Like most of you, I’ve been grinding my teeth at each new austerity measure enacted by our governor, Tom Corbett. The man is on a mission — an escalating series of reverse-Robin Hood maneuvers designed to take from the poor (and the elderly, and the school kids, and immigrants, and … well, everyone) and give the proceeds to his rich friends and contributors.
The mega-rich gas drillers raping our natural resources upstate at Marcellus Shale get a pass — no fees or taxes — while the state’s school systems go under and state colleges get by on far less than they need. The governor’s reasoning here is that if we don’t give away the store to the drillers, they’ll pick up their equipment and move to neighboring New York or West Virginia.
Marcellus Shale represents perhaps the largest pocket of natural gas anywhere in the country, and a cash cow for decades for those drillers, their investors and the peripheral businesses that stand to benefit. Other states with exploitable natural resources — Texas and Alaska come to mind — charge a pretty penny to those corporations for the privilege. Those states then use the windfall to pay for things like schools, roads, and maybe even the lowering of property taxes.
This is not a crushing burden on those companies. With the vast amounts of money to be made, those state taxes and fees amount to a small drop in a very large bucket. But here in Pennsylvania, not only do corporations eat free, Corbett has gleefully ignored the environmental and human costs, gutting regulations that would at least keep those corporations from poisoning our air and water for generations.
He’s cut off the money to public schools, made college an unreachable goal for thousands of Pennsylvania families, sat on his hands as Attorney General even with the full knowledge of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes at Penn State, and given us the new voter ID law, the most insidious violation of citizens’ basic rights and dignity since “Colored Only” water fountains.
For these, and a thousand other reasons, there’s only one recourse left for those of us who wish to live in a free commonwealth that lives up to our state constitution: Impeach Tom Corbett.
Yes, impeach him. Storm the castle with pitchforks and torches and throw the bum out on his ear.
Turns out, though, that I’m not the first to come up with this idea. Type “Impeach Corbett” into your favorite Web browser, and you’ll be as surprised as I was. Several petitions to oust Corbett can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Change.org and ipetitions.com. The Internet is bursting with Pennsylvania residents who’ve had the idea for months — some who started their petition drives not long after he took office.
Is success just a matter of the number of signatures collected? Frankly, no.
Unlike states whose constitutions allow for a popular recall vote, like the one mounted earlier this year in Wisconsin to recall Gov. Scott Walker, Pennsylvania depends upon its legislature, specifically the House, to present articles of impeachment.
Because of the Republican legislative majority, there’s probably little chance of getting articles of impeachment through the House, let alone an actual up or down vote. That fact, however, should not stop us from trying.
If enough Democrats in the House are courageous enough to take up the banner, it is possible that even the threat of impeachment will be enough to punish, harass and embarrass the governor into doing the right thing — especially since that embarrassment would come in the middle of an important election season.
Corbett has laid waste to the commonwealth’s constitution, the very document he swore to defend. He has time and again violated present law and common decency in his ongoing effort to make sure his cronies and contributors get fat while the rest of Pennsylvania starves to death.
So how about it, progressive House members? Will you continue to roll over, keeping silent while Corbett and his GOP minions shred your constituents’ state-guaranteed safety net, gut the education treasury in favor of school vouchers and poison our environment?
It will only take a few of you. Get your legislative aides to compile a list of Corbett’s most egregious constitutional violations, and they are myriad — and prepare the articles of impeachment.
Make your colleagues across the aisle defend the indefensible, while hitching their careers and political futures to a callous, partisan hatchet man. Make Corbett look the old folks and school children in the eye while he cuts their throats.
Even if we fail to ultimately impeach him, it will be an effort well spent.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
A new scathing report on how Penn State University handled allegations of child sexual abuse by a former assistant football coach show a serious failure of moral leadership by the university’s senior officials.
Penn State University’s senior officials and the school’s legendary head football coach, the late Joe Paterno, kept child abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky quiet for more than a decade, leaving him free to prey on other boys, according to a report released last week.
Former FBI director and federal Judge Louis Freeh said the most “saddening and sobering” finding from his group report into the Sandusky child sex scandal is Penn State senior leaders’ “total disregard” for the safety and welfare of the ex-coach’s child abuse victims.
Freeh said that the “most powerful men at Penn State failed” to take any steps for 14 years, referring to Paterno, ex-President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and former senior vice president Gary Schultz.
The investigation concluded that the senior officials ‘concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse” because they were worried about bad publicity.
“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse, “ the report said.
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month of 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 victims during a span of 15 years.
Sandusky can not be the only one held accountable.
More must be done to send a strong and clear message that intuitional leaders can not abdicate their responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of children.
The NCAA must do its own investigation and impose the toughest penalties.
