Today, Happy Valley is under metaphoric cloud. In the past two weeks, a well-respected former assistant coach stands accused as a serial pedophile. Two senior officials of Pennsylvania State University stand accused of effectively covering up his crimes. The president of the university was summarily fired as was the iconic head football coach who was synonymous with the university. A cloud of conspiracy engulfs Happy Valley and engulfs those associated with the Sandusky scandal, whether accused, guilty, culpable, or totally innocent. That same cloud now extends, unfortunately, to the Centre County District Attorney’s Office, with an emphasis on the word office. That cloud is created, unfortunately, by the official involvement of former District Attorney Ray Gricar in the investigation 13 years ago.
We know, from the presentment, that the former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar investigated an incident in 1998 involving two victims, Victim 6 and B. K., and then did not prosecute Mr. Sandusky. We also know the grand jury, without B. K., who is on active service in the military and overseas, brought 11 charges against Mr. Sandusky regarding the 1998 incident. 1
We don’t know why Mr. Gricar did not file charges in 1998. We do know that in 2005, Mr. Gricar disappeared, so he can’t give us answer. We do know that the 1998 charges are considered strong enough for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office to bring charges. We know that the suspect in that case is claimed to have had activities hushed up, allegedly.
In looking at Mr. Gricar’s record, and not looking a somewhat biased family and friends, but at his record, he was, as district attorney, intelligent, willing to prosecute cases against his political interest, and honest. Something in his decision not to prosecute does not fit with that image. That raises legitimate questions and speculation; I’ll save the speculation for later.
Right now, the Gricar disappearance is being investigated by the office that Mr. Gricar headed for 20 years. There is now at least the appearance of a conflict of interest between the investigation of the former District Attorney’s disappearance and his conduct in office. In such cases, statute permits a district attorney to turn the case over to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office when the district attorney “who represents that there is the potential for an actual or apparent conflict of interest on the part of the district attorney or his office.”2 It is time invoke that statute.
There were suggestions to turn the case over to the Attorney General as far back as 2006, by then Clinton County District Attorney Ted McKnight and Montour County District Attorney Robert W. Buehner, Jr.3 These were always based on the need for greater resources, as based on statute. Always, the answer was the same from then Centre County District Attorney Michael T. Madeira, and frankly, it always appeared to be accurate answer. The Centre County District Attorney’s Office had the Bellefonte Police and had the Pennsylvania State Police. The current Centre County District Attorney, Stacy Parks Miller, formed a “review panel” for the Gricar case after four months in office. This panel used numerous agencies, from other local police departments to the FBI.4 There is no resource issue, since two district attorney have declined to turn the case over.
There is a questionable decision by the former head of the office. While that decision might be an honest, though extreme, mistake (and that is a real possibility), it might not. It might, even if an honest mistake, still have led to Mr. Gricar’s murder. It might be completely unrelated to his disappearance, just as well
The problem is the appearance of a conflict of interest. Ms. Park Miller has no involvement with the Sandusky case. Mr. Madeira declared a conflict of interest in the Sandusky case and had no involvement beyond that. The District Attorney’s Office does have that appearance as it, officially, declined to prosecute Mr. Sandusky. An investigation into the disappearance of the then head of that office creates that impression of a conflict of interest.
A fortnight ago, I would never had suggested turning the Gricar case over to the Attorney General’s Office; there was not even the appearance of a conflict of interest. I have not supported it in the past. The eyes of the nation are on Happy Valley, unfortunately. They are seeing a cloud of conspiracies and cover-ups, real or imagined. Let’s clear the skies over the District Attorney’s Office.
2 71 P.S. Section 732-204
Centre Daily Times Ray Gricar Section: http://www.centredaily.com/138/
Link to the Main Index for Sporadic Comments on Ray Gricar: http://www.centredaily.com/2011/03/21/2597340/main-index-32011.html
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com