A report on the handling by authorities of the sexual abuse case against Jerry Sandusky continues to generate political shockwaves in Pennsylvania, with law enforcement officials challenging Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s assertion that the former Penn State assistant football coach abused two boys as recently as 2009 – after he knew he was under investigation.
Kane, a Democrat who has been highly critical of the handling of Sandusky’s case by her predecessor as attorney general, now Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, said at a news conference on Monday that Sandusky continued to prey on boys while sexual abuse allegations against him were being investigated.
"We did find two new individuals who allege they were abused by Sandusky … in the fall of 2009," Kane said.
But law enforcement officials involved in prosecuting Sandusky, who is now serving a long prison sentence after being convicted of serial child sex abuse, say there is no evidence to support Kane’s assertion.
One of the youths she referred to testified against Sandusky in court, saying that the sexual abuse began not long after he met Sandusky in “2004 or 2005,” according to court documents.
And the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a Pennsylvania prosecutor who handled the case as saying that he believes the second boy was interviewed by detectives but determined not to be a credible witness.
Kane’s allegation surprised many law enforcement officials and former prosecutors who had worked on the case, including the commonwealth’s top cop, State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.
“I don’t know what she’s talking about,” Noonan told NBC News on Tuesday when asked about Kane’s claim. “We were very surprised.”
Frank Fina, one of two prosecutors who tried Sandusky, said he was outraged by statement.
“Even for a politician, she has an especially distant relationship with the truth,” he said. “And you can quote me on that.”
Kane’s office issued two statements late Tuesday, the first co-signed by two current prosecutors and two investigators and the second one also signed by Kane.
The first, which was received by NBC News, essentially restated Kane’s assertion.
"It is absolutely true and factual that evidence exists of two individuals who allege they were victimized into the fall of 2009," it read. "It is shameful for others to re-victimize these individuals by denying their existence."
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the second statement, signed by Kane, acknowledged that she misspoke about one of the victims, but provided no details. NBC News did not review that statement.
Matt Rourke / AP file
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks at a news conference Monday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Both statements contained a slight change of wording from Kane’s comments at Monday’s news conference, using the phrase “into the fall of 2009” rather than “in the fall of 2009.” That suggests that two boys were abused over a period of time and not initially victimized after the Sandusky investigation had begun, as Kane indicated.
When NBC News sought further clarification on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Kane said that Sandusky was never charged with abusing one of the two boys, and that the other was not among Sandusky’s initial accusers.
But legal sources familiar with the case said the second boy was added as part of a second group of alleged victims and testified at Sandusky’s trial, referred to in court as “Victim 9.”
Victim 9 told the court he first met Sandusky in 2004 or 2005 through the Second Mile charity that the longtime Penn State defensive coordinator founded and began abusing him shortly after that.
During the trial, lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan asked the boy how long he had visited Sandusky’s house. “Like three, four years,” Victim 9 told the court. McGettigan followed up “would that have been 2008 into 2009?” Victim 9 answered, “Yeah I think so.”
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In the case of the first boy, the Inquirer quoted Fina as saying that he was only aware of one person who made allegations against Sandusky in 2012 but did not become part of the trial. He told the newspaper that the accuser’s recollections of when the alleged abuse occurred were fuzzy and that was one reason that prosecutors did not consider him credible or charge Sandusky with abuse in that instance.
Both sides continue to disagree whether the methods involved in the investigation of the Sandusky case, including whether the use of a grand jury delayed bringing charges. Kane, and other critics of Corbett, also have questioned whether he intentionally delayed the investigation to protect his gubernatorial campaign.
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The report released Monday, commissioned by Kane’s office, concluded that there had been “inexplicable delays” during the investigation, but found no evidence that political pressure played a role.
The 70-year-old Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in June 2012 and sentenced later that year to 30 to 60 years in prison.
He is serving his sentence at Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene “supermax” prison.
First published June 25 2014, 2:57 PM