The state must pursue the possibility of criminal charges against former senior leaders at Penn State.
The scandal led to the ouster of Paterno and Spanier
A change in leadership at Penn State is not enough.
Penn State also needs a change in culture. The university should strip away all its associations with Paterno and remove his name from buildings and anything else bearing his name.
The university’s misplaced priorities gave Paterno too much power and made the entire university subservient to its football program.
Although the report showed no evidence that the Penn State Board of Trustees was aware of the allegations regarding Sandusky until this year the board can not escape criticism.
In the future the university’s board of trustees must exercise a more active oversight role.
Penn State University is a fine institution of higher education that lost its moral compass in the pursuit of the money and prestige of college football.
Penn State has to put education first again.
Every day in America, more than 2,000 people go missing, leaving family members and friends to grapple with images of where they are and what might have happened to them. More often than not, loved ones have little time to worry: in the majority of cases — from 50 to 80 percent — the person reported missing is returned home — or comes back of their own accord — within 48 hours of vanishing.
Less often, absence turns to tragedy, and police are given the unenviable task of notifying a family that the object of their search — a child, a spouse, a parent — has met a violent end.
But the families of a tiny number of missing people — by some accounts less than one percent — never get that closure, as months, years and eventually decades go by with no sign of their loved one, or his or her body. It’s as if the victims in these cases (if they are in fact victims at all) simply vanished into thin air.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, April 16, 2005, as police and friends scrambled to determine the whereabouts of Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, his live-in girlfriend Patty Fornicola would have had no idea she was about to join the ranks of these long-term dispossessed. Gricar had gone missing less than 24 hours earlier.
Fornicola and Gricar had been living together in her childhood home in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, for the past three years, and with just months to go to Gricar’s retirement, the two had been eagerly discussing their plans to travel the country. By all accounts, the DA was looking forward to his impending freedom.
So when he failed to return home or answer his phone Friday night after a day of playing hooky from work, Fornicola — niece of a former Bellefonte mayor and a well-liked fixture in the community — notified police and colleagues at the courthouse where she had worked alongside Gricar. Within the hour police put out a BOLO — or “be on the look-out” report — and began retracing Gricar’s steps.
The last time Fornicola had spoken to him, at 11:15 that morning, Gricar said he was taking a drive on Highway 192 towards Lewisburg, where the couple liked to go antiquing. Investigators initially suspected that the prosecutor — who liked to drive fast — may have been in an accident, so they began a detailed search of the area around his last reported location. The next morning they commenced an intensive air and ground search using a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft.
But it was a State Police corporal taking a shortcut to his barracks who would discover Gricar’s 2004 red Mini Cooper Saturday evening, sitting in a parking lot outside a row of antique stores in Lewisburg.
A search of the car revealed nothing untoward; there was no forced entry. Gricar’s county-issued cell phone was sitting in the center console. It had been turned off. There was a faint smell of tobacco smoke and a speck of cigarette ash on the passenger seat — which seemed odd to people who knew him, since Gricar was a non-smoker and was said to be meticulous about his vehicle.
In the weeks and months that followed, the case gained national notoriety as police tracked down dead-end leads, turned up inexplicable clues and struggled to develop a working theory of what might have happened to Gricar.
Witnesses surfaced who claimed to have seen Gricar the day he disappeared, browsing antiques with a “mystery woman.” Even stranger, a subsequent search of his house revealed that his government-issued laptop — which he rarely used anymore — was missing, and it was revealed that before disappearing, Gricar had conducted an Internet search on “How to fry a hard drive.” When his laptop turned up in the Susquehanna River, missing its hard drive, investigators didn’t know what to think. The subsequent discovery of the hard drive added little to the mystery, since experts were unable to retrieve its contents.
Yet for every strange turn the case took, there was a plausible answer. Gricar was retiring, colleagues said, it made perfect sense he would want to wipe his hard drive. As for the mystery woman, maybe she wasn’t a mystery at all, but just a random shopper whom Gricar had engaged in conversation. There was no shortage of conjecture about what did or did not happen to Ray Gricar, but very little in the way of concrete evidence.
Within weeks of his disappearance, police had formulated three possible scenarios of what happened to the prosecutor: he was murdered — perhaps as a result of his longtime work as a prosecutor; he committed suicide — just as his older brother Roy, who suffered from depression, had done years earlier; or, he simply decided to walk away from it all and start a new life.
“Most people in Bellefonte and Centre County thought he’d walked away, that he’d planned the entire thing so he could retire without looking over his shoulder the entire time,” said Pete Bosak, a former reporter for Centre Daily Times.
Bosak covered the Gricar disappearance almost exclusively throughout 2005 and 2006, and continued to report on the case until his departure from the paper in September 2008.
