Attorney General Kathleen Kane (AP Photo)
One year after state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office began its review of Gov. Tom Corbett’s handling of the investigation into the child-abuse accusations against Jerry Sandusky, attorneys are speculating that it will be at least another six months before the report is released.
On Wednesday, which marked the approximate one-year anniversary of H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr. being named special prosecutor to head the review, Kane issued a statement indicating that the release of the report has been delayed due, in part, to discovery issues, including difficulties with obtaining emails and other written records.
Kane additionally noted that the report is subject to judicial approval because it discusses matters that occurred before grand jury proceedings that have not been made public and that individuals discussed in the report are being given the chance to review and comment on the parts of the report pertaining to them.
G. Terry Madonna, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs and a professor at Franklin & Marshall College, speculated that the report will likely be issued in late summer or early fall as opposed to spring; however, he said that the longer it takes for the report to be released, the more the pressure will mount calling on her to release the report.
“This is the most widely anticipated investigation of an attorney general in modern history because it involves a sitting governor,” he said. “I think there’s a good bit of pressure for her to put this out as expeditiously as possible.”
Kane has questioned whether the pace of the Sandusky investigation was influenced by Corbett’s decision to run for governor; however, supporters of Corbett have accused Kane of playing politics herself with the probe, as she had promised the investigation during her run for the office.
Attorneys who spoke with The Legal agreed that, as Corbett is seeking re-election this year, the timing of the report could have political ramifications for both Kane and Corbett.
However, according to Madonna, the substance of the report could overshadow any criticism that Kane is playing politics with the release.
“Substance trumps all,” he said. “If the evidence looks decisive, I think the timing is less important. If there’s any doubt about [Corbett's handling of the case], it will create a firestorm.”
Attorneys who spoke with The Legal said that there is legal precedent behind Kane giving the parties mentioned in the report a chance to respond to the findings.
Whether or not the report will be blocked or heavily redacted by the grand jury judge could depend on what the report will ultimately be used for.
“I’m not sure what the ultimate ending of this investigation is. It may not be criminal or civil. It may just be informational,” said attorney Matthew Mangino, a former district attorney for Lawrence County and now a practicing criminal defense attorney, echoing a sentiment expressed by several attorneys who spoke with The Legal. “What it’s being used for is important.”
Attorney Marc Raspanti of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti said he was not surprised at the length of time that the investigation has taken so far. The delays, he said, are an example of diligent work on behalf of Kane and Moulton and also Kane making good on her promise to keep the process open.
“I’m happy as to the comprehensiveness and fairness that the Attorney General’s Office is going through. Sometimes these [reports] get issued and the chips fall where they may. That type of damage is impossible to recover from if it’s wrong, especially with such a legally and politically charged issue,” he said. “When Moulton was appointed, it was made clear that it was not going to be a rush to judgment.”
Moulton, Kane said in her release, has been diligent and thorough and has been interviewing a wide range of witnesses, “despite not having the power to compel testimony through subpoena.”
“Certain factors have combined to slow the process, not all of which were anticipated,” the release said. “Until last fall we believed that OAG emails for the relevant time period had been permanently removed from OAG storage systems (pursuant to a then-existing document-retention policy) and were unrecoverable. Since then, we have developed a recovery process that is ongoing.”
However, Madonna said that, while the reasons given for the delays seem plausible and reasonable, an interesting comparison can be made between her review of the investigation and Corbett’s investigation itself.
This “is exactly the excuse Corbett used when the investigation of Sandusky took so long,” he said.
Mangino drew a similar comparison.
“Anytime that a prosecutor is involved in an investigation, you never know where that might lead and how much time it could take,” he said. “But at some point it’s going to be a fair question [to ask]: How long do you investigate an investigation that lasted three years? If your initial concern is, this investigation, how did it take so long, how long do you investigate that investigation?”
A spokesman for Kane’s press office declined to comment for the story.