Inquirer Editorial: Slow road to justice

Jerry Sandusky outside the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte in 2012.
Jerry Sandusky outside the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte in 2012. (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Posted: June 25, 2014

A long-awaited report probing the investigation that led to the conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child molestation charges points out disturbing delays in his prosecution that may have put other children in danger.

The report includes no evidence to support Attorney General Kathleen Kane's earlier allegation that the delays may have been politically motivated. But neither does the report categorically rule out that possibility.

During her 2012 election campaign, Kane suggested that Gov. Corbett, who as attorney general in 2009 began the Sandusky investigation, was slow to prosecute the case because he feared alienating powerful Penn State supporters, including legendary football coach Joe Paterno. Corbett announced his gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

The report released Monday said the 16-month review had failed to reveal any "direct evidence that electoral politics influenced" the Sandusky investigation. But Kane said it did "show an inexcusable lack of urgency in charging and stopping a serial child predator."

Kane has been criticized for using complaints about the pace of the Sandusky investigation to bolster her own political ambitions. But her office's review, conducted by former federal prosecutor and law professor Geoffrey Moulton, has produced important findings that indicate investigative foot-dragging did occur and must not be repeated.

The report said one prosecutor was ready to charge Sandusky in 2010 but could not get approval from her superiors. It said prosecutors didn't get a key subpoena for Penn State records until 21 months after the attorney general took over the case. Once records were searched, four more victims were found.

Corbett chose not to be interviewed for the report, nor did he write a response to be attached to it. But a spokesman on Monday defended the Sandusky investigation, saying it was "conducted with a single purpose, which was to ensure justice for the victims and their families." To that point, Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts and must serve up to 60 years in prison.

Kane deserves credit for pursuing her review. After all, no government official or agency should be above such scrutiny. That includes Kane, whose actions have also been under a microscope ever since it was revealed that she hastily ended a sting operation that began under Corbett and caught several Philadelphia politicians taking cash from an undercover informant.

Perhaps all the flak she has been catching is why Kane made an assertion not in the Sandusky report. She implied that two children were likely molested because he wasn't arrested sooner. Kane puts the credibility of her office at risk when she seems to make allegations on the fly. If she isn't ready to prove it, maybe she shouldn't say it.

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