“Ray was a highly intelligent individual,” Bosak said, “if he wanted to walk away, he would have been able to pull it off.”
For Gricar’s family, however, conjecture simply wasn’t enough. In a July 2005 press conference, Gricar’s daughter Lara called not knowing what happened to her father “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through.”
“In some ways, it’s worse than having a parent die, I think, because you have no closure,” she said. “I just want to know where my dad is.”
More than six years later, investigators are no closer to answering that question.
Last spring — at Lara’s behest — Gricar was declared legally dead. For his daughter, that may have offered a modicum of the closure she so desperately needed. But with recent revelations that Gricar failed to prosecute Jerry Sandusky when the first reports of indecent sexual contact with a minor surfaced in 1998, the case of the missing DA is being viewed in a new light, with some people looking desperately for a link that most likely isn’t there.
While opinions about what happened to him vary among his friends and peers, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Gricar didn’t seem himself in the weeks and months before he vanished.
Fornicola says she was concerned about his frequent naps and went so far as to suggest he see a doctor. Others say the prosecutor seemed preoccupied, even morose; and he had been spending less time at the office. That’s not especially odd for someone so close to retirement, but even when he was at the office, Gricar seemed to have something on his mind.
“Something was going on with Ray for months before he disappeared — judging by the way he was acting and the breaks he was taking,” said Bozak. “Numerous people told me he was not himself. Something was going on and Ray was well aware of it.”
On one occasion, during a meeting in the chambers of Centre County President Judge Charles C. Brown Jr. one month before he disappeared, Gricar seemed particularly out of sorts. According to Court Administrator Cheryl Spotts, the prosecutor was there to discuss the timing of an upcoming murder trial.
“It just seemed that Ray wasn’t with it,” Spotts said, in an interview with the Centre County Times. “He was just looking around, which kind of shocked me because this was a death-penalty case.”
Things got even stranger when the judge suggested a trial date in October 2005.
“Ray just turned and looked at the bookcases,” Spotts recalled. “He didn’t even look at the judge when he said it. He just said, ‘I won’t be here.’”
By all accounts, that was not normal behavior for the county’s chief prosecutor. Gricar was first elected to the office of District Attorney of Centre County in 1985, and would go on to serve six terms in the role before announcing he would not run for reelection in 2005. He was a popular official, and is described as a dedicated attorney by colleagues, who use words like “ethical” and “meticulous” when talking about him. But he was also a closed person who had, according to Bosak, just two friends.
“Ray was a very hard man to know, and he kept it that way,” Bosak said. “He kept people at arms’ length.”
Nevertheless, as the person closest to him at the time, Fornicola’s concern is telling. Excessive sleeping is one of the tell-tale signs of depression, and the illness has a tendency to run in families. In what Gricar’s nephew Tony Gricar has called an “eerie coincidence,” the DA’s car was found in a setting — near a bridge overlooking the Susquehanna River — strikingly similar to the one where his brother Roy’s was discovered after he killed himself by jumping from a bridge over Ohio’s Great Miami River in 1996. Divers scoured the Susquehanna for any sign of Ray Gricar, but turned up nothing. Bellefonte police have noted that under the right circumstances a body falling into the river could conceivably never be found.
The Sandusky Angle
The Gricar case reentered the news cycle soon after the Sandusky story broke — some six months after Gricar was declared dead. On November 4, 2011, the Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator had been indicted on 40 counts of child molestation. Thirteen years earlier, Gricar chose not to pursue a case against Sandusky for a single incident that took place in a Penn State shower room involving an 11-year-old boy. According to the indictment against him, Sandusky admitted showering with the boy and bear hugging him naked. He told the boy’s mother he had showered with other boys in the past and said: “I understand. I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness.”
Much has been made of Gricar’s decision not to pursue a case against Sandusky.
“People are baffled as to why Gricar did not further the investigation against Sandusky in 1998,” said Matt McClenahen, an attorney who practices in State College. “One thing we do know is that it had nothing to do with Penn State or Sandusky’s position. Gricar had no connection to Penn State as an alumnus or fan, and had prosecuted people connected to Penn State in the past.”
In his defense, colleagues have insisted that if Gricar didn’t move forward, it’s because he didn’t believe he could make a legal case for sexual abuse. A recent interview with former University Park Detective Ronald Schreffler, who investigated the 1998 case against Sandusky, sheds some light.
In December, Schreffler told The Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the state Department of Public Welfare failed to level a charge of abuse in the case, which would have made Gricar’s job difficult if he chose to prosecute anyway.
“It’d be a little hard for them to prosecute, when you have the state saying there wasn’t any abuse,” said Schreffler.
