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1. Busted: Narcotics agent nabs Jerry Sandusky
2. 'JoePa' takes the fall: A slow Tom Corbett throws Joe Paterno under the bus
3. The Magic Moment: Six decades of Pennsylvania governors, AGs, and the state Republican Party
Part 1 The Appointed Years 1950 to 1980 >
Part 2 The Elective Years 1980 to 1995 >
The Magic Moment:
Here come the prosecutors
Six decades of Pennsylvania
Governors, AGs, and the state
Part 2: The Elected AG Years
1980 to 1995
It was an unwritten rule that whenever the police
had evidence on a relative of a politician
the politician would first be told about it
to prevent 'embarrassment.'
Why was that? we asked.
'You want to live, you want to retire, you play ball.'
Read Part 1: The Appointed AG Years here >
Corruption in the Shapp administration, and what to do about it, not only resulted in a constitutional amendment to elect Pennsylvania's attorney general in 1980. It became the preeminent issue in the 1978 campaign for governor to replace Gov. Shapp. Five former prosecutors sought nominations for governor that year.
Richard Thornburgh set the prosecutorial tone on the campaign trail. Thornburgh was a former Nixon-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and a former Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Justice Department's Criminal Division.
The Magic Moment 2
1980 to 1995:
In campaign appearances Thornburgh said he'd counted 60 people who'd either been indicted or convicted during the Shapp administration. Gov. Shapp, for his part, characteristically replied, "Thornburgh says today out of 107,000 or thereabouts state employees there are 60 people who have either been indicted or convicted. Now I think that's a pretty low percentage."
If elected governor, Thornburgh promised, he'd take a get-tough approach of a prosecutor to the state's highest office.
Thornburgh was elected. Under Thornburgh, however, corruption arguably not only got worse, criminal activity became much more vicious and outlandish, and institutionally protected.
The years would prove that a prosecutor by nature is not the most balanced, fair, nor competent individual to place in the highest office. Prosecutors by nature are prosecutorial, accusatory, and often tend to see and present things in stark black and whites, with little or no nuance, nor impulse for the whole truth or fairness.
Most prosecutors (there are exceptions) are not used to telling people to be fair, to listen to all sides, to suspend judgment, or to wait until the jury is in before rushing to judgment, as a leader must often do. Prosecutors, instead, are used to telling a jury to ignore the other side of the story, to render a guilty verdict, and to throw the book at those he or she is prosecuting.
For the next thirty years, beginning with Dick Thornburgh, Pennsylvania would be morally and politically hobbled by a long line of ethically challenged prosecutors either in the governor's office, or vying for the governor's office. Coincidentally or not, Pennsylvania never has been in such a state of moral and political decline as now.
The prosecutors have brought their own peculiar brands of corruption to state government. Cronyism and cover-up, particularly in the justice system and the courts, would become a growing problem. Another big problem would be misuse of the justice system for personal or political ends.
Of these former political prosecutors vying for the governor's office, only one successful candidate -- Ed Rendell -- has not been a Republican.
Since 1980, when the elected AG's office was first filled, there have been four elected state attorneys general: LeRoy S. Zimmerman (1980 to 1987); Ernie Preate (1988 to his indictment in 1995); Mike Fisher (1997 to December 2003); and Tom Corbett (2005 to 2011).
Each of these AGs was caught up in partisan elective politics, and a chase for political cash. Each was also mired in severe criminal, ethical or moral scandals of their own. They each, in their own way, have been disasters for Pennsylvania.
Now, instead of reading about Pennsylvania attorneys general in history texts, the best place to read about them would be in court papers, suicide notes, and FBI transcripts.
At the root of the problem are the political contributions required to finance the political campaigns of an elected AG, and the political network required to protect a tainted elected prosecutor.
Elected prosecutors in the governor's and AG's offices not only create their own peculiar brands of corruption. The remnants of their peculiar misdeeds are strange. They leave behind rather unusual, telltale lumps under the carpet.
When Gov. Dick Thornburgh left office in 1987, he left behind some mighty peculiar lumps under the carpet for his successor, Gov. Bob Casey. It didn't take long for the rather peculiar outlines of some of these lumps to surface under the tightly woven carpeting in the governor's office.
