Kane, District Attorneys Association duke it out over Sandusky report
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen Kane found herself on the defensive on Wednesday, rebuked by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association for her critical remarks about state prosecutors when announcing her office’s report on the Jerry Sandusky investigation.
In a statement, the association’s executive committee said it felt “compelled to share our concern and disappointment that any valuable lessons in the report will be overshadowed by the attorney general’s continued public attacks on the successful work of career prosecutors. The focus on winning the news cycle must end.”
Kane’s office responded that it found ironic “that they would argue for ending the focus on the news cycle by submitting their statement (first) to the media instead of this office. … Our focus is on protecting children, rather than trying to score political points.”
The association, headed by Republican David Freed, who ran against Kane, published its statement as an opinion piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The statement was signed by Freed, the group’s president, and two other officers of the committee. Freed could not be reached.
Rich Long, executive director of the association, said district attorneys “check their political associations at the door (and) have a proven track record of doing the right thing for the right reason.”
Long said the vote to issue a statement was unanimous and that a majority of the executive committee approved the statement as written. He declined to identify who voted and how.
Nine of the 12 executive committee members are Republicans. Three Democrats on the committee voted to approve the final language, Long said.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., a Democrat and committee member, declined to comment through an aide. One Democrat, District Attorney Seth Williams of Philadelphia, has feuded with Kane over a legislative sting case she declined to prosecute.
Kane’s report on the investigation of Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator for Penn State University’s football team who was convicted of molesting 10 boys, was the central premise of her 2012 campaign. She vowed to determine why it took nearly three years for ex-Attorney General Tom Corbett to arrest a pedophile and suggested that Corbett might have slowed the investigation until after his 2010 election as governor.
“The people of Pennsylvania wanted answers about why the Sandusky investigation took so long, and Attorney General Kane promised to deliver an independent, fact-based report,” her office said. “That is exactly what we delivered. There is no question that this report was professional and thorough. There is no question that there were inexplicable delays and failures to take basic investigative steps early on.”
The District Attorneys Association did not take issue with the report released last week by H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., whom Kane hired as a special deputy in February 2013 to look into the matter.
Moulton, a professor emeritus at Widener University Law School in Wilmington, Del., said he found no “direct evidence” of political interference by Corbett. He supported Corbett’s use of a grand jury to investigate Sandusky and did not dispute Corbett’s contention that prosecutors needed testimony from multiple victims.
Moulton’s report was “seriously undertaken, professionally written and measured in its conclusions,” the association said in its statement.
The group took issue with Kane’s comments about the report, in which she suggested that two victims told prosecutors that Sandusky abused them while the 33-month investigation was ongoing. Kane said they were not included in the criminal case, but later acknowledged she had erred in that assertion.
“Being rebuked by a bipartisan organization composed of all 67 district attorneys makes it more difficult for Attorney General Kane to appear to be above politics in the way that she responded to this investigation,” said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener’s main campus in Chester.
Politics may be involved in the association’s statement, but “if the facts are accurate, it doesn’t matter,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics.
One of the Sandusky prosecutors, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, headed the legislative sting investigation. He now works for Williams in Philadelphia, who is looking at evidence from the sting to determine whether to prosecute four Democratic lawmakers videotaped while accepting money from an undercover lobbyist.
On behalf of prosecutors on the Sandusky case, Fina said, “There could be no greater tribute than the words of our peers.”
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].