By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Four months after the world found out about the sick activities at Penn State, the big boys are finally involved. Four long months of suspicious, pussyfooted law enforcement will now be supplemented – if not superseded – by more powerful hands.
Welcome to the party, US Justice Department.
Since I first read the grand jury report detailing Jerry Sandusky, the ensuing revulsion and fury has caused me to cling to satisfying, cinematic images: a line of black SUVs rolling inexorably toward Happy Valley. Windowless vans disgorging stern-faced agents. Computers yanked off desks, file cabinets seized. Tommy Lee Jones barking staccato orders amid the chop of helicopters.
As is usually the case, I’ll have to settle for a scene that’s far less thrilling, but satisfying indeed.
The Harrisburg Patriot-News broke the story last week that the US Attorney has subpoenaed the university, requesting documents, records and administrators’ computer hard drives relating to Sandusky dating as far back as 1998. Also under new scrutiny are the Second Mile charity and Sandusky’s travel records.
Up to this point, the local Pennsylvania bumpkins have appeared unmotivated, ineffective, compromised and corrupt. Every judge in the state seems connected to the school or the charity, with one Second Mile donor setting an initial low-ball bail and numerous others forced to recuse. Sandusky will be allowed a jury of football cultists in Centre County, and is still lounging around his house, watching local schoolkids from his porch.
Ray Gricar, the DA involved with the initial investigation, has gone missing, his computer trashed in a river. Attorney General Tom Corbett had every reason to pursue Sandusky but dragged his feet for years. He waited until well after he was elected governor – thanks in part to a $25,000 contribution from the Second Mile – before doing anything, since crossing Joe Paterno’s fiefdom would have doomed his campaign. He then gave the Second Mile a $3 million state grant, even as he knew the grand jury was investigating its use as a victim-farm by Sandusky. Corbett sits on Penn State’s Board of Trustees.
At long last, the money trail will come into sharper focus. Federal prosecutors want information on payments from board members to the university or third parties on the university’s behalf, with some reports suggesting a search for hush-money payoffs to other victims and families. Sandusky also lavished boys with gifts as part of his grooming and maintenance system, and somebody had to pay for them.
The murky mix of dollars moving between the football office, school coffers and the Second Mile will now be examined for illegalities regarding federal taxes, public disclosure requirements, and RICO statutes. It’s also time to get to the bottom of the scuttled $125 million real estate deal engineered by Paterno, Second Mile chairman Robert Poole, PSU trustee William Scheyer and others. Paterno also was reported by The Daily.com to be in other side businesses with Second Mile board members that included a bottled-water company, a coaching website and a convenience-store chain.
Penn State is already being investigated by the Department of Education for possible violations of the Clery Act, which requires the reporting of campus crimes. The school has refused to turn over any information on their campus police’s 1998 Sandusky inquiry (after which he admitted to showering with boys, said “I wish I were dead,” and went uncharged), claiming it needn’t release the report to a noncriminal justice agency, per state law.
Now, they can be compelled to provide it.
Also within the grand jury findings were one victim’s descriptions of interstate trips provided by Sandusky, on which he says he was molested. He was taken to the Outback Bowl in Tampa in 1998 and the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio in 1999. This would appear to be in obvious violation of the Mann Act, which makes a federal crime of transporting for the purpose of illegal sex acts.
Use of the internet to communicate across state lines in the commission of crimes falls under federal criminal jurisdiction, as well. NBC News reported Friday that, incredibly, Sandusky had the use of a Penn State email account from shortly after his arrest to as recently as two weeks ago. The silver lining of that shocking fact is that any communications in that time are subject to subpoena.
The half-hearted effort to bring justice for Sandusky’s victims has gone on long enough. After years of feigned ignorance, deaf ears and outright enabling at every level of a public university, every level of a sinister charity, and every level of local and state law enforcement all the way up to the current governor of Pennsylvania, it is past time that the larger case be advanced.
There will be new questions asked by some very serious people, and new answers provided.
Answers too many have not wanted to get.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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