AG Kathleen Kane appoints special Sandusky investigator
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Monday took the unusual step of appointing a special deputy to examine why it took 33 months to charge serial predator Jerry Sandusky.
The appointment of H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., a former federal prosecutor, fulfills Kane's campaign pledge to investigate how Gov. Tom Corbett, in his previous role as attorney general, handled the prosecution of Sandusky.
“The governor would be happy to speak with him,” said Corbett's spokesman Kevin Harley. Corbett, a Shaler Republican, has repeatedly stated he did nothing wrong during the investigation of the former Penn State assistant football coach.
It's “not unheard of” for a prosecutor to investigate another prosecutor, but it's “highly unusual,” said John Burkoff, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School.
“But an investigation of a former prosecutor who is now a sitting governor? That's beyond unusual. It's really extraordinary,” he said.
The issue that Kane, a Democrat, raised during last year's election is whether anyone intentionally delayed the investigation to help Corbett win the November 2010 governor's race. The charges against Sandusky and two administrators in November 2011 brought chaos to the Penn State campus. Legendary head coach Joe Paterno was fired and students rioted before the NCAA imposed unprecedented penalties. Corbett, who participated in Paterno's firing, says he told no one to slow down the investigation.
Moulton could not be reached.
A colleague described him as a “heavy hitter” and non-partisan, despite being a Democrat and Obama supporter.
“Geoff is one of the most respected federal prosecutors I know,” said Wesley Oliver, a professor at Duquesne Law School who taught at Widener University Law School, where Moulton was an associate professor. “He is a very conscientious person. He is not prone to jumping to quick conclusions. You can absolutely trust the conclusions he arrives at. You can trust them as not being partisan or as a result of a rush to judgment.”
Corbett doesn't know him, Harley said. Moulton worked at Widener's campus in Delaware.
Moulton will report directly to Kane, a former Lacka-wanna County assistant district attorney.
The verdict against Sandusky proves the investigation's effectiveness, Harley said. A Centre County jury in June convicted Sandusky, 68, of 45 counts of child molestation, and he is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.
Kane touched a nerve with Pennsylvania voters by focusing on the length of the investigation, which began in March 2009 and culminated with Sandusky's arrest about a year after Corbett won election as governor. Kane, the first woman and Democrat elected attorney general, was the leading vote-getter statewide, outpolling even President Obama.
Kane made the announcement one day before Corbett proposes his third state budget to a joint session of the state House and Senate.
Steven Peterson, a professor of politics and public affairs at Penn State's Harrisburg campus, said Moulton's “heavy-duty credentials suggest this is being taken seriously.”
Moulton's experience includes time as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist and directing a review for the Treasury Department of the 1993 siege in Waco, Texas, involving members of the Branch Davidian sect in which 76 people were killed.
The Sandusky case particularly concerned many Pennsylvanians, Peterson said, “because it appears it wasn't pursued with a lot of vigor.”
A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,221 registered voters released last week showed voters disapprove of Corbett's handling of the investigation by a 50-26 percent margin. The margin of error was 2.8 percent.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.