Police and prosecutors moved too slowly to investigate charges that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had molested young boys, but there is no evidence that the delays were politically motivated, according to a state report released Monday.
The report, ordered by Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane and written by former federal prosecutor Geoff Moulton, blamed the nearly three-year delay in filing charges on communication problems and lapses in moving quickly enough on such technical matters as search warrants. But the report makes it clear that the delays were not caused by any political factors and exonerates Gov. Tom Corbett, who was the attorney general and running for governor at the time.
“The facts show an inexcusable lack of urgency in charging and stopping a serial sexual predator,” Kane told reporters. “The report documents that more investigative work took place in just one month in 2011 than in all of either 2009 or 2010.”
Moulton told reporters at a televised news conference that his review, including examination of internal emails written by state prosecutors, “revealed no direct evidence that electoral politics influenced any important decision made in the Sandusky investigation.”
After a probe that lasted almost three years, Sandusky was charged in 2011 and convicted in 2012 for abusing 10 boys over more than a decade. He is now serving a sentence of up to 60 years in state prison -- effectively a life sentence for the now 70-year-old former coach, who was considered an important part of the program that had turned Penn State into a football powerhouse.
The Sandusky case rocked the Penn State campus and eventually led to related charges against top school officials. In a university-sponsored report, the officials were accused of protecting the school’s culture of big-time football rather than investigating charges of child molestation against Sandusky.
Corbett, a Republican, was running for governor in 2010, and was later criticized for failing to move more quickly on the allegations. When Kane ran for office in 2012, she directly attacked Corbett's handling of the case and pledged during the campaign to investigate it. Corbett is seeking reelection in what is considered one of the closest gubernatorial races this year.
“An extensive review of the available documentary record, including contemporaneous OAG [Office of Attorney General] emails, together with interviews of OAG personnel involved in the investigation while Corbett was Attorney General, has revealed no direct evidence that electoral politics influenced any important decision made in the Sandusky investigation,” the report concluded.
Why the investigation took so long was blamed on a variety of factors. The report called for better training in handling sensitive cases such as child molestation and more training for investigators.
According to the report, prosecutors told Moulton they waited until 2011 to search Sandusky's home computer and subpoena child protective services records because they “believed that they were unlikely to be productive and would have risked publicly revealing the existence of the investigation.”
Two days after Corbett was elected governor in November 2010, the Centre County prosecutor received an anonymous tip directing investigators to assistant football coach Mike McQueary, whose testimony was crucial in helping to convict Sandusky.
After that interview, the probe accelerated, the report noted. Authorities subpoenaed key figures at Penn State, including legendary head coach Joe Paterno, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley. On June 21, 2011, Sandusky's home was searched, producing photos and typewritten lists of children who participated in events at Sandusky's charity, The Second Mile, with some names highlighted.
Moulton noted that if authorities had put together a team of investigators early on, it might have been possible for someone to find a 1998 police investigation of Sandusky prompted by a mother's complaint that the coach had showered with her son.
Three former university administrators await trial on charges they participated in a criminal coverup of complaints about Sandusky.
Penn State eventually accepted a set of penalties from the NCAA over its handling of the matter, including a four-year bowl ban, a temporary reduction in football scholarships, the loss of 112 wins from Paterno's later years and a $60-million fine.
Paterno was forced out shortly after Sandusky was indicted. The Penn State icon died in January 2012, months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.