Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tom Corbett’s rape, cash, and cover-up problem

The ongoing scandal of accused child rapist and torturer Jerry Sandusky, who used his connections to Penn State University’s (PSU) football program to lure his victims in, continues to spiral out to ensnare others who failed to protect the boys/victims. And despite Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to portray himself as a knight in shining armor, the more you connect the dots, the more tarnished his armor gets.

The truth of the matter is that Attorney General Corbett let Sandusky have free rein in the community – possibly prowling for more kids to rape since he was never under surveillance – for nearly three years, and did nothing about it. And this is more than simple benign neglect. Corbett may even have profited while allowing Sandusky to remain out and about.

Unbelievably, although Corbett assigned just one state trooper to investigate Sandusky, Corbett now claims that he moved as fast as he could in bringing Sandusky to justice. A look at the facts and the chronology of the case belies that excuse. It’s a tale of the old boys club protecting one another’s interests, Corbett’s need for campaign cash, and the risk his candidacy faced from enforcing the law against uber popular sports figures. Protecting children from an apparent predator – both the children already raped by Sandusky, and the children at risk as Sandusky was free from even minimal surveillance – apparently fell far down the list.

In 2008, a first year student at a high school in Clinton County came forward, telling his parents and the school administration that Sandusky had been raping him for nearly four years, starting at the Second Mile program.

The Second Mile program was started by Sandusky in 1977, first as a group foster home, later helping children with absent or dysfunctional families. The Second Mile was and is inextricably linked to Sandusky and the Penn State football program. PSU donors and former players raised money for the Second Mile, always praising Sandusky as the leader of the program. PSU itself supported Second Mile in a number of ways, especially with a sweetheart deal on land. And court documents show that Jerry Sandusky systematically used Second Mile, along with the PSU football connection, to lure his young victims in.

After the Clinton County boy came forward (identified in the grand jury presentment as Victim 1), the school district confronted Sandusky, who was a volunteer football coach at the school, and barred him from the school. The district also alerted the Clinton County District Attorney.

The Clinton County D.A. investigated and determined that the rapes had occurred in Centre County, at the Second Mile and PSU. He referred it to the Centre County D.A., who realized pretty quickly that this was a hot potato, and that he had a conflict of interest since he is related by marriage to Sandusky’s adopted son. In March 2009, he referred the case to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Tom Corbett.

At this point, Sandusky should have been arrested. A victim had come forward. And because there was another report about Sandusky in 1998, there was a transcript of a sting by Centre County DA Ray Gricar, which contained damning evidence of Sandusky apologizing to a parent for what he did to her child. (We may never know why that 1998 case was never prosecuted, since Gricar went missing in 2005 and has now been declared dead.)

In any normal child rape case, the perpetrator would have been arrested. But this was no ordinary case or perpetrator, and Corbett had other issues primarily on his mind.

Corbett was in the throes of his campaign for governor of Pennsylvania at the time, and was also engaged in a series of high profile prosecutions of members of the General Assembly (nearly all Democrats) for use of taxpayer money for campaigning, dubbed “Bonusgate” by the news media. These prosecutions were a lynchpin of his campaign, with virtually no down side and popular with the news media

So when Corbett received the case of the high level former Penn State coach accused of raping and torturing children, he slow walked the prosecution, with, as mentioned earlier, only one investigator on the case. This is a far cry from the 14 investigators Corbett assigned to Bonusgate.

While this single state police investigator worked to uncover the pattern of rape, torture, and cover up – linking Sandusky, PSU, and the Second Mile – Tom Corbett was seeking campaign contributions from many of the same people.

And the old boys club came through. Corbett took in nearly $650,000 for his campaign from past and present board members of the Second Mile and their families and businesses.

It wasn’t until Corbett was sworn in as governor in January 2011 and handed over the reins of the Attorney General’s office, that the investigation of Sandusky and those who abetted him became serious. Seven more investigators were added to the case, and actual prosecution began.

As governor, Corbett continued his close relationship with the Second Mile program, even as the noose was tightening. He approved a $3 million state grant to the program earlier this year, and only rescinded it as questions were raised last week. He now claims that he had to approve the state grant or he would have endangered the Sandusky investigation. That excuse doesn’t even pass the laugh test – there is no requirement that Corbett explain why he approves or disapproves these state grants. Corbett only needed to say no – which is more than the boys Sandusky preyed upon were able to do.

When the story exploded this month, Tom Corbett stood tall, calling for the ouster of anyone who failed to protect these boys and put an end to the nightmare of abuse, rape, and torture.
“When it comes to the safety of children there can be no margin for error, no hesitation to act,” he declared at his press conference.
But for 2-1/2 years, Corbett’s inaction meant that Jerry Sandusky was free to roam around central Pennsylvania and look for more victims, when he should have been in jail.