AG-elect Kane picks top aides, looks to swearing-in
HARRISBURG — Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane won't wait long to start her investigation of why it took 33 months to arrest child predator Jerry Sandusky.
“Well, I'm sworn in on the 15th … so the 16th,” Kane told the Tribune-Review on Thursday when asked about starting the investigation. As to whether it will be a criminal or civil investigation, Kane said, “It depends where the facts lead.
“The facts are the facts,” she said. “Wherever they go, we're going to go with it.”
Kane, 46, of Clarks Summit is the first female and the first Democrat elected attorney general. Her promised investigation will put her at instant odds with Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who as attorney general began the investigation of Sandusky in March 2009 based on a referral from the Centre County District Attorney's Office.
Political experts say the clash brings risks for Kane and Corbett.
“From a public opinion perspective, having an attorney general focus extensively on your record in one of the most high-profile cases ever to take place in the commonwealth is going to be uncomfortable, in the minimum, for the governor,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
Corbett will be especially sensitive since he is positioning himself to run for re-election in 2014, said Tom Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre.
“It doesn't come without risks for her, either,” Borick said. “If it smacks of politics, she runs the risk of developing some public backlash herself.”
It hurts Kane if the public perceives it as trying to “advance her own career,” Baldino said.
Kane's questioning of the Sandusky investigation struck a nerve with the public and helped her defeat Republican David Freed, analysts said.
Corbett said he will cooperate with Kane if he determines her actions aren't “political.” He has repeatedly defended the investigation, saying it needed to be thorough with multiple victims to convict a once-revered figure such as Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive football coach.
Sandusky, 68, who was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, appeared in Centre County Court on Thursday to argue that he didn't have sufficient time to prepare for trial.
Corbett, who was elected governor in November 2010, has said he told no one to slow down the investigation. Corbett had been governor for 11 months when Sandusky was arrested.
Kane, who specialized in child abuse cases as a deputy district attorney in Lackawanna County, said it never should have taken that long. She said she would not have used a grand jury as Corbett did; he says it was needed to compel testimony.
“If I were Corbett, I'd be worried,” Baldino said.
Baldino said he is not insinuating that Corbett did anything wrong. But from the public's perspective, Kane could subject him to “death by a thousand cuts.”
“I can guarantee you it will not be political,” Kane said. “That's backed up by the fact I am keeping my commitment” to serve a full four-year term as attorney general and not seek higher office.
Sandusky's arrest triggered a chain of events leading to the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier, student protests and a university-paid investigation headed by a former FBI director. Three administrators, including Spanier, face criminal charges, and Kane's office will continue that prosecution.
Kane campaigned as an outsider, but selected a consummate insider as her chief of staff.
Adrian King, who will serve as Kane's first deputy, was a top staffer to former Gov. Ed Rendell. He is the brother-in-law of John Estey, Rendell's former chief of staff, an officer with the Hershey Trust, a focus of an investigation into the trust's land deals. Hershey brought in Estey in 2011 as general counsel to deal with the attorney general's office in the investigation.
Kane said she will keep King away from the Hershey Trust investigation to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
“We will make sure not a single email goes to Adrian on the Hershey Trust,” Kane said.
Beyond the big investigations, Kane said her staff will provide resources, training and manpower to understaffed police departments and counties where help is needed.
Her consumer protection and litigation units will focus on mortgage, pension and Medicaid fraud, Kane said.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.