About four years ago, I wrote two blogs on the political situation in Centre County at the time then incumbent District Attorney, Ray Gricar, disappeared. Maybe it was comments from some of the people at the Prison Board Meeting Mr. Gricar attended on 4/14/05 that made me think about it again. Maybe it just the well-publicized Primary that we saw just unfold (and congratulations to Tom Wolf for winning the Democratic nomination) that made me think about again. Whatever it was, I looked at what I had realized that Mr. Gricar would have had a different perspective as well. He could have, in light of the 1998 investigation of Jerry Sandusky, regarded it as a threat.
The political situation was this.1 Two fairly strong candidates were running for the Republican nomination, Michael T. Madeira, who would ultimately win the election, and Robert Bascom, who had run against Mr. Gricar in 2001. While Mr. Bascom lost, he had an impressive showing in that 2001 race, getting just under 45% of the vote in a Republican Primary, against the then 16 year incumbent, Mr. Gricar. There was no Democratic candidate that ran in 2001.
There two candidates running for the Democratic nomination. J. Karen Arnold was running against a weak candidate named C. Eric Rutkowski. Ms. Arnold, who had been an assistance district attorney since 1988, was favored of Mr. Rutkowski, who had been a member of the bar for less than a year. It was hugely likely that Ms. Arnold would win the Democratic primary and face either Mr. Bascom or Mr. Madeira in fall General election, which is what happened.
At any rate, on 4/15/05, it would clear to anyone that either Mr. Bascom, Mr. Madeira, or Ms. Arnold would be the next District Attorney of Centre County. That would have been clear to Mr. Gricar as well. One other thing would be clear to Mr. Gricar, and everyone else, as well. As of January 2006, he would be making any decisions regarding who would, or would not, be prosecuted.
Then there was also Mr. Gricar’s uncharacteristic demeanor, which had been widely reported. The earliest report of Mr. Gricar acting unusually was 3/8/05, from CDT political reporter Mike Joseph. He asked Mr. Gricar would be supporting in the Republican Primary, to which Mr. Gricar responded that he would be supporting Mr. Madeira.
Mr. Joseph then asked about Ms. Arnold’s candidacy. Mr. Joseph described it as this way:
I was surprised that the question seemed to stun Gricar, or at least to leave him at a loss. He had been so fluid with his answers about the spring primary. But when asked to look beyond that, he stumbled in getting his toughts into words and never really came up with a coherent answer. The difference was remarkable.2
That was only the first report of Mr. Gricar not being focused. The next day, Cheryl Spotts, the court administrator, noticed it in a conference, saying, “It just seemed that Ray wasn't with it."3 A few weeks later, Mr. Gricar’s girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, noted that he seemed tired and was napping.4 In the week prior to his disappearance, Ms. Arnold herself noted the change in Mr. Gricar, calling him “deeply distraught.”5 We recently learned that at a Prison Board Meeting on 4/15/05, some of those in attendance said that he seemed “detached,” and that, when asked questions, “he mumbled answers and stared out the window.”6
All this started at the same time candidates for District Attorney were beginning their campaigns. In 2005, the candidates would start circulating their nominating petitions on 2/15 and they could file until 3/8, the same date as Mr. Joseph’s interview with Mr. Gricar, one where Mr. Joseph asked Mr. Gricar about Ms. Arnold’s candidacy.7
We know something today about Mr. Gricar that it is doubtful Mr. Joseph knew in March of 2005. We know that in 1998, Mr. Gricar did not prosecute Jerry Sandusky. We also know that the case was initially given to Ms. Arnold, only to be removed from her, within a few days, by Mr. Gricar.8 We also have reports that there were “extensive disagreements” between Mr. Gricar and Ms. Arnold over the handling of the 1998 investigation into Sandusky.9
It is possible that Mr. Gricar perceived Ms. Arnold’s candidacy as a threat. If she was elected, she would be in a position to prosecute Sandusky, even though eight years had elapsed. Sandusky was prosecuted, and convicted, on three of the four charges he faced relating to the 1998 incident, including the felony charge, after fourteen years. Mr. Gricar may have seen in Ms. Arnold someone who would pursue a case that he declined to prosecute. He may have seen that as a threat.
There is not any suggestion that Ms. Arnold threatened Mr. Gricar however. Years ago, I looked at what she said in her campaign. There was never any suggestion from her that she planned to look any of Mr. Gricar’s old cases, the ones he did not prosecute. She may have forgotten about the 1998 incident, as her involvement ended at the first stages of the investigation. Because she was not involved in the later weeks of the investigation, she may not have even known about the “sting.”
That may not have changed Mr. Gricar’s perception, as he knew that Ms. Arnold specialized in abuse cases. Mr. Gricar certainly could not read her mind. For Mr. Gricar, it would not be what Ms. Arnold would do as District Attorney regarding Sandusky, but what he thought she would do if elected.
We really cannot determine what was going on in Mr. Gricar’s mind, but the timing is interesting. It might add a very small piece to the puzzle, for now. Mr. Gricar may not have wanted to face public scrutiny of his 1998 decision. It certainly could be an indication that Mr. Gricar’s disappearance was voluntary, either walkaway or suicide, but it certainly does not prove it.
If Mr. Gricar did feel that there was a threat from Ms. Arnold related to the Sandusky case that might be the ultimate irony. Ms. Arnold lost the election for District Attorney to Mr. Madeira. It was Mr. Madeira who, due to a legitimate conflict of interest, turned the Sandusky case over to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office to investigate. It was as a result of that investigation that the 1998 incident came to light.
1 For a more detailed account of the 2005 political situation see:
8 http://www.yardbird.com/joe_paterno_takes_the_fall.htm [While this source is poor, Ms. Arnold wrote a letter to the editor indicating she only had the case briefly. This is also backed up by the lack of references to her in the redacted police report, which does not mention her after May 7, 1998.]
9 http://co.centre.pa.us/centreco/media/courtcase_iframe.asp?case=sandusky Filing of 2/7/2012 12:46:21 PM p. 14
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