By Kevin Zwick & Peter L. DeCoursey
HARRISBURG (Nov. 29) – Gov. Tom Corbett said he wouldn’t offer to be interviewed as part of Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane’s examination of her predecessors, including Corbett’s, handling of the Jerry Sandusky pedophile investigation if he thought it was “a political game.”
“If I believe it’s a political game – no. If I believe that they want to know exactly what was going on when I was there and my thought process – sure,” Corbett told reporters in a wide-ranging interview on Thursday.
It was one of three sessions he held with small groups of state Capitol reporters, in an unprecedented series of long and frank interviews almost midway through his term. Compared to his predecessors, Corbett devoted more time, as he discussed his first two years and next steps for nearly four hours Thursday.
He extended his first interview of the day almost 20 minutes beyond schedule to respond to attacks on his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
For a transcript of this section of the Q n A, CLICK HERE..
Corbett was on the defensive this past election cycle after the Sandusky investigation served as a rallying cry for Kane as she swept to the biggest victory margin in the history of attorney general elections, charging Corbett delayed the investigation as he ran for governor.
Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was sent to prison for 30-60 years for sexually abusing 10 boys during and after his time with the PSU football program.
“I guess the question is did I tell (investigators) to do something they shouldn’t do? They wanna ask me that question, come and ask. I’ll tell you right now – no,” Corbett said. “Why would I do that? Think about this. And I’m kinda disappointed that it hasn’t been reported. Why would I do that? I’m the guy that’s going after the child predators.”
As to the question of whether the investigation should have been turned over to the FBI for a faster investigation, Corbett, a former U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania, said: “We do things faster than the feds. I was a fed. I know what they’re like. We are faster than the feds.”
In a strictly political sense, Corbett argued there would be no gain from delaying the investigation.
“There’s no political gain for me in not doing that. In fact, if there was political gain, it would have been to get it done before the election. Think of all the earned media – let’s look at it that way from a political campaign.
“If we would have gotten the information much sooner, and been able to bring that case in let’s say June, July, August of 2010, would I’ve been subject to criticism? ‘Oh he should have waited.’ Oh, there’d been people who woulda said that. You’re doggone right there woulda been. Ok? But it would have been the right thing to do if that was the time we had the information, not to let ‘em sit aside.”
Corbett said he could not have done that because the key evidence, the testimony of assistant football coach Mike McQueary, against Sandusky, did not come until November of 2010, after he was elected governor.
“The key thread of evidence, that was sorta like the thread that pulls the sweater apart, was the telephone call, the tip that went to Stacy Parks Miller, the new DA, in November of 2010, after my election. It was anonymous, and they said go talk to McQueary. And they talked to McQueary. Now by this time, I’m out of it. Even though I’m the attorney general, I turned it over to Bill (Ward),” who served as acting attorney general until Kelly was nominated. “And I’m really not making decisions on that case because I’m preparing to move over to here. And they start following that trail. And that was the thread that unraveled the sweater.”
Corbett conceded that he earned enmity from some for the probe which many Penn State fans, and there are more than 1 million in the state, feel attacked their beloved institution.
“I think there are some people out there who hate me because of it, yeah,” Corbett said. “There are people out there, but I did what a prosecutor is supposed to do.”
Sources also said Corbett could not have told the board before they learned of the scandal since some board members potentially might have been implicated in it. Corbett declined comment on that.
Corbett began the investigation that rocked the Penn State institution, leading to NCAA sanctions against the team. Taken over by his appointed successor, Linda Kelly, she alleged a cover-up by top administrators. Corbett’s actions led to the firing of late head coach Joe Paterno, for which he received criticism both for doing that and for not doing it sooner.
“I can’t worry about it,” Corbett said referring to the potential fallout from the investigation, “It’s something that … it is past. I did what was absolutely necessary,” Corbett said.
“I think there are some people out there who hate me because of it, yeah. There are people out there, but I did what a prosecutor is supposed to do,” he said.
Corbett said he is now aware, that many people “tell me afterwards, ‘well, people have known that for years.’ Then excuse me, where the hell were you? Ok? And maybe the report by the child task force is going to be helpful in the future” in getting earlier reports of such illegal behavior.
“But if people knew that up there for years – and I’ll tell you there’s other people that say ‘I never heard that. I never heard that.’ How he can be two different … I don’t know, that’s for you guys to investigate. I’m sure if our investigators up there knew, had they known that – maybe – but again they’re rumors. We can’t charge on rumors. We need people. And why do you use a grand jury investigation? Because you gotta get them comfortable, you gotta get them to give up information. [You] almost have to give them a shove. And I find it interesting that Ms. Kane would have never used a grand jury investigation. How can you use a grand jury investigation in a child pedophile case? Well then I guess she must be criticizing Lynne Abraham and Seth Williams” who used a grand jury to charge and convict several pedophile priests in Philadelphia. “She forgot about that one. So if it’s a one-on-one child predator, yeah – we didn’t use a grand jury for the computer stuff because we got the guy.
“But a case like this – and this guy was right next to Joe Paterno – you know the saying don’t wound the tiger? You couldn’t afford to lose. If we had lost on the one case, nobody else would have come forward. And if they did, it would have been hard to charge him again, because now it would be we’re persecuting. Go get the best case you can. If it takes long it takes long.”
Kane’s campaign did not respond to two requests for comment.
Corbett also again criticized Penn State for not turning over e-mails and other information later turned up by the University-hired special investigator, former FBI Chief Louis Freeh. Corbett said part of the reason Freeh was hired was because he and Kelly believed Freeh would promptly turn over any materials that investigators required to pursue criminal charges. Corbett contrasted Freeh’s conduct with that of the university, which he said hid materials that were subpoenaed by the attorney general’s office.
Corbett also mocked Kane, asking whom she would have investigate the actions of a staff that will soon be her own: “It’s going to be interesting who the state investigators are going to be ‘cause they’re going to be the one’s [that were] reporting to me in the first place. I think you guys need to start questioning her on that.
“You know how these investigations work. I’m not so sure they know how these investigations work. There’s a delegation. You count on the people, worksheets, my chief of staff, my chief of criminal [Frank] Fina, and the guys down there; it’s a delegation. And they worked their butts off on a number of investigations over there.”