ESPN’s new star investigative reporter, Don Van Natta (formerly of the New York Times), jumped in with his first piece on the Penn State situation and the events that transpired last November and in the months and years that preceded it. At the heart of that piece is Tom Corbett, former attorney general, Governor of Pennsylvania, and because of that position, a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
Corbett does not look good after this piece. Now, it is important to remember that leadership errors were made at Penn State that permitted a pedophile to continue to have access to the University and continue to have access to children through his Second Mile foundation after reasonable people should have known about Sandusky.
So, the actions of the Board in firing Paterno may have been justified; Corbett still looks like someone who utilized the situation for his own political purposes. When Corbett was attorney general, his office received the investigation of Sandusky based on allegations out of Centre County, after the prosecutor there had a conflict of interest because his wife’s brother had been adopted by Sandusky. Corbett, though, assigned just one investigator to the Sandusky allegations, while assigning 14 investigators to an investigation of political opponent and House Speaker Bill DeWeese, a Democrat (Corbett is Republican). DeWeese, who was convicted, calls it a “an extraordinary diversion” of resources investigating him rather than a “child rapist.”
The victim’s mother is reported to have gone to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, unhappy with the pace of the investigation from Corbett’s office. Corbett’s interest in the case, though, turned to Penn State when the 1998 incident was discovered, coupled with Sandusky’s abrupt retirement soon after.
ESPN also describes Corbett as harboring political grudges against Penn State president Graham Spanier after Corbett saw him chatting with his gubernatorial opponent in a luxury suite at a Penn State game. After he became Governor last January, Corbett proposed a budget cut of $182 million to Penn State to help meet the budget shortfall, a 52.4% decrease. The next day, Spanier publicly criticized Corbett for his “near-total abandonment’ of state support for public higher education.” A few weeks later, after being told he was not subject of the investigation, Spanier found himself testifying before a Grand Jury on the Sandusky case.
Then, there is the fact that Corbett booked rooms in State College eight days before the grand jury information leaked, setting off the national story. He had not attended any of four previous board meetings during his term as Governor, but was already set to be present at the meeting where Paterno’s fate was determined. At that meeting, where Corbett describes his role as minor, he said right before the vote “remember the children”. Others dispute that was his only role (“that is a bald-faced lie”, according to one anonymous Trustee).
Corbett’s camp has come out with a response to ESPN’s piece.
ESPN’s report from the grassy knoll merely adds another chapter to the growing list of conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandusky case. It is a disappointment to read something so long, filled with so many errors, that offers so little by way of new or even real fact.
Corbett obviously wants to distance himself from the controversial decision to fire Joe Paterno now, in a region where voters are not viewing that action favorably. Penn State was a mess. Given Corbett’s history with the case, though, there are questions as to whether his motivations were to do what was right.