A letter from the state House Democratic Leader and Democratic Whip implores U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to open an independent probe into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse investigation.
In the letter dated Wednesday, Reps. Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny County, and Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, ask Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate. They want to know why the state Attorney General’s Office did not file criminal charges against Sandusky shortly after the case was transferred to the office in March 2009 by then-Centre County district attorney Michael Madeira, who cited a conflict of interest for handing off the case. Gov. Tom Corbett was the attorney general in March 2009 and simultaneously running for governor, the Democratic leaders pointed out.
Hanna represents northeastern Centre County.
Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, was sentenced Oct. 9 to at least 30 years in state prison after being found guilty on 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving the repeated molestation of 10 boys over a 15-year period.
Dermody and Hanna question why, for instance, a criminal complaint in 1998 alleging sexual misconduct and unlawful conduct with a minor — among other things — was similar to allegations that included eyewitness accounts against Sandusky in 1998.
“It is our belief — and the belief of many of our colleagues — that any investigation into these matters should be independent of the (c)ommonwealth and conducted without even a hint of potential partisan or political bias,” they wrote. “There is no (c)ommonwealth law enforcement agency with the independence needed to completely investigate whether political considerations had an impact on the inexplicably slow pace of the investigation, allowing a suspected pedophile and sexual predator to continue walking the streets.”
House Democrats have been frustrated by their Republican counterparts, who squelched a resolution seeking an independent review early this week. The bill wasn’t allowed to be heard on the House floor, Dermody and Hanna claim.
“Given the obstructionist tactics by the majority Republicans in the House, we’ve been left with no choice but to write you directly to ask for your investigation into these matters,” Dermody and Hanna wrote.
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley on Thursday called the letter “politics at its most cynical.”
“This is another attempt by House Democrats to take political advantage of the victims of Jerry Sandusky,” Harley said.
Fervor continues over whether an investigation was covered up or, at minimum, delayed while Corbett was running for governor. The Sandusky allegations were made to Corbett’s office early in 2009.
“It’s not true,” Harley said. “If that’s not purely political gain, I don’t know what is.”
Demonstrations by a variety of Penn State alumni groups have demanded an investigation, and one group even asked for Corbett’s resignation. That group, which calls itself Penn Staters 4 Truth, is using billboards in the Capital Region to broadcast what members believe is irresponsible behavior from the governor’s office. “WHY? was Governor Corbett so quick to blame Joe Paterno and so slow to prosecute Jerry Sandusky,” one billboard reads.
The Attorney General’s Office could not be reached for comment.
Dermody and Hanna maintain that there are too many unanswered questions and too much public suspicion over whether the case was handled correctly.
“As long as there’s a cloud of suspicion hanging over this tragedy, the people of Pennsylvania will never be able to bring this dark chapter of our history to a close,” they wrote.
Christopher Passante can be reached at 814-231-4621 or on Twitter @ChrisPassante.