As Linda Kelly, Pennsylvania Attorney General, was answering questions about Jerry Sandusky’s verdict this past Friday night, a bystander at press the conference asked, “what about Governor Corbett?” He repeated his question over and over again, quite loudly, and was heard pretty clearly over all the news networks that were broadcasting live. I think it would be fair to say that Linda Kelly, a Corbett appointee, was visibly uncomfortable with the question. She eventually replied, “we’ll answer that at the end” of the news conference. The question shouted from off camera was not without a history. As posted on Raging Chicken Press the night of the Sandusky’s guilty verdict, there have been on-going questions about why Sandusky’s prosecution did not happen sooner, in particular, why Corbett, when he was PA Attorney General, did not bring charges.
Governor Corbett, a Penn State board member, cavaliered the campaign to oust revered Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and long-standing Penn State President Graham Spanier for doing too little in response to allegations against Sandusky as far back as 2002. As we all are familiar with now, in 2002, Mike McQueary witnessed Jerry Sandusky raping a child in the locker-room shower. He then reported the incident to Joe Paterno, who then relayed the message to Graham Spanier, but no further actions were taken. The parties involved did the bare minimum and didn’t take the allegations seriously. But given Corbett’s own record of involvement in the Sandusky case, why should he come away looking like the hero?
Friday night, Governor Corbett released a statement, via Facebook, about the Sandusky verdict. It said:
“First, I want to thank the jury for their willingness to serve on such a difficult case.”
“I also want to commend the multiple victims in this case who had the courage to come forward and testify in court, confronting Sandusky, and proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of these reprehensible crimes.”
“The agents and prosecutors of the Attorney General’s Office, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police, also deserve a great deal of credit for today’s verdict. They pursued every lead, gathering evidence from multiple victims, in order to bring this man to justice.”
The public reaction it sparked could develop into a political relations nightmare for the governor’s office because of the allegations that Tom Corbett took his time while initially receiving the investigation in 1999.
In 2009, Tom Corbett’s Attorney General’s office received an allegation that Jerry Sandusky abused another child. The allegation was made by a mother in Centere County and the local district attorney, Michael Madeira, forwarded the case to Corbett’s office because of Madeira’s ties with Sandusky. At the time, Tom Corbett was in the midst of his governor’s campaign and only assigned 1 investigator overlooking the case (something that Corbett’s people dispute, but have not shown adequate evidence to the contrary). Last fall when the scandal exploded, Governor Corbett shot down the claims that he was dragging his feet on the original investigation, but in early 2011, after he was elected governor, Frank Noonan, the former investigation supervisor for the attorney general’s office and current state police supervisor, put 7 investigators on the Sandusky case. Tom Corbett replied to his criticism by saying “people that are saying that are ill-informed as to how investigations are conducted, how witnesses are developed, how backup information, corroborative information is developed, and they really don’t know what they’re talking about.”
So if Tom Corbett wasn’t stalling the initial investigation for his governor’s race, then did his financial connections with former and current Second Mile board members play a role in kicking the investigation down the road? Last November, Luke O’Brien exposed Tom Corbett’s financial ties to Second Mile board members, in the Deadspin article “Past and Present Board Members of Sandusky’s Charity and Their Businesses or Families gave 641,481.21 to Gov Corbett.” Tom Corbett received $201,783.64 from Second Mile Board members, and received a total $647.481.21 from families and businesses associated to Second Mile Board members. These donations were lining Corbett’s campaign pockets right around the time he picked up the case as Attorney General. How convenient. Some of these donations came from some of the most influential businesses in the state. For instance, donations came from: Bill Greenlee, a Second Mile board member until 2004 and founder of Pennsylvania’s largest lobbying firm, Greenlee Partners, gave $36,000; Louie Sheetz, executive for Sheetz Inc and current board member, gave $106,000 and Lance Shaner, a director for Second Mile, gave $155,550. That is just a small sample of the laundry list of donations the governor received for his governor’s campaign.
With the influence of “pay-to-play” politics establishing itself as the norm under Governor Tom Corbett’s tenure, the amount of money he received by people closely associated with Second Mile and the fact it took over 2 years for this investigation to pick up, should Governor Tom Corbett be investigated for his (in)actions in the Sandusky scandal?
There is one question left to be answered, “What about Governor Corbett?” Just as Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier got fired for doing the bare minimum a decade ago, did Tom Corbett’s political ambitions play a role in this investigation? It was obvious that the “case against Sandusky” took off after Frank Noonan, the state police supervisor, assigned 7 investigators to the case, while Corbett only assigned one. Should Governor Corbett be held responsible if there were children abused by Sandusky between the time he originally received the case and became governor? These are three questions that constituents of this state deserve to know because what is the difference between Tom Corbett’s, Joe Paterno’s and Graham Spanier’s actions?
Sean Kitchen is an Assistant Editor and Social Media Organizer for Raging Chicken Press. He is student at Kutztown University.