First, the word “politician” is not a bad word, in the sense that I’m going to use. In the United States, in Pennsylvania, and in Centre County, voters choose, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, who provides our political leadership. The people that we generally choose want to hold the position they are seeking; at worst, each thinks he or she is better than the alternative. These office seekers are politicians, by definition. When I was running for office, I was a politician. The four times Ray Gricar ran for office he was a politician. The four people currently seeking to be the District Attorney of Centre County are, by definition, politicians. If you don’t want politicians, establish an absolute monarchy.
The Gricar case has some political elements. Why? Well because it falls under the jurisdiction of a public office. At some level, the District Attorney’s Office is involved, even if that role is to announce that no crime was committed. It is a completely fair question to ask what, if anything, the role of the District Attorney’s Office should be. It would be fair to ask what the role of the District Attorney’s Office should be in investigating other cases as well.
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It also directly involves a predecessor in that office. The missing person was, when he went missing, was a politician, a public official. A possible crime against a public official is a political issue. That there is the possibility (thought I would say not a good one) that there was a crime directed against a public official, because of his official actions is a political issue.
The Gricar case, however, poses several problems to the politicians.
1. There is no precedent for a sitting district attorney in Pennsylvania to go missing. The actual numbers of any prosecutors being murdered or even being assaulted outside of a courthouse are small, even nationally. Nobody can figure out what to say. I read some criticism in the last campaign for both candidates linking in the last race to the family site on Mr. Gricar, while another commenter complained that neither candidate was talking enough about the case. There is no template for this.
2. Everybody knew Mr. Gricar. All four candidates in this race knew him and two, Mr. De Bouf and Ms. Arnold, actually worked for him. Everything they say will be viewed through that prism. When Mr. McKnight and Mr. Buehner held to the position that Mr. Gricar was murdered, one area newspaper said, “By default, then, Gricar was a victim of a homicide, they reason. Such tunnel vision seems troubling for those charged with objectively overseeing the investigation and prosecution of crimes.”
Mr. McKnight and Mr. Buehner (and myself) have a luxury the candidates don’t have; we are not trying persuade voters to vote for any of us. We can suffer from “tunnel vision,” but we won’t be the people potentially prosecuting a criminal case in regard to Mr. Gricar’s disappearance.
3. This will come as a shock to those following the Gricar case, but that case is not the sole issue in this race. It is an issue, but there are multiple other issues, some related to crime in general, some related to how the office has been conducted, some to the candidates background, and some to personnel. The Gricar case is just one issue of many.
4. Lastly, for the challengers, there is one other factor. None of them know what is in the files, but Mr. Madeira does. We’ve seen recently that there was a release of information in the Gricar case; that came out in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office. He can do so well before the election. Whether intentional or not, this tells the other candidates that law enforcement knows more about this mystery than they do.
Whatever is in those files, what the evidence is, is unknown to the three challengers. Had one of them stated, three weeks ago, that the District Attorney’s Office should have sent the home computer to Kroll (the firm that attempted to find the data on the laptop) to look at Mr. Gricar’s Internet searches, they would look very foolish when it was discovered that the police found the information two and a half years ago. That puts them into a weak position to discuss the issue.
In all fairness to the candidates, Ms. Arnold, Ms. Miller, Mr. De Bouf and, yes, Mr. Madeira have spoken on the Gricar case. Mr. Madeira has looked at the files, and talked with the police. Mr. Madeira did have Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit review the files. Mr. De Bouf suggested retired law enforcement personnel perform something similar. Basically, none of the candidates have proposed anything new, and neither has the incumbent. They can’t and Mr. Madeira won’t. And in all fairness to Mr. Madeira, any of the others might have taken the same course of action.