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Sandusky probe report less critical than Kane, who makes new charges

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's review of the investigation into pedophile Jerry Sandusky was supposed to finally explain why the case took nearly three years to build, and whether it was bogged down by politics.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane released a special report on the Sandusky investigation Monday. (David Swanson/Staff/June 24, 2014)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane released a special report on the Sandusky investigation Monday. (David Swanson/Staff/June 24, 2014)Read more

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's review of the investigation into pedophile Jerry Sandusky was supposed to finally explain why the case took nearly three years to build, and whether it was bogged down by politics.

Instead, the 166-page report she released Monday was overshadowed by Kane's own assertion - not included in the document - that two victims alleged they were sexually abused by Sandusky even while he was under investigation.

Kane stood silent as the independent expert she hired to review her predecessors' handling of the case rejected criticisms she has raised all along: that the inquiry was slowed for political reasons, that it lacked resources, and that it was a mistake to use a grand jury.

The expert, former federal prosecutor H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., did sharply criticize part of the 33-month investigation, including delays in searching Sandusky's home and digging up previous accusations of abuse. His report also cites e-mails from a former prosecutor who was prepared as early as March 2010 to charge Sandusky and was frustrated when, she said, the case "stalled." Sandusky was not arrested until November 2011.

But Moulton ultimately concluded that the Attorney General's Office had reason to take its time to gather evidence and build a case around multiple victims.

On Monday, Kane was far more vehement than Moulton in her conclusions, saying "crucial missteps" and "inexplicable delays" had badly harmed the investigation conducted by her predecessors.

"The facts show an inexcusable lack of urgency in charging and stopping a serial child predator," she said, asserting the investigation picked up only in the months before the arrest of Sandusky, a former assistant to footbal coach Joe Paterno at Pennsylvania State University.

Then she dropped what seemed a bombshell: Two victims, she said, told her predecessors in 2011 that they had been abused by Sandusky in late 2009, months after the state investigation began. She strongly suggested that arresting Sandusky earlier might have spared them from abuse.

"Logically speaking, if different tactics had been taken ... and if Sandusky had been in jail, of course there wouldn't have been more victims," she said.

Kane would not elaborate, except to say that the two were not among the victims who testified against Sandusky during his 2012 trial. She also deflected a question on whether charges would be brought in their cases. Her office later declined to elaborate.

The lead prosecutor in the Sandusky investigation, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank G. Fina, called Kane's claim "completely false." He said there was one victim who had asserted that he might have been abused in 2009, but said that accuser later became unsure when the abuse had taken place.

For months, Kane and Fina have been locked in a tense public dispute over Kane's decision to shut down a long-running sting investigation, overseen by Fina, that captured Philadelphia officials on tape accepting money or gifts from an undercover operative.

Fina said Monday that Kane, upset that the report had found little support for her criticisms, was making yet another unsubstantiated claim.

"It's not true," Fina told reporters.

A source familiar with Penn State's handling of several dozen civil lawsuits filed by Sandusky's numerous victims said he was baffled by Kane's assertion. "I've never heard of any abuse by Sandusky at that juncture," said the source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the university's affairs.

The Sandusky inquiry had been a cornerstone of Kane's 2012 run for office, one many said helped propel her to victory. During that campaign, Kane, a Democrat, repeatedly questioned whether Corbett, a Republican, slowed the investigation for political purposes because Corbett was running for governor.

Instead of using a grand jury, "I would have had [Sandusky] arrested after the first victims came forward," she said then. Politics, she told one newspaper, "probably" drove his decisions.

Kane sidestepped the question Monday of whether Moulton's report belied those campaign statements. Asked if she should apologize to Corbett and others, Kane said: "I don't think anybody should ever apologize for asking tough questions. We asked the questions. I promised a full, fair, and comprehensive and factual report, and that's exactly what we are giving you today."

Moulton's review found "no direct evidence that electoral politics influenced any important decision made in the Sandusky investigation," it states. It also said it found no evidence that Corbett was influenced by campaign contributions 2010 from the Second Mile, the charity Sandusky founded for disadvantaged children and that he used to cull many of his victims.

