The untold story, though, is about bare-knuckle Pennsylvania politics, old grudges and perceived slights. It involves a stagnated child sexual abuse investigation that, to some, took a backseat to higher-profile cases and a gubernatorial campaign. It involves a head football coach who knew too little and, still, failed to do enough. It includes a passive school board of trustees that for months ignored a lurking controversy and then, under pressure to preserve Penn State’s reputation, quickly fired its legendary coach without ever talking with him.
Through it all, the central character was Corbett. “Something not very good happened,” he told reporters on Nov. 9, hours before he urged his fellow trustees to fire Paterno. “We have to … take the bull by the horns and fix it. Quickly.” Publicly, Corbett made it clear that he thought he was the most qualified person to fix Penn State.
A 62-year-old Republican, Corbett is a blunt-spoken former prosecutor whose political career has been built pursuing powerful people who, he has said, “believe they are beyond the law.” And his role in the Penn State scandal, fraught with potential conflicts, placed him in a remarkable position. As Pennsylvania’s attorney general, he investigated Sandusky for nearly two years but failed to make an arrest. But then, as governor, he blamed the university’s leaders for not doing more. One was Paterno, who some board members believed wielded too much power. The other was university president Graham B. Spanier, a 16-year veteran and Corbett rival who had become a vocal opponent of the governor’s efforts to slash higher education funding.
To some, Corbett relished the opportunity and had even planned to play a role in managing the crisis. Eight days before the Sandusky grand jury presentment was released this past November, Corbett’s staff booked hotel rooms in State College. Becoming governor had made Corbett a trustee, and he had decided to attend his first board meeting, after missing the first four. During those days of crisis in State College, he lobbied for the ouster of Paterno and Spanier, ending with that conference call on Nov. 9. And when he was on campus the next day, after Spanier’s resignation and Paterno’s firing, he celebrated the leadership changes. “Throughout this whole process, I felt he had some ulterior motive,” a trustee says of Corbett. “Most trustees felt uncomfortable with his role. It was odd for him to be there and participate the way he did. Very odd.”
A passionate defender of children who had opened a sexual predators unit in his office, Corbett had aggressively pursued such prosecutions during his career. But this time, he assigned just one investigator to the Sandusky case, say lawyers with knowledge of the arrangement, although Corbett has denied this through his spokesman. At the time, he had 14 investigators looking into the activities of Pennsylvania House Speaker Bill DeWeese, a Democrat, who was accused of having staff members use state resources for his campaign. DeWeese was convicted last February of five counts of theft, conflict of interest and criminal conspiracy.
While the current Sandusky investigation was in its second year, Corbett spent much of his time focusing on the sweeping public corruption inquiry of Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg nicknamed “Bonusgate.” He also crisscrossed Pennsylvania campaigning for governor, pledging to cut runaway spending and “restore trust in Harrisburg.” State campaign records show he accepted contributions of nearly $650,000 from current and past board members of Second Mile [Sandusky's "Charity"] and their businesses.
If you check out Governor Corbett’s facebook post “Governor Corbett Offers Statement on Sandusky Guilty Verdict,” you’ll find a comment section flooded, once again, by people who remember the connections between Corbett and Sandusky’s Second Mile “Charity,” and who seem to have renewed anger toward Corbett in the aftermath of Sandusky’s guilty verdict.
In case Corbett’s handlers decide to hide all the comments, here is a snapshot of the comments as of midnight.