Kane raised successes of Sandusky probe

Anyone certain that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office probe into the handling of initial allegations against Jerry Sandusky would turn up intentional investigatory wrongdoing or evidence of politically influenced decision making came away disappointed on Monday.

While the probe was critical of what was described as an “inexcusable lack of urgency” in prosecuting the former coach for serial child sex abuse, it found no evidence that the delay was precipitated by an attempt to protect then-Attorney General Tom Corbett’s ultimately successful 2010 campaign for governor.

Acting too hastily might have jeopardized successful prosecution of the case.

The Kane investigation’s findings provide a sense of reassurance and relief about Corbett’s performance and decisions regarding the former Penn State assistant football coach while serving in the position Kane now holds. It also provides reassurance and confidence in Corbett’s responses after the case burst open before the public in November 2011, less than a year after he became the state’s chief executive.

Corbett remains an ex-officio member of the PSU board of trustees.

It is unfortunate that the specter of politics has continued to hang over the Sandusky case so long after Sandusky was found guilty and imprisoned for what apparently – and deservedly – will be the rest of his life. Kane, a Democrat, promised the just-completed probe during her successful election campaign as a successor to Corbett, a Republican.

It was not an empty promise.

On Monday, even Corbett commended the probe’s “professional approach,” although saying in a prepared statement that it was “difficult to see (the prosecution’s) motives and professionalism called into question.”

What the Kane probe in fact did was cement the fact that, while some things could have been done better or more efficiently, the intent never was to delay Sandusky from facing the justice that he continues to deserve.

This was a case that never could have been fathomed, and any initial skepticism was understandable, considering the respected, well-run institution of higher learning that Penn State always has been, as well as the respect Sandusky had garnered up to that time.

The initial investigation of Sandusky languished until a tip from a Penn State assistant coach, Mike McQueary, was received. Before that, investigators were reluctant to rush headstrong into something they felt they lacked the evidence to prove.

If Kane erred in any way, it was in telling a Scranton newspaper that initial delays involving Sandusky were “probably” political. She could have – and should have – said instead that the probe she was promising would in part ascertain whether or not politics played any part in the decision making that preceded Sandusky’s arrest.

The specter of politics hanging over a tragedy in which politics has no justifiable place was troubling.

Although the probe exonerated Corbett and other investigators of wrongdoing, one particular opinion of Special Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Mouton, who headed the investigatory legwork, remains important. It is that arguments that the case initially was too weak don’t hold up when considering the availability of evidence that would have made the case stronger.

That’s an important lesson.

Kane’s investigation shouldn’t have been necessary, but its findings are a source of relief rather than anger, disappointment and eroded confidence in the justice system.