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Attorney general's report appears to clear Corbett in Sandusky case

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane

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Saturday, June 7, 2014, 12:11 a.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen Kane's long-awaited review of the prosecution of child molester Jerry Sandusky suggests her predecessor, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, did not act quickly enough to search Sandusky's home, which may have helped lengthen the probe, sources tell the Tribune-Review.

Agents did not search Sandusky's home until June 2011, even though the investigation began in March 2009, according to a “factual timeline” in the report on the 33-month investigation.

Prosecutors from Corbett's time as attorney general argued that probable cause for such a search did not exist earlier.

But the report appears to hand Corbett this key conclusion: It says Kane's investigators did not find evidence that he delayed the case for political reasons, sources said.

That was one major reason for Kane's investigation, because some Pennsylvanians questioned why Sandusky was not arrested earlier.

“There's nothing in the available document record or witness interviews to support that Attorney General Corbett or anyone else in the OAG executive office at this time gave any instructions on how to conduct the investigation,” reads an excerpt from the report provided to the Trib.

A jury in 2012 convicted Sandusky, 70, of molesting 10 boys. The former Penn State University assistant football coach groomed victims at his charity, The Second Mile. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term.

Kane's report does not use accusatory language regarding Corbett's actions. Completed but awaiting release in a few weeks, it is far less critical than Corbett's supporters expected; they call it a “vindication.” Others think it outlines failed leadership from top to bottom.

Corbett has said that using a statewide grand jury contributed to the length of the investigation. He said that was necessary because of the complexity of the case and to compel testimony of reluctant witnesses. The grand jury met one week per month and handled myriad cases.

The report apparently does not disagree with using a grand jury, several sources said.

“We will not comment on any speculation about the report,” said Kane's spokesman, J.J. Abbott. “It will be released in its full context when all the legal requirements have been met.”

During her campaign, Kane told the Scranton Times-Tribune that Corbett “probably” played politics with the case. As a former Lackawanna County prosecutor who handled sex abuse cases, she said she never would have put the case before a grand jury.

Corbett, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, and others named in the report were given copies to write responses, due in less than a week. It then will go back to Cambria County Judge Norman A. Krumenacher III for review before public release.

Corbett's office declined to comment. Fina, who works for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, would not comment.

Corbett, a Shaler Republican, is seeking re-election in November.

Kane, the first woman and Democrat elected as attorney general, promised during her 2012 campaign to determine whether Corbett delayed the Sandusky investigation during his gubernatorial campaign.

Corbett has denied the assertion.

From 2007 to 2012, Corbett's prosecutors focused on corruption in the Legislature, convicting 23 former lawmakers and staffers of using public resources for political campaigns.

An issue is whether Corbett's office “put this child molestation case on the back burner while it pursued political corruption cases,” said Wes Oliver, a professor at Duquesne University Law School. “The most important thing a prosecutor can do is decide which cases to pursue and how intensely to pursue them.”

Kane hired H. Geoffery Moulton, a Widener Law School professor, as a special deputy in February 2013 to author the report. He is the former first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Kenneth Lanning, a retired FBI agent who worked in the bureau's Behavioral Science Unit, said Moulton interviewed him about his book, “Child Molesters — a Behavioral Analysis.”

There's no “magical timeline” for prosecuting a case such as Sandusky's, Lanning said. Each case is different, and if prosecutors move too quickly or act on the testimony of one witness, a suspect could be acquitted, he said.

That's an argument Corbett made when explaining why he did not arrest Sandusky based on the testimony of Aaron Fisher, who was identified only as Victim No. 1 until Fisher wrote a book about Sandusky's sexual assaults.

But being careful doesn't mean “you can dillydally around,” Lanning said.

One issue, speaking generically, is whether “they applied sufficient resources,” Lanning said. “You need to do it properly. You need to do it as quickly as you can.”

Cases of “acquaintance molesters” are more complex than “Mr. Jones molested his daughter,” Lanning said.

Another issue is the training of investigators, he said. Two agents assigned to the Sandusky case were narcotics officers; initially, only one state trooper was assigned.

Under Corbett, Fina supervised the public corruption cases and the Sandusky case.

The report is “factual” rather than accusatory in rhetoric, leaving many judgments up to the reader, sources said. That may result in varying interpretations on its release.

Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, a year after Corbett was elected governor. Corbett addressed widespread skepticism that he deliberately slowed the case because of the overwhelming popularity of Penn State football in Central Pennsylvania and the ruckus it might have caused during the 2010 campaign.

Kane's investigator did not have subpoena power, but Moulton's team reconstructed millions of deleted state emails. That work factored into the 15-month preparation of the report, Kane's office has said.

The Sandusky case cost legendary head football coach Joe Paterno his job, resulting in campus demonstrations. Paterno died a few months later of lung cancer.

Penn State trustees fired university President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Shultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley for allegedly participating in a cover-up. They await trial on those charges.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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