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Pennsylvania AG Cites ‘Crucial Missteps’ And Delays In Sandusky Investigation

By Angela Couloumbus and Craig R. McCoy, The Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said Monday that the state’s three-year investigation into pedophile Jerry Sandusky took too long because of “crucial missteps” and “inexplicable delays” by her predecessors.

“The facts show an inexcusable lack of urgency in charging and stopping a serial child predator,” Kane said in a statement, noting that the investigation only picked up in the last of the three years it took to investigate, and ultimately charge, the former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University.

Kane’s comments came as she opened a news conference to release a long-awaited report into prosecutors’ handling of the case, an inquiry that she had made a cornerstone of her 2012 campaign for office.

While the report that she commissioned raises questions about certain lulls and delays in the inquiry, it ultimately concludes that the prosecutors on the case had reason to take their time to gather evidence against Sandusky and build a case around multiple victims.
It also does not fault them for using a grand jury to investigate Sandusky — and found no evidence that politics or a lack of resources influenced the investigation.

The Sandusky investigation began in 2009, while Gov. Tom Corbett was Attorney General, and continued while Corbett was running for the state’s highest office in 2010. Sandusky, a onetime top assistant to Joe Paterno, wasn’t charged until November 2011.

Kane’s review “revealed no direct evidence that electoral politics influenced any important decision made in the Sandusky investigation,” the report states.

In her 2012 bid for office, Kane questioned whether Corbett deliberately slowed the investigation for political purposes. Instead of using a grand jury, “I would have had (Sandusky) arrested after the first victims came forward,” she said then.

Kane, a Democrat, also had suggested that Corbett, a Republican, delayed the probe to avoid angering voters and donors. Politics, she told one newspaper editorial board, “probably” drove his decisions.

On Monday, she defended her decision to undertake the review, even though it did not unearth any proof of political influence. “Why those delays took place, we don’t know,” she said, but added that it was important for her to present the facts to the public and let it decide.

The report, which took 16 months to complete and runs, with appendices, more than 330 pages long, was authored by Geoffrey Moulton, a former federal prosecutor and law professor.

Corbett was interviewed during the inquiry but chose not to write a response to be attached to Kane’s report.

A spokesman for him on Monday said: “The investigation was conducted with a single purpose, which was to ensure justice for the victims and their families. It was a thorough and thoughtful review and in the end, a child predator can no longer victimize anyone else, and was convicted on 45 of 48 counts.”

Moulton’s review notes that prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office felt strongly that testimony from the first boy to accuse Sandusky would likely not have been enough to convict the former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University.

But it also questions some of their decisions along the way. For instance, the report points out that prosecutors took too long to take certain investigative steps, including gathering reports on Sandusky from other law enforcement agencies.

And it notes that one of the prosecutors in the case was prepared to charge Sandusky in 2010 — and had even drafted charges — but that she could not get an answer from superiors as to whether to proceed with an arrest.

It also identifies several months in 2010 when the inquiry appeared to have ground to a halt.

Moulton’s report also notes that prosecutors waited too long to ask Penn State to turn over any records of complaints against Sandusky, who spent two decades at the school and maintained a campus office even after stepping down from his coaching post.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Calls Corruption Sting Flawed, Shuts Down Probe

By Angela Couloumbis and Craig R. McCoy, The Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Monday that she believed leading Philadelphia Democrats ensnared in an undercover sting operation committed crimes, but that the case against them was so badly mishandled by her predecessors that it could not be prosecuted.

Responding to a report in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer that five public officials, including four state legislators from Philadelphia, were captured on tape accepting cash, gifts or money orders, Kane said she had no choice but to shut down the investigation.

While saying public corruption made her “sick to her stomach,” Kane said the sting was flawed and tainted by racism, and could not have led to successful prosecutions.

“There is nothing we can do to salvage this case,” she said.

Yet the state’s top state prosecutor acknowledged that the tapes made during the course of the investigation had captured criminal activity.

“I believe that we have evidence that certain legislators were taking money, and that’s a crime,” Kane told reporters at a late-morning news conference in Harrisburg.

She said that eight people in all were captured on tape, but she did not say who they were.

Kane, a Democrat, has maintained that the undercover investigation was poorly managed and badly executed, and relied on an undercover operative whose credibility had been compromised.

Prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office who launched the case in 2010 have countered that the sting operation was solid, and say Kane shut it down for political reasons.

They also say that she faced a conflict in the case, as two people who supported her 2012 campaign for attorney general had previous dealings with the sting operation’s undercover agent, a little-known Philadelphia lobbyist named Tyron B. Ali.

Given the dispute, the nonpartisan Committee of Seventy in Philadelphia on Monday urged the Legislature to allow for the creation of an independent counsel to conduct “a fair and nonpartisan” investigation into why the sting case was closed.

“This is a highly unusual matter where traditional investigative authorities who might review the integrity of the sting operation and its dismissal — both of which are under attack — are compromised,” Zack Stalberg, the committee president, said in a statement.

Kane vigorously defended her office’s record of pursuing public corruption cases.

“It is loud and clear,” she said. “We made no decisions based on political parties.”

She said that upon taking office last January, she directed her top staff to review the case file. That review, she said, showed that the case would never hold up in court. Among the reasons it would fail, she said: Ali’s credibility was “horrendously tainted.”

Before he agreed to cooperate with state prosecutors, Ali had been facing charges in a $430,000 state fraud and theft case.

Those charges, Kane said Monday, were dropped by the sting investigation’s lead prosecutor, Frank G. Fina, just weeks after she was elected.

“This was the deal of the century,” said Kane. “Over 2,000 charges were dropped against this man.”

Fina now heads the public-corruption unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Kane has also said that the agent who accompanied Ali as he carried out the sting told law enforcement officials that top prosecutors instructed him to target African-Americans, and ignore illegal acts by whites.

Kane said she had documentation to support her assertion that racism marred the sting, but was examining whether she could release it.

Kane reiterated that two other law enforcement agencies, including unidentified federal authorities, had reviewed the case and determined it was flawed and not suited for prosecution. She has declined to identify the officials who made such a determination or to say which agency was involved.

On Monday, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Philadelphia, Edward J. Hanko, said his office had looked at the case but had made no judgment on whether it was suitable for prosecution.

Hanko said he was never asked to examine the case to see if there were crimes that could be prosecuted. Rather, he said, his focus was on whether any federal laws might have been broken. He concluded the case was best left to the state.

He said that taking on the sting investigation would have required a busy FBI to repeat work already completed by state officials. “We’d have to go back and retrace everything,” he said.

Hanko said agents on his staff decided it was unwise to “jump in at the twelfth hour.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia has declined to comment on the sting investigation or to say whether it had made a judgment about the merits of the case.

At her news conference, Kane said that in the absence of prosecution, she would press the state Ethics Commission to investigate whether lawmakers broke ethics laws. None of those who sources said received money or gifts reported doing so on annual disclosure forms.

Sources familiar with the sting have told The Inquirer that prosecutors amassed 400 hours of audio and videotape that documented at least four city Democrats taking payments in cash or money orders, and, in one case, a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet.

People with knowledge of the investigation said those caught on tape included former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, who acknowledged that Ali gave her the bracelet.

Four state lawmakers took money, the sources said. State Rep. Ronald G. Waters accepted multiple payments totaling $7,650; State Rep. Vanessa Brown took $4,000; State Rep. Michelle Brownlee received $3,500; and State Rep. Louise Bishop took $1,500, said people with knowledge of the investigation.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) issued a statement Monday saying he was troubled by the allegations.

“If it’s true that any legislators accepted gifts without reporting them, they should correct that reporting mistake,” he said.

The four legislators could not be reached for further comment Monday.

Bishop has told The Inquirer that she does not know Ali and did not accept money from him. Brownlee has said she does not recall accepting cash or money orders from Ali, while Waters has said he may have received something from Ali for his birthday.

Brown has declined to answer any questions. Her attorney has said she did nothing wrong.

Republicans in the House have called on Kane to provide a fuller explanation of her decision not to prosecute the case.

One former prosecutor was unpersuaded by the attorney general’s decision to abandon the case.

L. George Parry, a former federal and city prosecutor, said Monday that he could not understand why the case was dropped.

Though Kane cited Ali’s credibility as a problem, Parry said, “I’ve yet to meet an informant that didn’t have lousy credibility.

“That’s one of the defining attributes of being an informant,” said Parry, now in private defense practice. “That’s why you wire them, to see if what they say is true.”

Photo: Scott* via Flickr