UPDATE: Now that Jerry Sandusky has been found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors, it’s time to examine how he got away with hurting so many children for so long: who knew what and when did they know it? To that end, I begin with reposting my November blog on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett who was that state’s attorney general during at least six of the 15 years Sandusky was molesting children. To date, Corbett has refused to address why the Sandusky case stalled under his watch citing “grand jury restrictions.” Will he now step forward to explain how and why this investigation got derailed on his watch, then help assure the people of his state that future serial child molesters will be stopped much earlier than Jerry Sandusky?
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has launched one of the most effective cover-your-ass campaigns in memory, in public everywhere weighing in as a moral compass on everything from the firing of Joe Paterno (“It was the right thing to do”) to the question of whether or not to fire the graduate assistant coach who reported seeing Jerry Sandusky rape a 10-year-old but did nothing to intervene (he failed “to meet the higher moral obligation.”)
Sadly, it appears the man who became Pennsylvania’s governor in 2011 failed to meet a higher moral obligation as well. For at least six of the 15 years Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have molested children, Tom Corbett was Pennsylvania’s attorney general, the top law enforcer in the state. The case began, then stalled on his watch.
Corbett’s priorities towards the end of his AG tenure now seem more curious: he used the grand jury not to finally close in on Sandusky, but to launch a criminal investigation against two anonymous political critics and to subpoena Twitter to reveal their identities.
Gov. Corbett has spent much of his time since the Penn State scandal erupted dodging personal questions by saying he isn’t allowed to talk about the case because of grand jury restrictions.
Although various Sandusky molestation reports had been kicking around for years, the case officially landed on Corbett’s desk in 2009. According to the New York Times, officials at Clinton County high school had reported charges to the local district attorney that Mr. Sandusky had molested a boy there, but, citing a conflict of interest, the prosecutor passed it on to the attorney general’s office to investigate.
Corbett did convene a grand jury back in 2009 which begs the question: why didn’t he bring an indictment?
It’s hard to say. No one has pressed him for an answer.
Instead, reporters have accepted surrogate impressions. The New York Times, for one, quoted Kevin Harley who worked with Corbett during his years as Attorney General is now the Governor’s press secretary: “He knew what witnesses were going to the grand jury even though he was running for governor. So then he became governor, and he knew at some point that this day would be coming. He just didn’t know when it would be.”
Was running for governor too much of a distraction to bring even the most difficult of grand jury cases forward after more than a year?
David Gregory began his interview with Gov. Corbett with this extraordinary puppy pass:
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Governor Corbett, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R-PA): Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: I know you’re limited, because you were attorney general, in speaking about the criminal investigation, but I have to ask you more broadly, are there more victims that we don’t know about?
GOV. CORBETT: I don’t know the answer to that, David. When you conduct investigations like this–and in my career, I have conducted investigations like this–the more that you can get public about what has happened, the more that you can demonstrate that law enforcement and authorities are going to assist the victims of these types of crimes, it is not uncommon to see more victims come forward.
Gregory did begin to probe how Jerry Sandusky slipped through the cracks for so many years, but bizarrely asked a nine-part complex question:
MR. GREGORY: I just have to ask you as a trustee, as the governor of the state, as the former attorney general of the state, how did this happen? I mean, was this, was this a culture of indifference? A culture of cover-up? Did it extend throughout the university? Go beyond the university to the police, to the D.A.? Where?
Gregory’s failure to as a direct question regarding Corbett’s tenure as attorney general allowed the Governor to dodge the issue completely.
GOV. CORBETT: I always wait for the results of an investigation before I issue any opinions.
Why did so many reporters give the governor such softballs when there are so many pointed questions that would have skirted any legal restrictions in the case. Here are just a few:
- What percentage of the resources of your office did you dedicate to the Sandusky investigation?
- When did the grand jury looking into Sandusky begin, end?
- How many grand juries did you convene in your last two years as attorney general?
- How many resulted in criminal indictments?
- What was your pedophile prosecution record during your tenure as AG?
- When did you first read the 100-page investigation of Jerry Sandusky produced by university police?
- What actions did you instruct your office to take based on that report?
- Once you began your campaign for governor, how often did you meet with your prosecutors to discuss the road to an indictment of Jerry Sandusky?
- Did your criminal investigation that involved the Twitter subpoena result in an indictment?
- When was your last official conversation about the Sandusky case and what was discussed?
- Had you decided not to bring an indictment against Jerry Sandusky?
- What, if any, was your “pass down” advice (on the Sandusky case) to the attorney general who succeeded you.
As attorney general, Tom Corbett did create a team to go after pedophiles and other assorted child abusers, although he has more often spoken publicly about a disturbing case he successfully prosecuted as a young district attorney where a pedophile used a Christian charity to recruit his victims.
Maybe Corbett did more or tried harder than it appears. In the scheme of things, he’s probably not any more of the devil than those who did “just barely enough” under legal obligations. He’s also not any less of an ostrich — or a coward in his failure to now say what he could have done, what he should have done and what laws must be changed tomorrow.
After we ask the right questions of our elected officials, perhaps we can find out what Dottie Sandusky knew and when she knew it.