Pa.'s Corbett Is No Chris Christie

Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012 12:07 PM

By Chris Freind

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Bursting with righteous indignation, his cheeks flushed with rage, the governor banged the podium in disgust while berating a journalist — in fact, chastising the entire media — for the audacity to ask questions on the issue.

We’re not talking about New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who gets away with such outbursts because of his stellar track record and pure gravitas.

Tom-Corbett.jpg
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett
(Getty Images)
No, this tantrum came from Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett after being queried about his incredibly long investigation of child predator Jerry Sandusky.

And it backfired in spectacular fashion. Why?

Because Tom Corbett is no Chris Christie.

Since questions on this matter remain unanswered, it seems only fitting, on behalf of the media and public, to pen an Open Letter to Mr. Corbett.

For the record, no media commentator in Pennsylvania supported Corbett’s ideas more than me during the 2010 campaign, from increased Marcellus Shale drilling to school choice to liquor privatization. In fact, I even backed Corbett’s decision to subpoena Twitter during the Bonusgate corruption probe — a highly unpopular position. Bottom line: this isn’t personal, and it’s not partisan. It’s only about one thing: the truth.

Dear Governor Corbett:

Since there are a number of questions which you have failed to answer concerning your investigation of Jerry Sandusky, on behalf of the media and the public, I respectfully ask for clarification in the following areas:

1) Based on a decade’s worth of evidence of Sandusky’s predatory activities, why did it take the Attorney General’s office three years to arrest him? I fully understand that it takes time to conduct an investigation, but as numerous prosecutors have stated, you could have arrested him quickly and continued building the case.

Tragically, it is probable that Sandusky continued to molest victims during your epic investigation, as predators do not stop preying unless forced to do so. Had he been arrested early, (standard procedure in many cases with a lot less evidence), Sandusky would have had to post bail, had restrictions placed upon him, and, most important, been under an ultra-intense media and community spotlight — every minute of every day until his trial.

In short, children would finally have been safe. And contrary to your assessment, this would have created a much more favorable environment for additional witnesses to come forward, knowing their bigger-than-life demon could hurt them no more. Arresting Sandusky quickly would have in no way jeopardized the strength of the case.

One of two things seems to be true, as there is no third option.

Either A) you were an incompetent attorney general, which virtually no one believes, or B) the investigation was deliberately understaffed and drawn out because you did not wish to be the gubernatorial candidate who took down fabled Penn State — with its massive and intensely loyal alumni network — and the beloved Joe Paterno. Since doing so would have presented difficult campaign challenges, many are asking if politics was placed above children’s safety. Which leads to the next question.

2) Why was the investigation so understaffed? Yes, you just now claimed — after eight months — that media reports are wrong that only one investigator was assigned the case for the first 15 months. The real number, as you now state, was a whopping two. We know you were busy with Bonusgate, but political corruption never threatens anyone’s physical well-being, particularly defenseless children.

And the two investigators assigned were narcotics agents. While Sandusky’s heinous crimes were many, drug offenses were not among them.

Yes, they were former police officers. But wouldn’t the reasonable course have been to assign agents with experience in child molestation cases? Did their inexperience lengthen the investigation more than normal — say, past your election in November, 2010?

Additional resources were available. Upon becoming governor, you placed state police on the case. You could have made that same request to Gov. Rendell, and, given the stakes, there is virtually no possibility he would have refused. And since you are a former United States Attorney, you undoubtedly realized that federal assistance was also available.

3) Do you believe ethical and moral lines were crossed when, after investigating Penn State as Attorney General, you then participated as a member of the Board of Trustees upon becoming governor?

In other words, knowing full well that the investigation was still in full swing, conducted by your handpicked Attorney General successor, you nonetheless chose to sit on the very board you had been — and still were — investigating!

Did you ever consider recusing yourself from board activities until the investigation was concluded? Since governors rarely attend board meetings, this would have in no way raised suspicions.

4) As governor, why did you personally approve a $3 million taxpayer-funded grant to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, given your knowledge that Sandusky was under investigation for multiple incidents involving children?

Your statement that blocking the grant would have tipped people off to the investigation is utterly disingenuous, particularly since the media reported on the investigation in March, and you did not approve the funds until July, 2011.

Vetoing the charitable grant would have simply been viewed as another financial cutback in a budget full of slashed programs.

So one has to ask if the $640,000 in campaign donations from board members of the Second Mile, along with their businesses and families, had anything to do with your actions?

If not, fine. But how did such a massively significant point slip your mind — until the media brought it up? And was that question also out of line?

Since these are matters of grave concern, I and many others look forward to your immediate response.

The media talks about Penn State’s Big Four casualties: Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley. But perhaps they are missing the biggest: Tom Corbett.

He has always claimed to hold himself to a higher standard, and has roundly criticized Paterno and others for not doing more to stop Sandusky. But when it came down to it, when Corbett had the power to put a speedy end to Sandusky, he didn’t.

If mistakes were made, fine. People can accept that. But to stonewall reasonable questions on such an important matter, and then stalk off , is something that should not, and will not, be tolerated.

Tom Corbett has a choice, perhaps the biggest of his career. He can either answer now — or in 2014.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Friendly Fire Zone. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.

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