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Kane: Missteps, 'inexcusable delays' in Sandusky investigation

| Monday, June 23, 2014, 10:58 a.m.
Former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves the Centre County Courthouse on June 21, 2012, in Bellefonte, Pa.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane fields questions from the media during a news conference on Monday, June 23, 2014, in Harrisburg.
Special Deputy Attorney General H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. speaks on Monday, June 23, 2014, during a news conference on the results of a probe into the Jerry Sandusky investigation as Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (left) stands by.

HARRISBURG — A review of her predecessor's 16-month investigation and prosecution of Jerry Sandusky identifies “crucial missteps” and “an inexcusable lack of urgency” in arresting the child predator, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said.

Kane's report, released on Monday, found no evidence that then-Attorney General Tom Corbett tried to delay Sandusky's arrest until after Corbett's November 2010 election as governor.

“I rely upon the facts, and the facts are that there was no direct evidence. But there are questions of inexcusable delays. Why those delays took place, we don't know,” Kane said during a Capitol news conference.

“The case sat for months while a predator was on the streets and a victim waited for justice,” Kane said. “The grand jury presentment, drafted and supported by the lead prosecutor, sat on someone's desk for five months.”

Kane, a Democrat, said the review found unexplained “tactical errors” that slowed investigators before they arrested the retired defensive football coordinator for Penn State University. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child abuse in 2012.

“The Sandusky investigation was conducted with a single purpose: to ensure justice for the victims and families by taking a child predator off the streets — nothing more, nothing less,” Corbett, a Republican, said in a statement. “As I have said many times, this investigation was conducted appropriately and timely.”

In a response signed by four other prosecutors, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina said the 166-page report “was clearly born of political opportunism and posturing.”

Kane called it “a full and fair review.”

University alumni dinged Kane and Corbett, saying the report leaves questions unanswered.

“It's astonishing, just looking at the timeline, how everything seems to have been backloaded until just after the election. That on its face strikes you as being a little odd,” said Michael Day, 62, of Hagerstown, Md., a 1973 Penn State graduate. He said Corbett “isn't out of the woodshed” with Penn State fans.

Tom Shakely, a 2009 PSU graduate, was no more flattering of Kane, who he said appeared political after the Moulton report. He called the review a bad precedent for prosecutorial second-guessing.

“It's ironic, at minimum,” said Shakely, 26, of Philadelphia, noting Kane suggested in her campaign that Corbett played politics. “The takeaway seems to be there wasn't a smoking gun.”

The investigation by special deputy H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., a law professor and former federal prosecutor, began in February 2013, less than a month since Kane took office as the first female attorney general in Pennsylvania.

Kane investigated as a campaign promise to voters, who she has said asked why the Sandusky investigation took nearly three years.

Despite a conviction that put Sandusky in prison, “members of the public, along with legislators, commentators and others, raised concerns about the investigation,” Moulton wrote.

“The final outcome was quite good; there's no question about that,” Moulton said at the Capitol. “As far as the progress of the investigation, I think there are a lot of ways in which it could have been improved.”

He said most of the concerns dealt with the length of the investigation: from March 2009, when state prosecutors took the case, until Sandusky's arrest in November 2011. Moulton acknowledged the advantage of hindsight, noting that “connecting the dots is easier when you've seen the entire picture.”

Still, Kane said, “It is unfathomable why there was such a lack of urgency.”

Fina said prosecutors working the Sandusky case were handling other cases, including murders, rape, other child predator cases and public corruption.

Among the report's highlights, according to Kane:

• It took a year for the office to recommend charging Sandusky.

• In March 2010, career prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach circulated a draft indictment of Sandusky for molesting Aaron Fisher, identified at trial as Victim No. 1. Senior leaders “failed to act,” Kane said.

“Can someone please tell me what the holdup is?” Eshbach wrote to superiors in July 2010. It was the first time in her career that her bosses did not approve a recommended presentment, the report said.

• Investigators appeared to make little effort in following months to find more victims. The investigation stalled until the Centre County district attorney received a tip in November 2010.

• Investigators didn't search Sandusky's home for two years after the office took the case. The search uncovered photographs of victims and campers from The Second Mile, a charity Sandusky founded, with handwritten asterisks by their names.

Fina said serving a warrant without proper legal groundwork would have risked the prosecution.

The report acknowledges that using a grand jury was necessary, but Kane noted that “for long stretches of time,” the grand jury wasn't used. Its use slowed investigators because grand jurors meet for one week per month and consider a multitude of cases.

In their response, the five prosecutors who worked under Corbett said Moulton's report includes factual errors, presumptions and faulty conclusions: “What must not be lost is one basic, unimpeachable fact: the investigation, and the choices made therein, led to the conviction on 45 counts of this state's worst child molester.”

After Kane presented the report, some of the prosecutors were more blunt.

“It's a good doorstop,” Joseph McGettigan, the lead trial prosecutor, said of the document.

“It's politics, politics, politics,” said Randy Feathers, a former agent on the case.

Brad Bumsted and Adam Smeltz are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Bumsted at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com and Smeltz at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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