Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett Is Cleared of the Child Abuse Conspiracy Theory

           Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has issued a report clearing her predecessor, current Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, of absurd accusations he delayed his investigation as Attorney General of child abuse by former Pennsylvania State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky for political reasons.

            The Commonwealth’s first elected Democratic chief prosecutor promised during her campaign for Attorney General in 2012 to investigate the investigation by her predecessor and his subordinate prosecutors.  The long-awaited report into possible delays by Corbett and its subordinates itself took almost a year and a half.  It found no evidence that anyone had willfully delayed the investigation.

            The conspiracy theory was that the investigation was delayed for political reasons, specifically that the prosecution of the case was delayed to avoid negative political reactions, either from Penn State football fans or donors to the alleged perpetrator’s charity.  As far as conspiracy theories go, this one was even more cynical, devoid of evidence and reliant on a series of assumptions than usual.

            As a prosecutor, Corbett was scrupulously non-partisan.  He had investigated, prosecuted and won convictions of both Democratic and Republican state legislators, including former Speakers of the House from each party.  Even as Governor, Corbett is not political, as his style of governance and public relations reflect his career as a prosecutor.  Indeed, his current low showing in public opinion polls demonstrate how apolitical he is.  Furthermore, the prosecutors working under him in the Attorney General’s office were career prosecutors, not political appointees.

            As a political candidate in 2010, Corbett might just as much have had a political motivation to prosecute a celebrity like Sandusky to draw more attention to his campaign, as prosecutors are often accused in such cases, as not to prosecute.  Furthermore, it is well known that cover-ups do not work and would have exposed Corbett and his subordinates to serious consequences.  Also, there is apparently more benefit in terms of public opinion to go overboard in the opposite direction in order to appear to be extremely concerned with the alleged victims, such as by assuming the credibility of every accusation of child abuse, treating the accused as necessarily guilty, convicting everyone around the alleged perpetrator through guilt by association and sympathizing unquestionably with the alleged victims, such as the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees apparently have done, like others when faced with such a public relations crisis, as no one wants to appear in the slightest not to be against child abuse, regardless of the veracity of all of the allegations and no matter how unfair it is to the accused or anyone associated with him.  The concern for erring to the safe side in regard to serious accusation is understandable, but the double standard is that it is not a concern for public opinion that leads to wrongs to which these critics object, only certain actions or omissions based upon such a concern. 
            The conspiracy theorists assume the apolitical Corbett would have been micromanaging his statewide gubernatorial campaign, while continuing his full-time job as Attorney General, to such a degree to know who was donating what and would also have had to have known that the donors were also members of the suspect’s charitable organization, something which would have required access to the charity’s membership list in order to cross-check it with a donor list, as donors are not required to provide a list of organizations to which they belong.  The conspiracy theorists also cynically assume that these philanthropists who were donating to help children would necessarily have been upset with the prosecutors instead of with the alleged perpetrator of the child abuse, if they believed the charges were credible. 

            This last element of the theory is a tacit acknowledgement on the part of the conspiracy theorists that one witness would not have been credible, which is why a stronger case was built with more credible witnesses, which was successful in winning convictions on the overwhelming majority of the more than 40 charges. Corbett and his subordinate prosecutors judged their case would have been weak with only one witness, in whom they did not have sufficient confidence, especially against a celebrity.  In my experience of having worked with victims and witnesses, victims of various kinds of abuse usually change their minds and opt not to testify.  Prosecutors try only to bring cases to prosecution that they believe have a reasonable chance of success.  No one today defends the perpetrator because of the strength of the prosecution. 

            Regardless of why the case took as long as it did to investigate, it is important to note no one was allegedly abused by the perpetrator during the investigation, meaning that the long time the investigation took to achieve a successful prosecution did not result in any further child abuse.  

           The report demonstrates how cynical, partisan and foolish the conspiracy theorists are and how partisan and ideologically biased many of Governor Tom Corbett’s critics are.

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