Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s release of a report on the handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation prompted a variety of reaction, and a recap of how the scandal has changed the way other situations are handled.
“Our worst fears have been confirmed,” state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, said in a statement. “They know of at least two victims that came forward after March of 2009. If Sandusky had been arrested immediately, at least two children could have been spared.”
Conklin issued his statement shortly after the release of the report, in which investigator H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. said he found significant delays in the investigation, although nothing that pointed toward politically motivated misconduct on the part of Gov. Tom Corbett, then the attorney general.
“While some answers were presented in the report, it lacks an explanation for various delays — delays that had serious repercussions during the investigation,” Conklin said. “There are holes and questions that remain unanswered. Today we took a look back to see if the legal system is working to make sure Pennsylvania children were, and still are, being protected under the fullest extent of the law.”
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Michael Gillum, a licensed psychologist who represented Victim 1, was critical of the report.
“Although I appreciate your efforts,” Gillum wrote in a letter to Moulton, “it is clear that you are working within a political machine and are not a truly independent investigator nor were you given the necessary authority to obtain documents, email correspondence, and other information from top officials at the Office of Attorney General, including Tom Corbett.”
Gillum said the report “glosses over what are very blatant and significant issues and facts regarding the delays in prosecuting this case and the obvious lack of manpower,” and lacks criticism of major failures on the part of top officials in the Attorney General’s Office.
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Sandusky’s conviction “is testament to the thorough and effective work of the individuals who handled the case.”
Noonan said “dedicated investigators and prosecutors made innumerable tactical and technical decisions that only those who conducted the investigation in real time, without the benefit of hindsight or sixteen months to deliberate, were uniquely positioned to make. To their credit, the decisions of those able, experienced and dedicated men and women resulted in the successful prosecution of a serial child predator and the vindication of those victimized by Mr. Sandusky.”
Noonan called the review “difficult to justify,” considering Sandusky was convicted and that former top Penn State administrators await trial for allegedly covering up his crimes. State police didn’t participate in the review in order to avoid any potential interference with the ongoing case against the administrators.
Gillum and Noonan’s comments are included in the final report. They and others involved, including Corbett, were given the opportunity to review the report prior to its release Monday.
Anne Ard, executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, also was bothered by the knowledge that Sandusky reportedly victimized two more children before his 2011 arrest and 2012 conviction on charges of child sexual abuse.
“This is a very complicated case, obviously. I know that the justice system wants to make sure the rights of the accused are protected, but it seems that if the investigation had moved more expeditiously, there might have been fewer victims,” she said. “We have to act to keep victims safe and potential victims safe. We know that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but when it comes to our kids, they need to move a little faster.”
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County was created in the wake of the Sandusky abuses. It opened in February, housed under the umbrella of the Mount Nittany Health. One of the goals was to create a place where children could be interviewed one time, in one place, rather than multiple interviews for doctors, advocates and law enforcement, making the system easier for the child but still preserving evidence for prosecution.
One of the areas noted by Moulton in Monday’s news conference was that some initial interviews conducted by Children and Youth Services in Clinton County were done with that agency’s child protection goals in mind and may not have opened up the same information that a criminal investigation might have done.
“At the (CAC), our main focus is always on the child, and to make every child feel safe and secure, ensuring that he or she is given the opportunity to share their account of reported abuse, neglect, or other crimes they may have been victim or witness to,” Mount Nittany spokeswoman Erin Welsh said.
The CAC is only one of the changes that was instituted after the scandal.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller was noted by Moulton in Monday’s news conference as having reignited an investigation that had stalled in the Attorney General’s Office when she received information regarding what would become Mike McQueary’s key testimony about the infamous shower incident between Sandusky and a victim.
“I was grateful that the McQueary tip was important to the case. Child sexual abuse is often a hidden crime and there is no perfect formula for when and how victims will have the necessary support to step forward so if that is what helped the case hit a fast track, that is good to know,” Parks Miller said. “One thing is certain, the result of the prosecution was an undeniable success.”
She said that, upon taking office in 2010, a new child abuse protocol that includes a multidisciplinary team was initiated, which is what Moulton’s report recommends.
“We make sure that law enforcement gets that first interview with perpetrators and Centre County operates using best practices in child abuse cases,” she said. “No amount of effort is ever enough to protect our children and that will remain a top priority for us.”