HARRISBURG -- The investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case has not faded as a topic in the state attorney general's race, and on Thursday Gov. Tom Corbett gave an extended defense of his oversight when he held the post.
Mr. Corbett was taking questions after a bill signing when a reporter asked if a debate Monday between the candidates -- in which Democratic nominee Kathleen Kane questioned the use of a grand jury and the amount of time that elapsed before an arrest was made -- had his "ears burning."
He paused for several seconds and glanced upward before speaking.
"First off," he said. "And you all have heard me say this repeatedly. There was no politics involved in that investigation. None. Zero. And I challenge anybody out there who says there is to bring forward one piece of evidence, one sentence of evidence, one thread of evidence."
Months earlier, with the release of a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, Mr. Corbett had grown angry when a reporter asked if he believed he should have done anything differently in his investigation as attorney general. But on Thursday, he spoke deliberately and at length. When a reporter interjected at one point, Mr. Corbett stopped him: "Let me finish. This might take a while."
As he has previously, Mr. Corbett said he was obligated as a prosecutor to gather evidence until his case could withstand the scrutiny of a trial. In June, Sandusky, a former Penn State University assistant football coach, was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts.
"I come from a business where we just can't say, well critics say this or critics say that," he said. "I come from a business where we have to prove a case. I come from a business where I don't say anything until I know I can prove a case. And that's probably one of my greatest frustrations with the political scene."
With his own candidacy for governor in 2010, Mr. Corbett said there was no way to avoid accusations that he had cast a political eye to the explosive case. Had key witnesses come forward earlier, allowing the case to be brought before his election, Mr. Corbett said he expects similar claims would have been made.
"I suspect those same people that are saying I'm being political would say, 'Well, if he brought the case in September of 2010, that was political,' " he said. "Because it would work to your advantage when you were running for governor because of all the media coverage that you get."
Mr. Corbett pointed to his career as a prosecutor as evidence of his determination to stop predators. He noted the child predator unit he created in January 2005, early in his first term as attorney general. Since then, the office has made 313 arrests and obtained convictions in every case that has concluded, said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the attorney general. The office has jurisdiction in cases of people attempting to sexually solicit children over the Internet and, since 2010, child pornography on the Internet.
Both Ms. Kane and her Republican opponent, David Freed, have said they would review how the office handled the case, and Mr. Corbett said he too examined past work when he took office. Asked about a call by House Democrats for a federal review, Mr. Corbett did not argue.
"If they want to, go ahead and have one, let them have one," he said of federal investigators. "This is all politics being played by the other party."
Ms. Kane said it was "unfortunate" Mr. Corbett had become upset when asked about the time it took to remove a predator from the streets.
"His reaction makes it clear to voters that the only candidate who will find the truth, based upon all the facts, will be me, not his hand-picked candidate for attorney general," she said.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-717-787-2141.