Only two days after Bob Casey was sworn in as governor, the state treasurer, Budd Dwyer, of Meadville, pulled out a .357 Magnum and shot himself to death at a televised news conference.
Moments before killing himself, Treasurer Dwyer implicated Gov. Thornburgh and the state's first elected Attorney General, LeRoy Zimmerman, in a long-running bribery conspiracy, and cover-up of same. Republican Treasurer Dwyer also accused fellow Republicans Thornburgh and Zimmerman of political manipulations of the criminal case that caused Dwyer to dramatically kill himself before the cameras at his spectacular news conference.
As I say, these ill-tempered prosecutors leave behind some rather unusual lumps, and stains, under and on the carpeting of some rather high state offices.
In the office of the state treasurer, I'm told, there's still a plastered-over bullet hole in the wall.
Bob Casey's path to the Pennsylvania governor's office was long and tortuous. He sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1966, and again in 1970. He lost both times to Milton Shapp. In hindsight, it's easy to say that Casey would have made a better governor than Shapp, and would have been a better steward of the commonwealth.
In all likelihood, had Casey been elected instead of Shapp, for example, the state attorney general would have remained an appointed position.
Passed over by voters for the top job, Casey was twice elected to the watchdog role of auditor general, in 1968 and 1972. He took his job seriously, and approached it in a non-partisan manner
Throughout the years of the Shapp administration, in his position as auditor general, Democrat Casey remained the leading critic and whistleblower of the growing corruption in the Democratic governor's office. This kept him in good stead with Democratic and Republican voters alike. The down side? In this period, the 1970s, Casey became too popular. "Bob Casey" would become a name on which others would trade, and capitalize.
The most notorious capitalizer was the late John "Johnny" Durbin, an infinitely interesting character who owned a Harrisburg hotel and watering hole called the Senate Horseshoe Bar. Durbin's bar was known as "The Hatchery." It was a place where plans were hatched. Durbin's bar was a popular hangout of capital city politicos, and even mobsters. (Durbin married the sister of a prominent underworld figure.)
Gov. Bob Casey: staff found telltale lumps under the carpet
In 1976 Johnny Durbin hatched one of the masterstrokes of his career. At the time Bob Casey was in the political wilderness, and was barred from running for a third term as auditor general. One day at his Senate Bar Johnny Durbin announced he was going to get the next state treasurer elected, and it was only going to cost $50. Durbin knew an obscure Johnstown politician named Bob Casey, who was no relation to the popular ex-auditor general. Durbin got the bogus Bob Casey onto the ballot, and the ensuing confusion at the polls saw the unqualified imposter elected state treasurer. For the next four years Johnny Durbin remained the power behind the thrown, and effectively ran the treasurer's office.
Bob Casey, the one from Scranton, thereafter began to be somewhat humorously referred to as The Real Bob Casey. The joke quickly ran thin with Bob.
In 1978, The Real Bob Casey again entered the governor's race to succeed Milton Shapp. This time, a former teacher and an ice cream parlor owner named Robert P. Casey got on to the Democratic ballot for lieutenant governor. Again, without spending any money or campaigning, this unknown Bob Casey won the party's nomination. In doing so he siphoned off enough votes so that The Real Bob Casey lost the gubernatorial nomination to Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty. Flaherty and his running mate, the ice cream impresario Bob Casey, ran unsuccessfully against Dick Thornburgh in the general election.
I was a young newspaper reporter in 1978. That year I covered a televised gubernatorial debate between Dick Thornburgh and Pete Flaherty at the WITF studios in Hershey. I thought Flaherty came off seeming soft, and without focus. Thornburgh seemed sharper, and attacked Flaherty's record like a prosecutor.
I suspected Bob Casey would have mopped the floor with Thornburgh. Casey was a very good extemporaneous speaker, and had a warmth and a natural charm about him. Thornburgh on the other hand came across as plastic, cold, calculating -- a warmed-over Nixon. Behind his five o'clock shadow and trademark round-lens eyeglasses, Thornburgh exuded a coached, calculated warmth. He should never have been left out of his prosecutor's cage, I thought then.
