Corbett responds to candidate’s criticism over length of Sandusky investigation
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett, who as attorney general began investigating Jerry Sandusky, said on Thursday that he welcomes any review or investigation of the case and has nothing to hide.
“There’s not one person out there that’s going to say I told them to hold that case up,” Corbett, a Republican, said in addressing criticism by Democratic attorney general candidate Kathleen Kane.
Corbett gave his most extensive comments on the 33-month investigation of Sandusky, a retired Penn State University football assistant coach convicted in June of sexually molesting 10 boys over 15 years.
Discussion of the case increased during the attorney general’s race and with the recent release of the book “Silent No More” by Aaron Fisher, a Sandusky victim who said he contemplated suicide because prosecution took so long.
During a debate against Republican David Freed, Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor, said she would investigate why arrests in the Sandusky case took almost three years. Freed, the Cumberland County district attorney, said he’d review it internally as he would an allegation of excessive force by a police officer.
House Democrats asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate.
“They want to have one? Let them have one,” Corbett said about a federal investigation.
Critics suggest he dragged his feet so the charges were not ready until long after voters elected him governor in November 2010, to avoid backlash. The November 2011 charges against Sandusky and two school officials accused of a cover-up led to the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and stiff NCAA sanctions against the football team.
“It’s all speculation,” Corbett said during a bill signing ceremony at Harrisburg Area Community College.
“It’s unfortunate that Governor Corbett becomes angry when asked legitimate questions that many Pennsylvanians have about the amount of time it took to get a sexual predator off the streets during his watch,” Kane said. “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.”
Freed’s spokesman could not be reached.
Corbett appeared annoyed but not angry when answering reporters’ questions. In July, he slammed his palm on a lectern and rebuked a reporter who asked, upon release of a report on Penn State’s handling of the scandal, whether Corbett believed he could have expedited the investigation. The report by former FBI director Louis Freed described a culture of silence among top Penn State officials.
Corbett on Thursday said he was not afraid of Penn State and that Democrats are playing politics with the investigation.
“Would I have loved to have brought that case before I was elected governor? Absolutely,” Corbett said. His successor, Linda Kelly, filed the charges.
Sandusky, 68, is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years. A Centre County jury found him guilty of 45 counts of child molestation.
It’s routine for an attorney general to review cases of his or her predecessor, Corbett said. Whoever wins the election will “be looking at what Linda Kelly’s been doing and what we’ve been doing. I did that, too. That’s fine,” he said.
Kane maintains Corbett should have “taken him off the streets” after confirming the first case against Sandusky. She questions why the office initially assigned only one investigator to the case.
“If I had done what the Democratic candidate says — arrest right away — that young man (Fisher) would never have survived a preliminary hearing, let alone a trial,” Corbett said.
Corbett previously said it was necessary to use a grand jury to investigate the case to compel the testimony of reluctant witnesses. The grand jury meets once a month and considers assorted cases. He also has said the weight of 10 victims’ testimony was necessary to secure a conviction.
Kane, who specialized in sex crimes cases, said she never would have used a grand jury.
Brad Bumsted is the stateCapitol reporter for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 717-787-1405or [email protected].