen Kane has scheduled for Monday the release of a report on her review of Tom Corbett's three-year-long investigation of serial child rapist Jerry Sandusky.

One of the main complaints about the glacial pace of  Corbett's investigation is the near-certainty that Sandusky continued to abuse children even as the investigation crept along.

Given what we know about child molesters, it's nearly impossible that a pedophile in his 60s, whose victims likely number in the hundreds, simply ... stopped. Why would he? How could he? Corbett apologists argue that Sandusky knew he was being investigated, but he'd been investigated before and didn't stop. Many believe he'd lost his coaching job with Penn State over the incident, and still he didn't stop. The fact that he'd escaped without criminal charges may even have emboldened him.

We've always maintained that Sandusky most likely continued to abuse children after Corbett took over the investigation in March of 2009, but doubted that Corbett's OAG would advertise the fact by prosecuting any case involving one of those victims.

Or were we wrong?

At least one Corbett critic - Ray Blehar of - insists that the abuse of Victim 9 continued at least until July 29, 2009, when Victim 9 turned 16 - four months after Corbett took over the case. Blehar's case is strong, but not conclusive.

The original criminal complaint  involving victims 9 and 10 alleges the crimes took place "on or about January 1997 to December 2008." The grand jury presentment  also suggests Sandusky's abuse of Victim 9 ended in 2008. However, according to a February 21, 2012, Bill of Particulars, the abuse continued until 2009, when the victim was "15/16." The dates change again in the amended Bill of Particulars, filed May 18, 2012, in which the dates of abuse are listed as July 2005 to December of 2008.

A month later, during testimony at Sandusky's trial, Victim 9 testifies that he continued to see Sandusky until he was 15 or 16 - with the witness, prosecutor and defense attorney all seeming to settle on age 16.

As we've said, the question really isn't whether Sandusky continued molesting children while Corbett dawdled over the investigation - he almost certainly did. The question is whether any of those victims had any hope of seeking justice from an Attorney General's office that has so much to hide.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


What has always shocked us more than Tom Corbett's cynical abuse of the Office of Attorney General for political gain is the insouciance with which the press corps has greeted every instance. 

Jake Sternberger, a contributing writer for Keystone Politics, yesterday shrugged off an investigator's admission that Corbett's obsession with the legislature left the OAG without sufficient resources to investigate child molestation charges against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky:

It’s an inherent government problem when a prosecutor gives a child molestation case short shrift because he’s obsessed with rehabilitating his botched political corruption case in time to launch a gubernatorial campaign.

It’s not abuse of office, it’s just a prosecutor exercising his discretion.

We suppose we should be grateful Sternberger acknowledged the situation at all. A more recent revelation that the OAG used its “discretion” to settle political scores was greeted with virtual silence.

Embattled prosecutor Frank Fina, likely to be a focus of Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s forthcoming report on the Sandusky investigation, took some heat when it was revealed all but one of the secretly-recorded targets of a lengthy  “sting” operation were people of color. But only one news outlet, the Doylestown Intelligencer,  bothered to mention that shortly before being targeted, Rep. John Galloway had  enraged Corbett with public criticism of his legislative corruption investigation.

(Funny how few seem to shrug off Kane's decision not to prosecute that sloppily-executed, possibly racially-targeted sting as "prosecutorial discretion.")

No one from the OAG ever has bothered to explain how the targets of the failed sting were chosen – not that we’ve seen anyone in the media bother to ask -  but some Republican insiders were disappointed that no southeastern Democrats were snared in Corbett’s previous “Bonusgate” and “Computergate” investigations.

Why not exercise some prosecutorial discretion and try to kill two birds with one stone? Giving southeastern Republicans some grist for the mill while at the same time retaliating against an irksome critic? It's just an inherent government problem.