Whatever the feelings about his decision to let Sandusky off the hook, evidence that Gricar’s disappearance is related to the coach’s current troubles is non-existent. After all these years with no answers, it’s tempting to latch onto any development and mine it for gold, but sources dismiss any notion that the two cases are linked.
“I can tell you with near certainty that there is absolutely no connection between the disappearance of Ray Gricar and the Sandusky case,” said McClenahen. “This is not the first time that Gricar’s disappearance has been linked to cases he either prosecuted or investigated.”
Meanwhile Bellefonte police continue to track down any and all leads that might shine some light on the DA’s whereabouts, or the location of his body.
When asked about the likelihood of a resolution, Bozak said that if police don’t solve the mystery of Ray Gricar, it won’t be from lack of trying.
“These aren’t the type of people who are going to give up — you may not hear much, because there’s not much going on, but I know these guys, and I can tell you this has not fallen by the wayside.”
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Decked out in Penn State hats and jackets, students and townspeople stood in a line more than a quarter-mile long Tuesday to pay their respects to Joe Paterno, the coach who for nearly a half century was the face of their university.
Mourners waited for hours along a main campus artery for the chance to file past Paterno's closed brown casket at the campus spiritual center during a public viewing session. Some departed crying. All were moved.
"He was my hero. He was my hero. I had to come," said a sobbing Gloria Spicer, who was freshman in 1966 when Paterno started his first season as head coach at Penn State. The 85-year-old Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football history, died Sunday of lung cancer. He had been fired just days before learning of his diagnosis in November.
"He was a teacher to me," Spicer said. "He taught me to be a better person and a better teacher."
Spicer and others walked slowly past the undraped casket which had an "honor guard" of two Penn State players — one past and one present. Six feet away, a stylized, black-and-white photo of a smiling Paterno, arms crossed in front of his chest, sat on an easel.
Large windows bathed the white-walled hall in light on an overcast afternoon. Some of Paterno's family attends church services there.
Members of the public were preceded by the Paterno family — the coach's son, Scott, was seen at the gathering — along with current and former players. The current Nittany Lions wore dark suits and arrived in three blue Penn State buses, the same ones that once carried Paterno and the team to games at Beaver Stadium on fall Saturdays.
Among the former players was Mike McQueary. As a graduate assistant to Paterno in 2002, he went to the coach saying he had witnessed former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky assaulting a boy in the shower at the Penn State football building. Paterno relayed that to his bosses — including the head of campus police — but university trustees felt he should have done more, and it played into their decision to oust the longtime coach on Nov. 9. That came four days after Sandusky was arrested on multiple child sex-abuse counts.
Dressed in a blue coat and tie with a white shirt, the school colors, McQueary was among thousands of expected mourners at an event that was to stretch late into Tuesday night.
One current and one former team member will stand guard over the casket for the duration of the public viewing, athletic department spokesman Jeff Nelson said.
"Going in there, waiting two hours in line, it was worth every second of it," Penn State junior Rob Gressinger said. "It helps in the grieving process for everybody and I hope the rest of the people that are waiting in line longer than I did, get to experience the same thing."
Earlier Tuesday, a line of ex-players stretched around the corner and down the block. Among the mourners were former Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers great Franco Harris. Others there included NFL receivers Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, Norwood's father and Baylor assistant coach Brian Norwood and former quarterback Daryll Clark.
The event marked the first of three days of public mourning as the Penn State community in State College and beyond said goodbye to the man who led the Nittany Lions to 409 wins over 46 years and raised the national profile of the school.
There is another public viewing Wednesday at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, and after that Paterno's family will hold a private funeral and procession through State College.
On Thursday, the school's basketball arena will be the site of a public service called "A Memorial for Joe." Tickets were quickly snapped up for the event, even though there was a two-per-person limit for those ordering.
Former players began arriving shortly after members of Paterno's last team filed in. Some players hugged, and new Penn State coach Bill O'Brien shook hands with others at the curb outside the center.
Penn State linebacker Khairi Fortt recalled his coach's lessons.
"He said the most important thing for us was to keep the Penn State tradition going," the sophomore from Stamford, Conn., said after leaving the viewing.
Scott Paterno has said that despite the turmoil surrounding his termination from the school, Joe Paterno remained peaceful and upbeat in his final days and still loved Penn State.
Bitterness over Paterno's dismissal has turned up in many forms, from online postings to a rewritten newspaper headline placed next to Paterno's statue at the football stadium blaming the trustees for his death. A headline that read "FIRED" was crossed out and made to read, "Killed by Trustees." Lanny Davis, lawyer for the school's board, said threats have been made against the trustees.
