HARRISBURG — There’s no evidence Gov. Tom Corbett delayed the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse investigation for political purposes when Corbett was attorney general, his successor found in an investigation of the matter.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a 166-page report detailing the investigation Monday morning in Harrisburg that found no direct evidence Corbett or anyone else ordered investigators to slow down.
But the investigation did find “crucial missteps and inexplicable delays in bringing (Sandusky) a serial child molester to justice,” she said.
“This report also reveals long periods of inexcusable, and by inexcusable, I mean even the parties involved couldn’t offer an excuse for the delay — delays that are quite honestly unfathomable to most of us,” Kane said. “Why those decisions took place, we don’t know the answer to that. We don’t know what was in their head.”
In a statement, Corbett said the report made clear that the investigation was conducted “appropriately and timely,” and was never about politics but rather about the “people victimized” by Sandusky.
“I am proud of the hard work of men and women who joined in the effort to support and fight for these victims,” the statement read. “It was, however, difficult to see their motives and professionalism called in to question. The release of this report reaffirms the integrity of their efforts.”
The report cited what Kane called tactical errors, such as waiting more than two years after the Attorney General’s Office under Corbett took on the case until a search warrant was served at Sandusky’s home.
“Timeliness is important in these cases,” said investigator H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., who conducted Kane’s review. “The longer someone like Jerry Sandusky is out and about un-outed to the public, the more risk he poses to the community.”
Prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach, who was the lead on the case, recommended charges against Sandusky in March 2010 based on statements from the young man who was referred to as Victim 1 at Sandusky’s trial. But her supervisor in the Attorney General’s Office, Frank Fina, wanted to find more victims to strengthen their case before prosecuting, and Corbett agreed, the report said.
Moulton said that although not all prosecutors would agree, the decision was within reason because there was a single victim and Sandusky was a “community icon.”
Considering the decision not to charge Sandusky then, the “central question” of the report became why it took so long to find additional victims, Moulton said.
The investigator was more critical of why prosecutors were not aggressive in 2009, waiting to serve a search warrant and to contact local police, children and youth service workers, Sandusky’s charity — The Second Mile — and others in the case.
“Had the investigators been more aggressive, taken the investigative steps they could have in 2009, and 2010, they almost certainly would have ... a much stronger case,” Moulton said.
Evidence later found in Sandusky’s home, such as pictures of boys and asterisks next to names on lists of The Second Mile rosters, would have led investigators to additional victims sooner, he said.
Fina, fellow Sanduksy prosecutor Joe McGettigan and others involved with the case issued a joint response to the review, which was included in the document, and snapped back at the criticism over the search warrant.
The contention that a search warrant could have been served prior to 2011, for instance, “is factually and legally offensive,” they said in the statement.
And the Kane report blithely ignores and misconstrues the facts and law “that led to our prudent decision to forgo a search warrant until 2011,” while they further built their case, they wrote.
Moulton rejected the notion that prosecutors didn’t have probable cause to search the home, saying they had Victim 1’s account that he had been abused there and that “search warrants are properly issued every day based on the word of a single victim.”
“If for no other reason the search early on could have been used as valuable corroborating evidence,” he said.
Moulton said “the major law enforcement problem with the use of search warrants in serial child abuse investigations is they are not obtained soon enough” and that perpetrators of those crimes are known for keeping evidence about their crimes, such as pictures of victims.
Another key point from the report is that Penn State and The Second Mile allegedly threw up roadblocks and didn’t cooperate with Sandusky investigators.
Later in the investigation, efforts to obtain records that had been subpoenaed from Penn State and The Second Mile but not turned over “consumed considerable time and energy,” the report found.
Prosecutors had “significant difficulty” getting certain records from Penn State and Sandusky’s charity, which “undoubtedly slowed the investigation,” the report said.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said Monday the university has no comment on the report.
The report also said that the grand jury investigation wasn’t a top reason the case took so long. Prosecutors didn’t immediately seek charges in 2009, but instead sought to build the case by finding more victims.
Eshbach and Fina were in favor of handling the investigation through a grand jury. They reasoned that there were advantages such as the power to compel testimony under oath, the ability to subpoena documents not otherwise obtainable and the ability to keep certain testimony secret.
But the report notes that “… for long stretches of time before the investigation ramped up in 2011, the resources of the grand jury were barely used at all. From the beginning of January 2010 through the end of October 2010, for example, the grand jury issued no subpoenas for testimony and only one subpoena for records.”
Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts relating to child sexual abuse and was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. He is serving his time in solitary confinement at the state prison in Greene County.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.