I want to start out by expressing my absolute horror at the allegations raised against former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky. My heart goes out to the children involved, the victims. I am saddened by the charges of perjury and turning a blind eye to sexual abuse against two senior Penn State officials, Tim Curley and Gary Shultz. In looking at the totality of this situation, I don’t think I have been so depressed since the probate of my father’s will. I did not feel the absolute outrage, or the confusion, than I am feeling now.
If one of the victims is out there reading this, I’d ask you to click away from this blog now. It is not graphic, but I really don’t want you to have to relive any memories.
The Sandusky case now intersects case of Ray Gricar, the missing former Centre County District Attorney. While I have by the stunned by the time span, the number, and severity of the charges against Mr. Sandusky, I was not surprised that there were charges. There were reports in the press about the grand jury investigation.1 Most of the current charges involving Mr. Sandusky, including some of the most horrific charges in no way involve Mr. Gricar. There is not even a suggestion that Mr. Gricar was aware of them.
I was expecting only the word of the alleged victim, Victim 6 and a blanket denial from Mr. Sandusky. That was not what was in the presentment of the grand jury.
The presentment indicated that in 1998 Mr. Sandusky showered privately with Victim 6, then 11, and in the process gave him a bear hug from behind. This was a man in his mid-fifties, naked, having more than casual physical contact with an 11 year old boy.2 That was not Victim 6’s account alone. It was Mr. Sandusky’s account of the events.
Mr. Sandusky had two conversation with the mother of Victim 6 on 5/13 and 5/19; with the mother’s permission, a University Police Officer and a State College Police Officer eavesdropped on the conversation. According to their accounts, given under oath, this is what Mr. Sandusky said. Mr. Sandusky also said this to an investigator for Children and Youth Services.
Mr. Sandusky, according the presentment, also said to Victim 6’s mother: “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.”
The was also an investigation into a second victim, another 10-11 year old child identified as B. K. in the presentment. B. K. is an adult and serving in the armed forces. He could not be called because he is stationed outside of the US. According to presentment, B. K. told the police a similar story.
Again, according to the presentment, the investigating officers forwarded all the information to Mr. Gricar, who chose not to prosecute the case. He stated no reason.
The grand jury indicted Mr. Sandusky in regard to Victim 6; 11 of the 40 charges currently leveled against Mr. Sandusky involve this incident, with the possibility that one day others will relate to B. K. They are indecent assault on a child under 13, conduct/committed with a minor-sexual offence, corruption of minors, and endangering the welfare of children. They are not the most serious charges Mr. Sandusky faces, in several cases are misdemeanors, but they are still serious, especially for someone in contact with young children.
This decision of Mr. Gricar not to prosecute is completely unfathomable. Michael Lowe, a Dallas defense attorney, wrote:
Jerry Sandusky knew what he had done to those boys was wrong. He said so. This testimony is absolute proof of guilt. Any wet behind the ears DA could have gotten a conviction with this evidence.
Mr. Lowe also noted:
Look, I’m an experienced criminal defense attorney: usually having a prosecutor say words like this is music to my ears. Not here. This is very, very strange based on my experience. Read that transcript again: Gricar doesn’t have enough evidence? Bull. 4
Closer to home, former US Representative William Goodling, who introduced the law requiring colleges to report crimes, also does not understand why Mr. Gricar did not follow through.5
Further, Mr. Gricar had the ability, as district attorney, to petition a judge to empanel a grand jury.6 This could have investigated and determine if there was sufficient evidence to indict Mr. Sandusky, if there was any doubt. The claim of not enough evidence is as Mr. Lowe characterized it.
At the time, Mr. Gricar had been an assistant district attorney in Cleveland for about 12 years, an assistant district attorney in Centre County for 5 years, and the elected District Attorney of Centre County for just over 12 years. In other words, he was prosecuting cases for about 29 years. He was not “wet behind the ears,” either as a prosecutor or as the District Attorney.
The decision in 1998 not to prosecute Mr. Sandusky, or at least not to use a grand jury was certainly strange; it appears to be an absolutely colossal lapse of judgment on the part of Mr. Gricar, at best. It is doubtful, if the decision had come to light prior to Mr. Gricar’s 2001 reelection campaign, that he would have been reelected.
It is something else; it is hugely uncharacteristic of Mr. Gricar’s conduct as a prosecutor.