Scott Paterno, however, stressed his father did not die with a broken heart and did not harbor resentment toward Penn State.
"His legacy is still going to be filled with the great things that he did. Look at this place," 1969 Penn State graduate Tom Sherman said before tearing up. "It's like he's part of your life. I admire that guy so much." -- (AP)
Needless to say this is a sad day for Penn State fans. It’s a tough pill to swallow for many people who follow the Nittany Lions football team. According to a scathing internal report issued on Thursday, Joe Paterno and other Penn State officials hushed up child sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago for fear of bad publicity, allowing Sandusky to prey on other youngsters.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said former FBI director Louis Freeh, who was hired by university trustees to look into what has become one of the sports’ biggest scandals. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
This is a huge scandal. That’s going to take a long time for people to get over. Penn State was held in such high regard when it comes to intercollegiate sports. The school had a tremendous image not only in the sports community, but in general as well.
You have to wonder how they’re going to climb out of this situation. How does a major Division I program regain its good name along with the trust of parents who would send their kids to Penn State? That’s a good question. The best thing to do is to accept this report in the spirit that it was given and then move closer toward community service, particularly in regard to youngsters.
It’s not about winning football games now. It’s not about packing Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley on Saturday afternoons in the fall or going to bowl games in January. They can sell as many season tickets as they want, but they have to rebuild their image. That takes a lot of time, work and effort. It’s not going to happen overnight.
Of course, the school is probably thinking about the possible civil suits that could come with this report or if the NCAA is going to come down on them. But they need to look past that. They need a long range approach to their long range problem.
The school should reach out to community-based organizations that work with children who have been abused. Penn State should utilize some of its resources toward making a difference with various community groups. Football brings in a lot of money for Penn State. The school makes plenty of money from television, radio, ticket sales, merchandising and other avenues. It’s time to use some of that money in a positive way that wouldn’t be self serving, but in a way that shows a genuine concern for the lives of young people.
It’s hard to say how long the healing process from this stinging report will take. Scandals eventually heal over time. Right now, Penn State has to make sure the school does the right things going forward.
Associated Press contributed to this story.
Pa. sex offenders with out-of-state convictions must now register
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams had high praise for a new measure enacted this week by Governor Tom Corbett which closes loopholes in Megan’s Law that made it easier for transient or out of state sex-offenders to avoid registering with local law enforcement agencies.
Williams, who is chair of the legislative committee of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, said that closing the loopholes was the primary legislative priority of the Association.
“If you are a sex offender, you must register, and failing to do so is a felony,” Williams said in a press release. “And know this; we will prosecute you if you break the law again.”
Corbett signed the measure into law on Wednesday. The proposal, known as Senate Bill 1183, known as the “Adam Walsh” bill, expands and strengthens the Commonwealth’s current Megan’s Law. Under the previous inception of the law, loopholes existed that allowed out of state or transient sex offenders to ignore registering their residencies, school or work addresses with law enforcement.
“Megan’s Law is named for Megan Kanka, a New Jersey child murdered by a sexual predator. The Adam Walsh Law, as most everyone knows, is named for a Florida boy who was kidnapped at a department store and then murdered,” Corbett said in a press release. “Megan’s and Adam’s families advocated for the bills named for their children.
“Children are irreplaceable. But we can hope that by making our laws tougher, we can spare others the pain and grief that has visited too many families in the many years since we named laws in memory of these lost youngsters.’’
The new legislation also makes it a felony for a teacher, coach, or school employee to engage in sexual relations with any student with whom they have direct contact. It also brings Pennsylvania into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act requirements. The new measure comes on the heels of child sexual abuse allegations against former Penn State University assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and new accusations against longtime Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist Bill Conlin.
“It is critical that our laws are tough on sex offenders, and do not permit them to evade registration requirements,” Williams said. “The registration of a convicted sex offender is not only an important tool for law enforcement agencies, it’s also a necessary key for a community’s sense of well being, and I am pleased the General Assembly and Governor worked so hard to enact this legislation.”
This week the first lawsuit was filed against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing a young boy more than 100 times after meeting him through the charity he founded.
And, allegedly, Sandusky also threatened the boy’s family to keep him quiet about the encounters.
But beyond the accusations, what kind of a man or woman takes a sexual interest in a child? What kind of a person is capable of such things?
Kenneth V. Lanning, a former FBI agent now a consultant on the issue of crimes against children, said in a recent report for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that many adults who abuse children sexually were abused themselves when they were children. He said they operate in environments where they have easy access to children.