Corbett chose not to file a written response to Kane's report. His spokesman on Monday said the investigation "was conducted with a single purpose, which was to ensure justice for the victims and their families."

Moulton's review notes that prosecutors felt strongly that testimony from the first boy to accuse Sandusky would likely not have been enough to convict Sandusky, but it also questioned some of their decisions. For instance, the report points out that prosecutors took too long to take certain steps, including gathering reports on Sandusky from other law enforcement agencies.

"Different investigative choices early in the investigation might well have generated a far stronger case against Sandusky by the summer of 2010," Moulton wrote.

Moulton's report also identifies several months in 2010 when the inquiry appeared to have ground to a halt. It cites the frustration of a lead prosecutor, former Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach. She was prepared to charge Sandusky in March 2010, and even drafted charges, but could not get an answer from superiors on how to proceed.

"Despite asking, begging, and pleading, I have heard nothing," she wrote Pennsylvania State Police Detective Anthony Sassano on May 28, 2010. To her bosses three months later, she wrote: "Does anyone want to answer my questions about why we are stalled since winter?"

A decision to push for more evidence came months later, Moulton said, when Corbett finally reviewed her work.

The report also says that prosecutors waited too long to ask Penn State to turn over records of complaints against Sandusky, who spent two decades at the school and maintained a campus office after retiring.

The key subpoena to the university was not issued until December 2010 - 21 months after the attorney general took over the case. State investigators also did not visit local and university police to search for Sandusky-related records until January 2011, a step that led them to four more victims.

Moulton also faulted prosecutors for waiting until June 2011 to search Sandusky's house. In rebuttal, the prosecutors said that for months, they lacked sufficient evidence for a search warrant. There was also worry that a search might reveal their investigation.

The search of the house turned up photographs of Sandusky's victims, as well as a typed list of children's names - some with asterisks next to them. One was a victim prosecutors did not know about at the time.

Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys. Former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier and two other former ranking administrators await trial on accusations that they covered up Sandusky's conduct.

Excerpts From the Report:

"It does not appear that Attorney General Corbett took affirmative steps to slow the pace of the investigation, whether to protect campaign contributions or for any other reason.

". . . Different investigative choices early in the investigation might well have generated a far stronger case against Sandusky by the summer of 2010, which in turn would have

significantly altered the decision-making calculus.

"Had investigators and prosecutors taken a 'big-picture' approach at the outset, brainstorming for ideas about how best to proceed, they might well have identified and pursued avenues that proved successful later, such as searching Sandusky's residence, reviewing his autobiography, Touched, and aggressively exploring the possibility that Sandusky had been investigated previously."

- H. Geoffrey Moulton, author of the report

"The report points out some of the choices we made and how they allegedly could have been done differently, yet what must not be lost is one basic, unimpeachable fact: the investigation - and the choices made therein - led to the conviction on 45 counts of this state's worst child molester. Given the outcome, we stand by the choices we made."

- Prosecutors William H. Ryan Jr., Richard A. Sheetz Jr., Randy P. Feathers, Frank G. Fina, and Joseph E. McGettigan

"The Second Mile did not delay the investigation. It responded to every request for information on or before the date on which the information was requested."

- Kevin L. Hand, lawyer for former Second Mile officials

"Overall, the report glosses over what are very blatant and significant issues and facts regarding the delays in prosecuting this case and the obvious lack of manpower assigned to the case."

-Michael W. Gillum, psychologist for Victim 1

"Attorney Eshbach strongly advocated . . . for a prompt presentment to the grand jury so Mr. Sandusky could be charged. Ultimately, the decision to charge Mr. Sandusky was not hers to make. Likewise, the ability to protest the decision not to charge Mr. Sandusky in 2010 was not hers." 

-Edward A. Paskey, lawyer for former Senior Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach

"Mr. Moulton's hindsight does not equate to the investigators' experience of actually having conducted the investigation; interviewing the witnesses and assessing their credibility; working through obstacles and roadblocks; and making immensely difficult decisions in real time."

- Col. Frank Noonan, state police commissioner


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Contrbuting to this article were Inquirer staff writers Jeremy Roebuck, Susan Snyder, and Erin McCarthy.