Gov. Corbett turns testy on handling of Penn State case

Gov. Corbett
Gov. Corbett
Posted: July 14, 2012

HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett said Thursday that the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal was "of such significance" that he hoped people would learn from it.

But the normally composed governor erupted in anger when asked if Thursday's scathing report on Pennsylvania State University's role in the scandal had given him pause. Had he pondered whether, in his previous role as state attorney general, he could have done anything differently while leading the Sandusky investigation?

"Why are you all obsessed with that?" Corbett fired back, pounding the lectern and saying he had answered that question many times.

"We do not hold up investigations for anything," he declared, adding: "You are disparaging the reputation of the men and women in that office who have worked very hard to get to the result - that justice was served and a monster was taken off the street."

After a pause, Corbett said: "To continue to ask that question, quite honestly, is in my mind out of line. These men and women did their job. And I did my job. The men and women on that jury did their job. And that's the story. Next question."

When the heat of the moment had passed, the governor offered insights on why such cases may move slowly. He said the pace is determined first and foremost by witnesses' willingness to come forward.

Ever more so, Corbett said, in the case of someone like Sandusky: "Are they willing to come up and say, 'I was assaulted by an individual who in the community was right behind Joe Paterno, probably?' And to get those young men to come forward . . . is not the easiest thing in the world to do."

In the end, eight young accusers testified and helped convict Sandusky as a result of the investigation begun under Corbett's watch as attorney general, the post he left to become governor in January 2011. He said Thursday that charging Sandusky on one count involving one boy would not have been a successful case.

Corbett called "absolutely false" news reports that his office had initially assigned just one investigator because most were tied up in public-corruption probes. He said even Bureau of Narcotics agents worked on the Sandusky case. And when he became governor, Corbett said, he added state police resources to the probe.

His role as ex-officio Penn State trustee is mentioned in a paragraph of the 267-page report issued Thursday by former FBI chief Louis Freeh. The report said some trustees recalled that during a conference call on whether to fire Paterno, some asked "if the governor was still on the phone line, as he was quiet during parts of the call."

Other trustees told Freeh's investigators that Corbett was more "vocal"; one said he urged "decisive action or there might be a loss of support for Penn State."

Corbett on Thursday confirmed one quotation in the report. "I made no recommendation," he said, "other than at the end. Before the vote, I said: 'You have to remember the children.' "

He declined to discuss Paterno's legacy. But the governor noted: "History will judge all of us."


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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