One former assistant district attorney, Anthony De Boef, said, “No one got a bye with Ray. He didn’t care who you were; he had a job to do.”7 Another assistant district attorney, J. Karen Arnold, referred to him in her 2005 campaign for the office as “a little rigid,” and noted that defense attorneys did not like it very much.8 These are not the descriptions of someone who wouldn’t prosecute the case, and the record tends to support the description.
One of Mr. Gricar’s last cases was tried in December of 2004. It was of the Rosengrants brothers, two employees of a State College bar that were charged with voluntary manslaughter. They had gone outside the bar to prevent several drunken students from urinating when the students attacked them. In the fight, one student, Salvador Serrano, died.9 The cause of death was Mr. Serrano choking on own vomit, after being restrained by the brothers; the autopsy listed high alcohol content in his blood, 0.24%, and said that it was a contributing factor to his death.10
Mr. Gricar prosecuted the Rosengrants brothers, personally arguing the case, like he did with cases involving deaths. Prosecuting two working men, charged after being attacked by some intoxicated college students was not likely to play well with a jury. He lost the case, which was not unexpected, noting, "There is a lot of sympathy for those on trial."10
He, according to press reports, prosecute Penn State students involved in a 2001 riot as well as prosecuting football players.11 Well before the Sandusky case exploded, Mr. Gricar’s friend and colleague, Montour County District Attorney related a story about the relationship with Penn State. Mr. Gricar would complain to him, not about the University, or the coach, but the “crazy football fans,” that would hound him about the case. Mr. Gricar still prosecuted.
Here is an example of Mr. Gricar dealing with the football player at Penn State in 2004. He objected to a football players request to spend his sentence in rehab as opposed to prison time. Mr. Gricar called it “an obvious attempt to avoid punishment." That is not going easy of the football team.15
Mr. Gricar also prosecuted cases that were not going to be politically popular. One was the 1997 prosecution of Douglas Grove; Mr. Grove was tried for manslaughter, in the shooting of Kitu Sampson in 1996. Mr. Sampson had been shot by Mr. Grove after Mr. Sampson broke into a trailer owned by Mr. Grove, for the third time, to retrieve items owned by Mrs. Sampson. Mrs. Sampson was in a woman’s resource center at about the same time, having filed a protection from abuse order against Mr. Sampson. Mr. Sampson threatened Mr. Grove’s life when Mr. Grove helped Mrs. Sampson move out.12
Mr. Gricar originally tried to charge Mr. Grove with murder, which was summarily dismissed in court.13 He tried for a conviction on manslaughter, and lost. In looking at case, just on the merits, it was not unexpected. Mr. Sampson had a history of violence and had broken in repeatedly. At the preliminary hearing, Mr. Grove’s attorney said, "I just think it is going to be a cold day in hell, when 12 people decide you can't protect your property." His attorney, Joseph L. Amendola, was quite right.
Politically, this was not earning any points for Mr. Gricar, especially in 1997. The charges were filed in late 1996 and the trial took place in 1997, the year in which Mr. Gricar was up for reelection. He ended up being unopposed, but Mr. Gricar didn’t know if there would be an opponent when he filed the charges. Prosecuting someone who way protecting his property, against a man who had a history of violence against his wife and had threatened him, is not the type of thing a politician wants to run on in Centre County; it is even worse when the jury disagrees with you and a judge tosses the more serious charges. Yet, Mr. Gricar was willing to lose political points to do what he thought was right.
This is why Mr. Gricar’s role in the Sandusky investigation is so incomprehensible to me. In 1998, Mr. Gricar was an experienced, capable, prosecutor, with no indication that he would bend to political expediency; in that respect, being “rigid” is a exceptionally good thing. While we can expect his family and friends to speak favorably of him, I try at least to look at Mr. Gricar’s record. Even doing that, this decision is completely unfathomable and totally out of character with that record. Yet, from what presentment indicates, it was his decision.
We don’t know this decision was involved with Mr. Gricar’s disappearance on 4/15/05 in any way. I had looked at the statute of limitations on the 1998 incident, thinking it could have expired in 2005, only to be extended in 2007. It would have not have, even before that 2007 extension.14 It was still subject to prosecution, even if Mr. Gricar was not there to prosecute it.
1 Patriot-News 3/31/11, http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/jerry_sandusky_former_penn_sta.html
8 WPSU 11/04/05 http://www.podcastdirectory.com/podshows/1357346
15 PPG 6/14/05 http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04168/332972-143.stm
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