Sandusky probe finds no political meddling, but raises questions

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     Special Deputy Attorney General  Geoffrey Moulton  speaks at a news conference Monday as Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane listens. They released conclusions of a probe into the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation investigation in Harrisburg, Pa.  (AP photo/Bradley C Bower)

    Special Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Moulton speaks at a news conference Monday as Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane listens. They released conclusions of a probe into the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation investigation in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP photo/Bradley C Bower)

    The long-awaited probe ordered by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane into the investigation of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky doesn’t prove what Kane suggested when she ran for office — that Gov. Tom Corbett slow-walked the probe to avoid political trouble while he was attorney general and running for governor.

    But the review finds plenty to criticize in the long road to justice for Sandusky’s victims. And in announcing its release in Harrisburg Monday, Kane offered a bombshell of her own: Two previously unreported victims were assaulted while investigators from the state attorney general’s office were working on the case.

    Kane declined to say anything about their allegations, except that their parents have decided not to press charges since Sandusky is already in prison almost certainly for the rest of his life.

    Kane said the two victims were assaulted in the fall of 2009, a few months after the Attorney General’s office got the case in March of that year. She said investigators became aware of the victims as the probe progressed and that the team in charge before she took office in January 2013 knew about them.

    Kane’s allegation is disputed by Frank Fina, the veteran prosecutor who supervised the Sandusky investigation. After Kane’s news conference, he walked into the capitol press room in Harrisburg to defend the investigation and challenge Kane’s assertion of victims assaulted in 2009.”While I was in with the Office of Attorney General handling this case, I was not aware of any victim that claimed, credibly, that he was assaulted during the time period, during our investigation,” Fina said.

    Corbett didn’t meddle

    The review by former federal prosecutor Geoffrey Moulton found no evidence that electoral politics affected the probe, and no evidence even that Corbett himself made any of the decisions in the case.

    It found many of the calls investigators made, such as taking the case to a grand jury rather than arresting Sandusky immediately based on a single victim, are defensible. But the report also noted that there were a number of points in the probe where months passed with little being done.

    Kane made the most of that in her comments to reporters as the report was unveiled.

    “It appears that the leadership of OAG [the Office of the Attorney General] that was making the decisions, not the line prosecutor, had a real lack of urgency in taking Sandusky off of the streets, and also made some tactical errors that could have brought him off of the streets sooner,” Kane said.

    A key criticism was the failure to search Sandusky’s home for more than two years. Moulton said investigators had reasons for not seeking a search warrant immediately, and that they were aware of the risk Sandusky would victimize others while they continued the investigation.

    Moulton noted that when police finally searched Sandusky’s home in June 2011, it yielded much valuable evidence, including leads on other victims.

    You can read the entire report here.

    What about the politics?

    What does it all mean for Corbett, who’s behind in his re-election campaign this year, and Kane, once regarded as a rising star in the Democratic party?The report has to be a huge relief for Corbett, who’s already issued a statement essentially saying that the report confirms what he’s said all along: it was a professionally-handled investigation, free of politics that nailed a predator and put him away.

    I have to note though, that a lot of analysts believe Corbett still has a Penn State problem in this election year. Many analysts have noted that there are a lot of people in Central Pennsylvania, many of them Republicans, who are angry not because Corbett took so long on the Sandusky investigation, but because the whole scandal and its fallout brought down Joe Paterno, embarrassed Penn State and brought heavy sanctions on the football program.

    And what about Kane? A year ago she was regarded as a rising star in the Democratic party, but that was before the PR debacle over the controversial sting investigation run she shut down when she took office. I called Franklin and Marshall pollster and political analyst TerryMadonna to ask where she stands with the release of the Moulton report.

    “There isn’t any doubt that she’s got some proverbial egg on the face,” Madonna said. “I think her rising star has been blunted, to put it mildly.”

    Kane’s office has issued a release pointing out the parts of the report that support her charge that it was badly handled. You can read it here.

     

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