I also think it's safe to say that if Bob Casey had won this 1978 governor's election the state not only would have been in better hands: in hindsight, state Treasurer Budd Dwyer likely would not have ended up shooting himself to death on the floor of the treasury.
By 1980, even Republicans were capitalizing on the astounding popularity of Bob Casey. The fake Bob Casey from Johnstown, now the incumbent state treasurer, stood for re-election. The GOP launched a TV campaign reminding voters "Casey wasn't Casey." This imposter Bob Casey lost in the general election to Budd Dwyer, of Meadville, setting the stage for the memorable GOP blood feud and tragedy involving Dwyer and Gov. Dick Thornburgh.
By 1986, Bob Casey was primed and ready to fight for the governor's office to succeed Thornburgh. This time he ran as The Real Bob Casey. He won the governor's office that November. After twenty years of trying, it was Bob's turn to be governor.
By 1986 I was 28 years old and had been a professional writer for more than ten years. I'd been published in several national magazines, and I'd written and published three or four books.
I'd recently helped a writer and editor at Philadelphia Magazine with an article about the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown. Philadelphia Magazine, in return of favor, asked me to write an article for them. As luck would have it, the magazine editors commissioned me to write a biographic profile of Pennsylvania Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman.
I'd been living in Harrisburg most of my life, and knew lots of people. One of my friends, a young woman named Judy, happened to be the personal secretary to the U.S. attorney in Harrisburg.
My friends and I would visit Judy after work. She'd complain about strange goings on with the federal prosecution of state Treasurer Budd Dwyer.
A few weeks after the November 1986 election state Treasurer Dwyer found himself a criminal defendant in federal court. The U.S. Attorney's office in Harrisburg, where my friend Judy worked, was prosecuting Dwyer on charges of political corruption.
Friends and I would sit in Judy's living room after she got off work and listen to her complain about the obvious political machinations involved in Treasurer Dwyer's well-publicized prosecution. At least one defendant who was politically cozy with the prosecutor and his patron, Gov. Thornburgh, mysteriously got off the indictment. Most upsetting of all, she said, U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese interfered in the case on behalf of Pennsylvania Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman.
Reagan and his AG Ed Meese: U.S. Attorney's staff say Meese interceded in CTA criminal investigation on behalf of political ally PA Attorney General LeRoy Zimmerman
Judy told her friends that U.S. Attorney General Meese telephoned her boss, the acting U.S. Attorney. Meese made it clear that he was unhappy that his friend and political ally, state AG Roy Zimmerman, was being investigated by the Harrisburg U.S. Attorney's office. Meese threatened to personally come to Harrisburg to review the case. The acting U.S. attorney hung up the phone and ran out into the lobby of his office to hang a flattering portrait of Ed Meese, should he arrive.
Meese's overt political intervention came as a bolt from the blue, and had the effect of chilling the U.S. attorney office's investigation of AG Zimmerman in the bribery conspiracy, Judy told us. The acting U.S. attorney and his staff were themselves shocked at the extent to which partisan political connections could interfere with criminal investigations, his secretary was telling us.
As I say, there's 1,001 ways to protect a cat, and U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese -- one of President Ronald Reagan's closest political advisers -- was one of those ways.
In Pennsylvania, politics trumps law.
The case involving Treasurer Dwyer, I already knew from the U.S. attorney's secretary, had been contrived and fixed for political purposes. A few days before Christmas 1986, Dwyer was convicted. He faced 55 years in prison, and the loss of his state pension going back decades to the days he'd taught high school civics classes in Meadville. Simply, as he saw it for his family, he was worth more dead than alive.
As chance would have it, about this time, Governor-elect Casey appointed my father as his chief of staff for his incoming administration. After being out of the governor's office for twenty years, my father was returning.
The political environment and atmosphere my father had known in the 1960s had drastically changed since the days of Gov. Bill Scranton. There was growing corruption, dishonesty, and palpable darkness in state offices, and in the Republican Party.