“The myth of the typical child molester as the dirty old man in the wrinkled raincoat has been re-evaluated based on what we have learned about the kinds of people who sexually victimize children,” Lanning said in his report, Child Molesters: A Behavior Analysis. “Child molesters can look like anyone else and even be someone we know and like. It is important to realize that to refer to someone as a pedophile is to say only that the individual has a sexual preference for children. It says little or nothing about the other aspects of his character and personality. Pedophiles span the full spectrum from saints to monsters. In spite of this fact, over and over again pedophiles are not recognized, investigated, charged, convicted or sent to prison simply because they are ‘nice guys.’”
Lanning said that acquaintance molesters remain one of the most challenging manifestations of sexual victimization of children for society to face. He said that people seem more willing to regard the sinister, unknown individual or “stranger” as a predator.
Sandusky allegedly used The Second Mile, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children, as his means of opportunity. Former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine allegedly targeted ball boys.
Here in Philadelphia, an investigation by the Grand Jury revealed several Catholic priests who sexually molested children for years and Church officials knew and took no serious action. Three priests, Edward Avery, Charles Engelhardt, James Brennan and parochial school teacher, Bernard Shero, have been charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and related charges. Monsignor William Lynn, secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults.
“The rapist priests we accused were well known to the Secretary of Clergy, but he cloaked their conduct and put them in place to do it again,” said District Attorney Seth Williams in a previous interview. “The procedures implemented by the Archdiocese to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers, and the Archdiocese itself. Worst of all, apparent abusers remain on duty in the Archdiocese, today, with open access to new young prey.”
In his report, Lanning said that it is common for large organizations, like the Catholic Church or universities, to simply remove the accused, spin the issue for the media or perform damage control and then forget about the problem.
“Acquaintance molesters often gain access to children through youth-serving organizations,” Lanning said. “The acquaintance molester, by definition, is one of us. He is not simply an anonymous, external threat. He cannot be identified by physical description and, often, not even by ‘bad’ character traits. Without specialized training or experience and an objective perspective, he cannot easily be distinguished from others. These kinds of molesters have always existed, but society, organizations and the criminal-justice system have been reluctant to accept the reality of these cases. When such an offender is discovered in our midst, a common response has been to just move him out of our midst, perform damage control, and then try to forget about it.”
According to Lanning, children who have been sexually abused often experience a range of difficulties throughout their lives. In his report he stated that some form of child abuse is reported every ten seconds and about 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the cycle. He said that 14 percent of all men in prison in the nation were abused as children.
Is child sexual abuse on the rise? Some experts think so. Nancy McBride, national safety director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said that over the years the organization has handled more that 1.2 million reports of child molestation, child pornography, online enticement and other offenses. She said the organization’s staff has reviewed and analyzed more than 56 million images of child pornography and assisted law enforcement with over 178,000 cases.
“Is child sexual abuse on the rise or is it just more reporting? I think it’s a little of both,” said McBride. “When you factor in the Internet, which offers sexual predators easy access to unsuspecting children, that also adds to the numbers. Another piece of this is that society doesn’t want to accept the fact that the danger isn’t some scary unknown person but someone who is close to the child — it’s someone that they know. What signs can parents or guardians look for to indicate maybe their child has been molested? Look for changes in behavior, say if your child is an extrovert and suddenly they seem to be more introverted. Parents should always do their due diligence regarding people who have contact with their kids. Not to disparage the many, many people who do work with children and genuinely care about them. But we need to be aware that the danger isn’t the scary person hiding in the shadows.”
More than once over the past week I’ve been approached with speculation that at least some of the kids allegedly abused by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky may have been Black.
Because Second Mile, the foundation Sandusky founded, and from whose participants he chose his prey, has several programs targeting at-risk youth, it’s a reasonable assumption, the speculation goes, that some of Sandusky’s victims could be children of color.
At first blush, it seems logical enough. A disproportionate number of at-risk kids, those who live in poverty, or don’t get enough to eat, or have troubled home lives, are children of color.
But that fact alone — even if true — doesn’t substantially change the story, at least not for me. If the allegations graphically described in the grand jury presentment are true, then Sandusky is an absolute monster. No amount of prison time is sufficient to cover those crimes.
Just hearing the details of what he is accused of doing to those boys makes me re-think my anti-death penalty position. Some people, it turns out, just need killing. If he’s guilty, then lethal injection is too good for him. I’d not only be in favor of bringing back Ol’ Sparky, I’d throw the switch and pay the electric bill.
But that would be true no matter his victims’ skin color. Some acts are so evil; they transcend any human traits or cultural distinctions. Remember Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who cooked and ate several of his victims? Some of those victims were nonwhite, but that fact doesn’t add or subtract from the horrors he committed.
Realistically, we will probably never know the race of most of the kids involved — between sealed court records, grand jury secrecy, gag orders, and the natural reluctance of victims to go public in high-profile cases like this, it’s unlikely that we’ll someday have a comprehensive list with photos to compare the victims’ ethnicities.
