Kane: Sandusky prosecution too slow
Attorney General Kathleen Kane alleged Monday at a news conference that under Gov. Tom Corbett, the Attorney General’s office displayed an “inexcusable lack of urgency” in prosecuting former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky and that more aggressive action might have kept Sandusky from abusing two youths in the fall of 2009.
Kane said, however, that her office’s inquiry into the case, which eventually resulted in Sandusky’s conviction and imprisonment for serial child sex abuse, uncovered no evidence the delay was designed to protect Corbett’s 2010 campaign for governor.
Prosecutors said moving too quickly would have risked the entire case, that there were likely no additional victims after the AG’s office got the case in early 2009 – given protections against Sandusky’s contacting youths – and that Kane’s investigation was “born of political opportunism.”
Corbett was more diplomatic, saying in a prepared statement that while it was “difficult to see (the prosecution’s) motives and professionalism called into question,” he appreciated Special Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Mouton’s “professional approach” and his finding that there was “no evidence of deliberate delay.”
It took a year before a prosecutor recommended filing charges in March 2010, based on evidence about the first victim to come forward, according to Kane.
The office failed to act on the proposed grand jury presentment, despite the prosecutor’s and the victim’s mother’s repeated pleas for action, she said.
After five months, members of the office said they wanted to locate additional victims to bolster the case, according to Kane.
It wasn’t until November 2010 – before which the investigation was “dead in the water” – that prosecutors actually began pursuing the case with urgency, after they got a tip from Penn State staffer Mike McQueary, who had seen Sandusky in the shower with a boy, according to Kane.
“Reasonable people” could support the prosecution’s decision to use a grand jury for the case, which tends to add time, she said.
But reasonable people couldn’t support the prosecution’s failure to use the available “resources,” including a warrant to search Sandusky’s house, records requests from local police and child protective services and information requests from Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, according to Kane.
A search of Sandusky’s house would have revealed victim photos and asterisked victims’ names among Second Mile campers, according to Kane.
Failure to conduct searches early enough is a “major” problem with child sexual abuse investigations, according to an expert cited in the inquiry report.
Prosecutors also didn’t learn of an earlier abuse case against Sandusky, although that might have been a “failure of communication,” according to Moulton.
Arguments that the case was too weak at the time don’t hold up when considering the availability of evidence that would have made the case stronger, Moulton said.
The prosecution moved when the case was ready, according to the prosecution team.
The initial evidence was “varied and uncorroborated,” the prosecution stated in its response.
Going for a search warrant too early would have risked suppression because of seized evidence that could become “stale” before it could be used, Feathers said.
“The costs of such a suppression would have been enormous,” not only the loss of the seized evidence, but the inability to charge Sandusky for victims thus identified, the response states.
The earlier Sandusky case was “hidden” in “administrative” files in the Penn State police offices, he added.
Besides, there was activity during the five months after the submission of the draft presentment, including an examination of blogs, said prosecutor Frank Fina.
“It is simply irresponsible for this report to blithely ignore and misconstrue the facts and law that led to our prudent decision to forego a search warrant until 2011,” the response states.
“We could have lost the whole thing had we rushed to judgment,” Feathers said to reporters after the news conference.
Kane declined to share particulars of the alleged victims whom the prosecutors might have learned about while the investigation allegedly stalled.
Feathers and Fina said they didn’t know whom she was talking about.
Jerry Sandusky’s wife says Kane lacks the courage to admit the former Penn State assistant coach isn’t guilty of the child molestation charges that sent him to prison.
Dottie Sandusky issued a statement Monday after Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a report into how the case was handled by police and prosecutors and why it took nearly three years to file charges.
Dottie Sandusky says the charges were delayed because there was no legitimate evidence against her husband.
The report questions why their home wasn’t searched until 2011 even though authorities fielded a complaint against Sandusky in late 2008. Dottie Sandusky says if they’d searched earlier they’d have found nothing.
Kane looked into the case after hearing from people “upset and bewildered” about how long it had taken to bring charges against Sandusky during her run for attorney general, she said.
She told a Scranton newspaper then that the motivation was “probably” political.
Still, the expressed purpose of sharing the findings of the inquiry Monday was “to provide a factual, unbiased review of this investigation and to identify any ways that law enforcement can do a better job protecting children,” Moulton stated.
“I was embarrassed at what went on today,” Feathers said.
“What does this tell [future] victims?” Fina asked, suggesting that after they share their “pain” with prosecutors and the courts, they may now face a political review of their case.
Commonwealth victim advocate Jennifer Storm – a gubernatorial appointee who said she operates independently – agreed.
“I have seen single-accuser cases fall on their face (because of) aggressive defense tactics,” she said. “Particularly if there’s a rush to arrest or trial.”
It takes time for victims to get a “comfort level” necessary for them to help prosecutors, she said.
Moving deliberately was especially important with Sandusky, because he was a community icon, she said.
“You have to make sure every stone is overturned,” Storm stated.
“We did the right thing for the right reasons,” Feathers said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.