The incoming Casey administration would discover some rather strange lumps left under the carpet by Dick Thornburgh and Co.
Gov. Thornburgh had overseen a capital expansion project, and the Casey team was mystified to discover piles of unused granite blocks that had been squirreled away up at Fort Indiantown Gap. The oversupply of unused blocks was strangely purchased from contractors by the Thornburgh administration. The expensive granite blocks for some reason never were used in the capitol project, and were instead stashed out of sight. Under the carpet, as it were.
"There are granite blocks up at Fort Indiantown Gap," my father told me one day. He was mystified. You had to wonder what was going on.
The granite blocks would turn out to be the least of the problems left under the rug by Gov. Thornburgh.
Gov. Bob Casey was sworn into office on January 20, 1987. Only two days later, on January 22, Treasurer Dwyer pulled out his .357 Magnum at his news conference and shot himself to death. (Coincidentally, Coach Joe Paterno died on January 22, 2012, 25 years to the day after Treasurer Dwyer's death.)
Gov. Casey's staff was barely in office two days, and was still unpacking. That morning the governor's staff expected a convicted Treasurer Dwyer to resign. Late in the morning word came that the treasurer had dramatically shot himself to death at the news conference after implicating the Gov. Thornburgh and elected Attorney General Zimmerman in criminal misdeeds.
Moments later, a courier arrived in the governor's office. The courier handed my father an envelope from the deceased state treasurer.
Needless to say, everyone was rather perplexed. What was going on?
It would turn out that the state's first elected attorney general, LeRoy Zimmerman, was directly and deeply implicated in the 1980s criminal bribery conspiracy that caused the suicide of state Treasurer Budd Dwyer.
Also involved were Gov. Dick Thornburgh, and his staff.
State Treasurer Dwyer left behind more than a bullet hole in the wall of the treasury, and a grieving family.
Before shooting himself to death with his .357, Dwyer passed out a suicide note. The letter accused his fellow Republicans, AG Zimmerman and Gov. Thornburgh, of some rather awful things.
The systemic corruption scandal that claimed the life of Treasurer Dwyer was known as the Computer Technology Associates (or CTA) case. It involved a cast of dozens of state officials of both parties, wholesale bribery, and a fraudulent contract ultimately signed by Treasurer Dwyer to seek refunds of Social Security overpayments made by thousands of the state's schoolteachers.
Gov. Dick Thornburgh: packed justice system with cronies
In his suicide note Dwyer had lots to say about the intersection of politics and the office of the governor and newly elective office of the state attorney general. Now, instead of reading about Pennsylvania governors and AGs in history texts, we were reading about them in a suicide note written by a state row officer, and splattered with hot blood.
Upon taking office as governor in 1979, former federal prosecutor Thornburgh, Dwyer pointed out, had been deeply involved in the patronage practices of packing the state and federal law enforcement offices with his own dependable cronies. This was done both to advance Gov. Thornburgh's own political agenda, and to protect Thornburgh from investigation by unfriendly (i.e. Democratic) prosecutors, Dwyer charged in his suicide note.
Thornburgh's patronage practices in the law enforcement community actually began when he was U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, Dwyer pointed out, and included repeated hirings of a former Thornburgh assistant prosecutor, James West, also of Pittsburgh. West ended up prosecuting Dwyer. Dwyer said moments before his death:
"It is a matter of public record that West's first job after his judicial clerkship was to be hired by then U.S. Attorney Dick Thornburgh as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania in August of 1974. It is also public information that West's second job was to be hired by then Governor Thornburgh as a Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General on April 2, 1979.
"Then after President Reagan took office in 1981, the Thornburgh group tried to take over the U.S. Attorney's office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania by having another two-time Thornburgh appointee, Henry Barr, appointed as U.S. Attorney. However, Barr was not recommended by the merit Selection Committee and David Dart Queen was nominated and confirmed as the U.S. Attorney."