And I don’t know for sure that even if we had such a list, it would do much good. But as long as we’re engaging in wild speculation, I can see how that bit of information could prove useful.
Every predator — whether a wanted serial killer or a low-rent purse snatcher — picks their victims with care. They certainly don’t want to get caught, and will choose their prey based on what they perceive as a low level of resistance, (like picking on little old ladies if you’re a purse snatcher) and of course, a fair certainty they’ll get away with it.
If there were some way to prove that Sandusky picked poor Black kids deliberately because he figured they’re less likely to snitch, and less likely to be believed even if they do, well, that little peek into his psyche would be enlightening. And because white men throughout history have used Black men, women and children for easy sexual gratification without guilt or consequence, perhaps that could be seen as an extension of that slave master mentality.
Or if he admitted to a simple matter of believing that the innocence of a Black child is less important than that of a white one. Especially if your way of thinking is that these kids are damaged anyway — so one more indignity won’t matter much. That too, would provide some insight into the twisted mind of a monster, and may even explain some of his actions.
Given what we already know though, that’s not likely either.
Sandusky has already begun conducting interviews proclaiming his unequivocal innocence. He told NBC sports commentator Bob Costas on Monday night that he was certainly not a pedophile, and never sexually assaulted any child.
According to him, all the grand jury witnesses are just plain lying — including a former janitor who had little to lose by coming forward, and a present team employee whose own testimony paints him as a gutless coward who watched a child being raped, then ran back to his office to call his daddy, literally leaving the child in the clutches of a sick maniac.
I have never seen a child raped, thank God, and I hope I never do. But I’m pretty sure that were I to witness such an atrocity, I’d know the difference between what I saw and wrestling or innocent horseplay.
Race, in this instance, is irrelevant. The real tragedy here is that it took 15 years to get around to stopping this fiend, when it could have ended so much sooner, with fewer kids whose innocence, trust, and sense of right are forever lost.
From sex scandals to revolutions and natural disasters, the top ten national and international stories of 2011 had it all. The Tribune compiled a synopsis of its top ten stories.
9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden killed by U.S.
A Navy SEAL team shot and killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 1 at his hideout in Pakistan. He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea.
Penn State sex abuse scandal topples Joe Pa
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 12-year period. He has been charged with 52 counts related to the abuse and is currently free on bail.
The scandal rocked the university, leading to the firing of iconic coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. Both men were fired by the board of trustees on Nov. 9.
Paterno led the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 seasons and had amassed 409 career victories — a Division I record. His dismissal led to riots in State College, as students protested his removal.
Sandusky, 67, who since 1977 headed up a charity for trouble children called the Second Mile, has maintained his innocence.
Occupy Wall Street spread inequity protests to more than 200 cities worldwide
Demonstrators first gathered Sept. 17, in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district to protest against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations — particularly from the financial services sector — on government. Under the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” the protests in New York City have sparked similar protests and movements around the world.
Arab Spring spreads across the Middle East
A wave of protests rolled across the Middle East, leading to revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and civil war in Libya. In addition, there was major civil unrest in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen along with protests in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman.
Demonstrators shared frustration at growing economic inequity in all of those countries and well as oppressive regimes. The most famous of the protests took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of protestors forced out dictator Hosni Mubarak with largely peaceful demonstrations.
Boxing legend Joe Frazier dies
Former Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier died from liver cancer at 67 on Nov. 7.
Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, and long a fixture in Philadelphia, Frazier became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Turning pro, he beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1971, the first man to do so. But, Frazier held the title for just four fights.
The two men battled it out three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines in an epic battle dubbed “the Thrilla in Manila.” They went 41 rounds together. Neither gave an inch, and both gave it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
In the end, the two sworn enemies forgave each other. Both are members of the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Black Republican Herman Cain flames out as possible Republican nominee
Pizza mogul Herman Cain, briefly considered the likely Republican nominee for president, dropped out of the campaign on Dec. 4, as charges of sexual impropriety grew.
In his announcement, Cain said he decided to drop out to avoid news coverage that was hurtful to his family.
His decision came five days after an Atlanta-area woman claimed she and Cain had an affair for more than a decade, a claim that followed several allegations of sexual harassment against the Georgia businessman.
The businessman had surged in polls until news surfaced in late October that he had been accused of sexual harassment by two women during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Casey Anthony declared innocent in death of her daughter
The Florida mom on trial for killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008 was acquitted July 5 after the jury deliberated for 11 hours. The 25-year-old had been charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Instead, she was convicted of only four counts of lying to investigators looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter Caylee. The tot’s body was found in the woods six months later and a medical examiner was never able to determine how she died.
