HARRISBURG — In a long-awaited report about the state’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation, a former federal prosecutor said political considerations did not slow or otherwise influence the inquiry, but he faulted investigators for not acting sooner, particularly for not searching Sandusky’s home earlier in the investigation.
In a statement accompanying the report, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said her call for a review was vindicated, citing “crucial missteps and inexplicable delays in bringing a serial child molester to justice.”
Ms. Kane, a Democrat, made reviewing the investigation — conducted under the direction of the previous attorney general, now-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican — a central pledge of her 2012 campaign for office.
Ms. Kane and Special Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Moulton Jr., the former federal prosecutor who led the review, released the findings Monday and discussed them at a Capitol news conference.
Sandusky, a former Penn State University assistant football coach, was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
The report covers the time period from November 2008, when a 15-year-old boy known as Victim 1 made his initial accusation, to November 2011, when Sandusky was charged.
Although Mr. Moulton’s report faults investigators for not taking certain steps sooner, the review “revealed no direct evidence that electoral politics influenced any important decision made in the Sandusky investigation. According to [Frank] Fina, who supervised and directly participated in the investigation, Attorney General Corbett never made any substantive decisions related to the conduct of the investigation.”
The 160-plus-page report is critical of some decisions, though.
“Other investigative steps were undertaken relatively late in the game, including contacting [Sandusky’s charity] The Second Mile for lists of participants; contacting Centre County CYS to ask about prior allegations; using Sandusky’s autobiography to identify potential victims; and searching Sandusky’s home. [H]ad these steps been taken in 2009 or 2010 rather than in 2011, Sandusky might well have been charged earlier.”
In particular, the search of Sandusky’s home uncovered critical evidence, such as “many photographs of already-identified Sandusky victims, as well as lists of Second Mile campers with handwritten asterisks next to their names. Had the search been conducted in 2009 or 2010, investigators could have used the photographs and names with asterisks to find victims much earlier than they did.”
Investigators were concerned at the time about the public attention that such a search could receive, and also thought “because Sandusky was aware of the investigation, and because he was not a computer user, a search would be unlikely to turn up any useful evidence.”
Mr. Fina and other investigators reiterated those concerns Monday.
“[T]he failure to search Sandusky’s residence earlier in the investigation is difficult to defend,” the report says.
Mr. Moulton also faulted the “level of coordination” between Clinton County Children and Youth Services and law enforcement in dealing with the November 2008 complaint as “less than ideal.”
“The then-District Attorney of Clinton County does not recall being notified of the investigation until late January 2009, at which point he concluded that it should be handled by the Centre County District Attorney, who in turn referred the matter to [Office of Attorney General].” Neither district attorney convened an investigative team, nor did any law enforcement official participate in the CYS interview of Sandusky in January 2009.
“This was a significant missed opportunity,” the report says.
Not included in the report was a statement Ms. Kane made Monday at a news conference, alleging that Sandusky abused two additional victims in the fall of 2009, while the state’s investigation was ongoing.
“We do have two individuals who indicated that they were abused by Sandusky, both in the fall of 2009,” Ms. Kane said.
“Those cases were already known before I took office. ... The Office of Attorney General received the case in March of 2009, and two individuals indicated that they were abused, by Sandusky, sexually, in the fall of 2009.”
They were not among the cases Mr. Sandusky was charged with in his 2012 prosecution, she said.
Mr. Fina said he was not aware of any such victims and said the last known instance of Sandusky’s abuse was in the fall of 2008.
“They’re not known to me,” Mr. Fina said.
He said there was one victim who provided a variety of dates of abuse during the probe whose allegations were deemed not credible.
“We never had any credible information that someone was assaulted during this investigation,” he said.
The report concludes that whatever problems or delays existed were not politically motivated.
“There is nothing in the available documentary record or witness interviews to suggest that Attorney General Corbett or anyone else in his OAG executive office at the time gave any instructions about how to conduct the investigation of Sandusky, including what witnesses to interview or entities to contact or investigate. While the failure of investigators to contact The Second Mile before January 2011 is indeed puzzling ... that failure does not appear to have been the product of directions from Corbett or his senior executive staff.”
In a section of the report devoted to responses from those involved, Mr. Fina and other several top investigators involved in the case said “given the outcome [Sandusky’s conviction], we stand by the choices we made” and attacked the report as “clearly born of political opportunism and posturing.”
They say a decision to pursue a search warrant earlier could have risked the suppression of evidence obtained from Sandusky’s residence and blown the entire case.
The report also noted that the decision to search for additional victims before charging Sandusky and to use a grand jury to investigate “appears to have been a reasonable exercise of prosecutorial discretion, albeit one that not all prosecutors would have made.”
Mr. Corbett defended his office’s work in a statement Monday.
“I am proud of the hard work of men and women who joined in the effort to support and fight for these victims. It was, however, difficult to see their motives and professionalism called in to question. The release of this report reaffirms the integrity of their efforts. It refutes each aspect of the case that the Attorney General and others have questioned; has found no evidence of deliberate delay; and underscores the importance and appropriateness of the methods used in the investigation and subsequent conviction of a child predator.”
Some questions remain unanswered in the report, particularly those surrounding Penn State University officials and their handling of the allegations against Sandusky. Charges still are pending against three top former Penn State administrators in relation to how they handled the accusations against Sandusky.
The full report is online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.
An email thread at Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General lists 10 reasons to arrest Sandusky
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise. First Published June 23, 2014 10:32 AM