(Henry Barr, mentioned above, later worked as a drug prosecutor for U.S. Attorney General Thornburgh. Barr would himself in 1990 be indicted for years of cocaine use, and lying about his cocaine use to the FBI. In other words, Barr would be putting people in jail for crimes he himself was committing. The Los Angeles Times summarizes, "The grand jury ... charged Barr with conspiring from at least December, 1984, to January, 1988, with unnamed others to possess and ingest cocaine and conceal the use of the drug at various locations in the Harrisburg area, including private residences. The years included the period Barr served Thornburgh as his counsel in Pennsylvania's capital.")
Dwyer's suicide note continues:
"But Assistant U.S. Attorneys do not have to go through the Merit Selection Committee process and in July of 1982 the Thornburgh group succeeded in having none other than James 'Jimmy' West named First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania with his office right across Capitol Park from Governor Thornburgh's office.
"It was well known in campaign circles in the fall of 1984 that Governor Thornburgh and his top staff members were desperately trying to have U.S. Attorney Queen's announcement of the first CTA indictments delayed until after the November 6, 1984 General Election. They knew, through West, that (state Attorney General LeRoy) Zimmerman's name would be prominently mentioned in the indictment for the first time. They were afraid a pre-election announcement would cause Zimmerman's defeat and that (Democrat) Allen Ertel as Attorney General would conduct an investigation of the Thornburgh Administration's sweetheart, no-bid legal contracts. Queen went ahead with his announcement on October 23, 1984 and Zimmerman almost lost the election. The effort to remove Queen as U.S. Attorney began immediately because he could not be controlled. After a heavy political battle Queen was 'promoted' to a position in the U.S. Treasury Department. It was not the Solicitor's position which he had sought. When Queen departed for Washington in January of 1985, James 'Jimmy' West was named as the acting U.S. attorney by a 4-2 vote of the Federal Judges in the Middle District and Governor Thornburgh had his lackey in charge of the CTA investigation and as we now know, my fate was sealed."
With that, after reading his statement, Budd Dwyer pulled out his .357 and shot himself to death. For good measure, he had another gun, a Derringer pistol, stashed in his boot. The undertaker found it.
The various CTA criminal trials included court testimony that state Attorney General Zimmerman was offered a $150,000 bribe and/or campaign contribution by the co-conspirators in the scandal.
The perpetrators of the bribery conspiracy were two men with ties to both political parties: Dauphin County Republican co-chairman Bill Smith, and John Torquato, Jr, the son of a former Johnstown Democratic political boss.
'I told him I would get Mr. Torquato to put $150,000 in AG Zimmerman's campaign fund'
Before he signed the CTA contract that led to his prosecution and suicide, state Treasurer Dwyer, according to court testimony, insisted that AG Zimmerman issue an opinion that Pennsylvania's 500 some school districts had to deal exclusively with CTA for the Social Security funds recovery. (An FBI document explains, "In effect, they desired to obtain an opinion which would give CTA the sole and exclusive right to make recoveries for all the school districts.")
The court heard testimony that co-conspirator Bill Smith met with two of Zimmerman's top aides in the AG's office and asked for the "exclusivity" opinion. Smith testified he finally telephoned AG Zimmerman personally to move things along.
Before he was elected AG, Zimmerman was the district attorney of Dauphin County. Smith, as co-chairman of the Dauphin County Republican committee, was on close terms with the former Republican Dauphin County DA. Smith, records show, had also been a contributor to Zimmerman's first campaign for attorney general. (During the CTA trial one defense attorney would point out there is "a fine line" between a bribe and a campaign contribution.) AG Zimmerman, Smith testified, said state law prohibited him from issuing such an exclusivity opinion and that the Treasury Department's own counsel should issue the ruling. Smith says he then asked Zimmerman to issue a ruling that the treasurer's counsel could decide exclusivity.
At trial, as the prosecutor was about to move on to other areas of questioning, Smith volunteered more information about his enlightening phone conversation with state AG Roy Zimmerman. Smith said that at the end of the conversation, "Mr. Zimmerman said to me, 'Is Torquato going to make a lot of money on this contract?' And then -- quite shockingly -- he asked, 'How much is Dwyer getting?'"
What was Smith's response? the prosecutor asked.
"I told Mr. Zimmerman that Torquato said he's going to give him (Dwyer) $300,000. If he does give Dwyer $300,000, I'll get him to give you $150,000," court documents say.
