Special Reports

Odds, Earlly April 2013

            “The runaway doesn't make a lot of sense. It never has. I guess if you want to oversimplify it -- what's the point? There's been nothing. No scandal tied to the office or anything that would allude to that.”1  Those were the words of family spokesman Tony Gricar, reported on January 25, 2011.  A lot has changed in less than 27 months.

            From November 5, 2011, there was a scandal, arguably the biggest scandal to ever hit Centre County since it was first settled in the mid Eighteenth Century.  The Pennsylvania Alumni Association magazine, The Penn Stater, called it, on what would become an iconic cover “Our Darkest Day.”2  One of the names forever linked to that scandal will that of the former District Attorney, Ray Gricar, even if his involvement is innocent.

            In 1998, in a decision that has never been explained, Mr. Gricar chose not to prosecute Jerry Sandusky for crimes of which he was later tried and convicted.  He did this, in spite of the fact that there was a second victim known to the police in 1998 and unavailable in 2011-12.3  There are other aspects of handling of the case that raise even more questions about Mr. Gricar’s conduct.

            There is no doubt that, if Mr. Gricar had retired to that small house in Bellefonte with his girlfriend, that there would have been a television crew on the street in front of the house, and Sara Ganim would have been pounding on his front door.  Mr. Gricar could have said, “No comment,” to the Press, and ignored the “chattering class” on message boards4 and commentary from legitimate journalists5.  He might have even been able to deal with people in the local market asking him, or glancing at him and whispering, “He’s the guy that didn’t prosecute Sandusky.”

            He would not have been able to ignore subpoena to appear before the grand jury or in open court.  Mr. Gricar would have had to testify under oath about what happened and would probably have to explain why it happened.  One person who did was former Assistant District Attorney Karen Arnold.

            Ms. Arnold handled the Sandusky case only briefly and was removed from it by Mr. Gricar.  That removal would be one of those things in this case that I find strange, as she generally handled these types of cases, though that decision was Mr. Gricar’s.  Had Mr. Gricar not done so, the case might have played out differently.  Importantly, I know of no improprieties in her conduct in the case, expressed or implied, so far as it related to the decision to pursue the case.  In other words, she did nothing wrong and nothing professionally embarrassing in the case.  She described her grand jury experience as, "The grand jury experience was one of the more negative experiences in my life."6

            Well, Mr. Gricar, if he were here would be a substantially more “negative experience.”  His involvement in the 1998 investigation was obviously greater and there are substantial questions about his official conduct in 1998.  Mr. Gricar was a private person, and may not have wanted to be available to answer questions.  Could Mr. Gricar have departed voluntarily to avoid the aftermath of, and the questions arising from, the Sandusky scandal?

            The short answer is yes, but that isn’t the whole answer.  More broadly, Mr. Gricar might not have wanted to spend his retirement testifying about his decisions, this being only one of them.  That is a possibility as well.  The Sandusky scandal only puts some flesh on the bones of that possibility.

            It is possible, but how likely is this.  Well, to answer that question, we can look at someone else who was a decision maker in the case, the Department of Welfare (DPW) investigator, Jerry Lauro.  Mr. Lauro’s actions have raised similar questions to those raised with Mr. Gricar.  For example, Mr. Lauro stated that he never saw the report of Dr. Alycia Chambers that labeled Sandusky’s behavior as pedophilic “grooming.”  He also stated that had he seen the Chambers Report, “I would have made a different decision.”7  He never indicated that he asked for the information in the police file, nor that he ever talked with Dr. Chambers, who was the initial reporter. 

            There are several questions we can ask of Mr. Lauro regarding the conduct of his 1998 investigation, but there is one we don’t have to ask.  We don’t have to ask, “What happened to Jerry Lauro?”  He is still around, retired from DPW, and presumably collecting his pension.  He is not facing any criminal charges relating to his official conduct; if he would be convicted on those grounds, he would lose his pension.

            Mr. Gricar would be in similar situation, if he were here.  If he hadn’t vanished, he might face embarrassing questions, but unless he would be convicted of something, he’d still get a check each month.  Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have a great deal of discretion in when to prosecute.  The simple act of not prosecuting Sandusky in 1998 would not, in itself, change that.

            I will concede that it is possible that Mr. Gricar crossed the line into illegality, but after about two years of investigation, nothing illegal has been found.  While Mr. Gricar’s actions in 1998 would result in strong criticism, it would not cost him his pension.  Suddenly, what looked like a strong reason for Mr. Gricar to walk away becomes a weaker reason.  It is still there, but it is not as strong.  The odds that Mr. Gricar walked away go up, but not a lot.

            The odds on suicide go down.  It has been almost eight years since Mr. Gricar disappeared, and, after substantial searches, no body was found.  We don’t even have pieces of bone washing up along the banks of Susquehanna.  While people have drowned in the Susquehanna, even in a few hundred yards of where Mr. Gricar was last seen, the bodies were recovered within 36 hours.8 The is also the case of Pastor Jose Rosa, who committed suicide in the woods outside of Lewisburg.  Those remains were found with a year of his disappearance.9

            Just under three months into the Sandusky scandal, I gave the odds on what happened to Mr. Gricar as:

Voluntary Departure (Walkaway):  51% likely.

Victim of Foul Play (Primarily Murder):  44% likely.

Suicide:  4% likely.

Something else:  1% likely.

Voluntary departure had dropped and foul play had increased slightly.  Today, just before the eighth anniversary of his disappearance, I give them as:

Voluntary Departure (Walkaway):  52% likely.

Victim of Foul Play (Primarily Murder):  44% likely.

Suicide:  3% likely.

Something else:  1% likely.

            That increase in voluntary departure, not a lot, is based on the premise that Mr. Gricar did not want to be around to deal with the fallout of some of his old cases, inclusive of the Sandusky case.  He didn’t want to spend his retirement answering questions about decades of old cases.  It does not imply that he did anything that crossed the line into criminality and may have resulted in losing his pension.  If evidence does surface of that, and there is none at the present time, you can expect a jump in the odds on voluntary departure. 

End Notes

1 http://www.aolnews.com/2011/01/25/case-of-missing-pa-district-attorney-ray-gricar-baffles-police/


2 http://deadspin.com/5875861/the-cover-of-the-new-the-penn-stater-magazine-is-dark-demented-and-perfect


3 http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedfiles/press/sandusky-grand-jury-presentment.pdf


4 http://www.topix.com/forum/city/state-college-pa/TO28RV6B6SGT5KA2T


5 http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/jun/17/trial-reveals-missed-chances/?print=1 (Originally published in the Washington Post)


6 http://www.yardbird.com/joe_paterno_takes_the_fall.htm

7  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/03/penn_state.html

8 http://newsitem.com/news/bodies-of-two-children-pulled-from-susquehanna-river-1.193796

9   http://www.centredaily.com/2010/04/03/2397272_an-update-on-the-rosa-case.html


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 scorg@live.com