Jailed since August 2008, Anthony was sentenced to four years but left jail July 17 for time served.
Steve Jobs, Apple founder dies
Apple founder, technological and business guru Steve Jobs died Oct. 5 at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer. He had been fighting the disease since 2004.
Jobs’ death created a huge outpouring of emotion with mourners who lauded him as a visionary and turned Apple stores across the country into impromptu memorials.
Earthquake strikes Japan
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on March 11, triggering a deadly tsunami that washed far inland, swamping towns, sweeping away a train and sparking massive fires, including one at a major nuclear plant.
The quake ultimately claimed nearly 20,000 lives and caused an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, after waves knocked out the cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing it to spew radiation that turned up in local produce. About 100,000 people evacuated from the area have not returned to their homes. Traces of radioactive materials linked to the accident were detected as far away as Massachusetts.
The offshore quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time at a depth of 24 kilometers about 125 kilometers off the coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. representative from Arizona
Forty-one-year-old Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the lawmaker and members of her staff. Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner, who was quickly captured and imprisoned while being evaluated to determine if was mentally incapable of participating in his defense.
It took more than seven months for her recovery. She returned to Congress on Aug. 1.
This story has been compiled from Associated reports.
Sometimes, it’s possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, or the wrong thing for the most righteous of reasons.
It’s also possible that even when someone does the right thing, their motives are questioned — especially when doing the right thing has eluded them in the past.
Which is the position in which Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett now finds himself.
Earlier this week, Corbett filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, saying the college sports governing body overstepped its bounds when it slapped Penn State with a $60 million fine over the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, and only did so to punish the players and enhance their own reputation in the court of public opinion.
“A handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws, and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system,” Corbett said at a news conference on Wednesday announcing the suit.
This is a complete turnaround from his position back when the fines were imposed, when he urged the Penn State faithful to quietly accept the sanctions imposed by the NCAA, which includes heavy recruiting sanctions, and disqualification from bowl games, in addition to the $60 million.
Remembering that Corbett, by dint of his position as governor of the state, is already a Penn State trustee, and approved the sanctions, however unfair and draconian, at the time. It is a fact that gives one pause, as it did members of the alumni organization Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, who also smelled a rat in Corbett’s sudden change of heart.
“If he disapproved of the terms of the NCAA consent decree, or if he thought there was something illegal about them, why didn’t he exercise his duty to act long before now?” the group was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
It is a fair question, and one that conjures up images of a typical political grandstanding maneuver — usually employed to save face, sway public opinion, or deflect attention away from an inconvenient truth.
And while I am usually the first to accuse Corbett of using just such a cynical tactic, I’m going to pause here for a moment and consider the possibility, however remote, that maybe he’s just trying to do the right thing for a change.
Sure, I could employ my own hefty dose of cynicism here, and question whether the lawsuit is a tactical misdirection — and a result of Corbett’s recent blunders: smacked down on his vote suppressing ID laws, failing to deliver the state to Romney, and just last week caught playing footsie with his buddies in the gas industry by taking lavish holidays on gas lobbyists cash.
Not to mention the continued public grumblings that Corbett, as state attorney general, dragged his feet on the Sandusky investigation, and that he continued to support and defend Sandusky’s charity, Second Mile, long after it was known that the founder was a child molesting creep.
It is also fairly well known that the incoming attorney general, Kathleen Kane, made the Sandusky mess a major point in her campaign, promising to shine a light on Corbett’s actions (or inaction) before, during, and after the scandal broke publicly. When she takes office, the sparks are going to fly, and Corbett could find himself facing re-election with the kind of baggage no incumbent wants to explain.
Even taking all this into account, it is still possible that Corbett just now sees the holes in the NCAA’s position. And if his take on the matter is to be believed, the man actually has some valid points.
According to the lawsuit, the NCAA punished Penn State “without citing a single concrete NCAA rule that Penn State has broken, for conduct that in no way compromised the NCAA’s mission of fair competition, and with a complete disregard for the NCAA’s own enforcement procedures.” You can certainly make the case that Sandusky, Spanier, Curley and even Joe Paterno violated any number of laws, but they’re not being punished — the football team, students, alumni and faculty are being punished.
And, if the NCAA can really take $60 million from Penn State alumni and Pennsylvania taxpayers, and redistribute that money around the country for its various projects, you have to admit that sounds more than a little fishy.
So yes, it’s possible that Corbett is onto something. It’s possible he may be filing this lawsuit for all the right reasons, and he just wants fairness for the university, as well as Sandusky’s victims.
Of course, it’s also possible that I’ll be mistaken for Denzel Washington.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.