The former Centre County district attorney who referred an allegation of child sex abuse to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office did so because his brother-in-law is an adopted son of the man accused, Jerry Sandusky.
Michael Madeira, who left the DA's office last year, said Wednesday that he was compelled to pass the case on to state prosecutors to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
"The perception of a conflict of interest was enough to create doubt," he said. "Even if I, personally, felt I could go above this and make the right call."
Mr. Madeira's wife, who was also adopted, is the biological sister of one of Mr. Sandusky's adopted sons. The two were adopted by different families, the former prosecutor said, and they have very little contact with each other.
"They didn't grow up together," he said. "I can count on one hand the number of contacts I've had with Jerry Sandusky."
Mr. Madeira would not name the brother-in-law. Mr. Sandusky adopted six children.
Even though he believed he could have made the right decision as to whether charges should be filed, Mr. Madeira knew the potential fallout of bringing sexual assault charges against Mr. Sandusky, a beloved man all over Centre County not only for his work as Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's defensive coordinator, but also from forming his own charity, The Second Mile. He knew the case would come under heavy scrutiny, and Mr. Madeira said, he didn't want to do anything that would risk the investigation.
"I remember being very taken aback when I saw the materials the police had at the time," he said. "I knew the same public persona [of Mr. Sandusky] -- the great coach, the great philanthropist."
Mr. Madeira said that the case was brought to the Centre County DA's office after a friend of his from his counterpart in Clinton County alerted him to it.
The friend called him in early 2009 and simply said that the Pennsylvania State Police were doing an investigation, and that it appeared the actual crime occurred in Centre County.
Within a few days, Mr. Madeira said, the state police came to his office. They brought with them a single police report -- the accusations made by the boy known in the grand jury presentment as "Victim 1."
The boy claims that Mr. Sandusky befriended him through Second Mile in 2005 or 2006, and by 2007 was spending time with him weekly. According to the presentment, Mr. Sandusky, who also helped coach football at the boy's high school in Clinton County, performed oral sex on the boy more than 20 times in 2007 and early 2008. It is unclear in the presentment on what exact date the charges were brought to law enforcement or prosecutors.
However, Mr. Madeira said that after he received and reviewed the material, he realized the allegations were serious and credible, and needed to be investigated. Within a few days -- at some point in early March of that year -- Mr. Madeira sent a letter to the chief deputy attorney general of criminal investigations, Rick Sheetz, and cited his conflict of interest and asked that the AG's office take the case over.
"I knew in my gut this was just not one I could handle myself," he said.
At no time, Mr. Madeira said, was he made aware of any other alleged victims.
"I was completely unaware my predecessor reviewed a case in 1998," he said. "I was completely unaware the university handled -- or mishandled -- an investigation in 2002.
"All I had was this single allegation and the realization it needed to be investigated more."
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620.