Smith said Zimmerman responded by saying, "'I love you Trickett,' and that was the end of the conversation." Trickett is Bill Smith's middle name.
Smith further testified that he met with Zimmerman's press secretary the next day, at which time the opinion and the contribution were again discussed. "I told him I would get Mr. Torquato to put $150,000 in (AG Zimmerman's) campaign fund," Smith testified.
Not long after Dwyer's suicide, a retired state investigator handed me a file folder. The folder was stuffed with FBI documents on the CTA case, as well as an earlier FBI transcript from a late-1970s federal corruption investigation involving LeRoy Zimmerman from his days as Dauphin County DA. The FBI papers document the story behind the cases.
Who had leaked these FBI documents?
FBI agents obviously had leaked them. They were unhappy with the political machinations and cover-ups in both of these cases. By leaking the documents, these investigators were sending a message to the public: Look, there's more to these cases than these political prosecutors are telling you. Look, the prosecutors themselves are involved in crimes. Look, we in the FBI can't do anything about it.
So along with strange, telltale lumps under the carpet, another sign of prosecutorial corruption, and corruption in the justice system, would be ongoing leaks from unhappy state and federal investigators.
Look, they're saying. Look at this:
Former AG LeRoy Zimmerman in his new post as head of the Hershey Trust
The leaked FBI documents I received in 1987 from the CTA case explain that Bill Smith's co-conspirator, John Torquato, told federal investigators "Torquato and Smith hand carried the contract to the attorney general's office and turned the contract over to Michael Trant, a deputy attorney general. The contract was then approved by the attorney general's staff as to its form and legality. Smith told Torquato he had been in touch with the Pennsylvania Attorney General Roy Zimmerman by telephone and had asked for a positive attorney general's opinion concerning the exclusivity of the treasurer's contract. Torquato says he believes this contact was reportedly made just prior to the contract signing as there would have been no reason for any earlier contacts. Smith told Torquato he had offered Zimmerman $100,000 for Zimmerman's campaign in exchange for a positive opinion. Smith told Torquato, 'Roy says he'll handle it.'"
Raw politics, fund raising, and the elected state attorney general's office all coalesced in the CTA bribery case. Simply, none of this would have happened when the office was appointive.
The FBI document mentioned above further relates, "Torquato says he believes Smith's first contact with Zimmerman was before the contract was awarded to CTA because of an experience he, Torquato, had approximately one week prior to the contract signing. Torquato attended the state Republican fundraiser held at the West Shore Country Club in early May, 1984. Torquato was standing near the bar talking with first name unknown) McCartney, an assistant to (state GOP chairman) Robert Asher. Torquato acknowledged he and McCartney were talking candidly about the contract when Attorney General Roy Zimmerman walked up to them. McCartney asked Zimmerman if he knew what they were talking about and Zimmerman acknowledged that he did. Torquato stated at that time he did not know how Zimmerman knew about their efforts to obtain the contract, but indicated he did know. Torquato then told Zimmerman they were having some trouble with Dwyer concerning the contract and 'you'd think when you bribe the son of a bitch, he'd stay bribed.' McCartney laughed out loud while Zimmerman smiled and shortly thereafter walked away. Later, Torquato was upset with himself for making that kind of statement in front of (Attorney General) Zimmerman."
In his lengthy statement delivered to the press on the morning of his suicide, Treasurer Dwyer bitterly complained that elected AG Zimmerman had been deeply involved in the criminal conspiracy but, for political reasons unknown to Dwyer, was protected from prosecution.
Had Dwyer been sitting with the rest of us on the sofa of the U.S. attorney's secretary, he would have understood that AG Zimmerman was protected by a phone call from U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese.
What do these leaked FBI documents tell us about Gov. Dick Thornburgh, his relationship to Budd Dwyer, and Thornburgh's involvement with the CTA bribery case? Quite a bit. The bottom line is troubling.
'The FBI documents suggest that Gov. Thornburgh and his top lieutenants knew about the bribery conspiracy from the get go, as they themselves were offered bribes'
At the time of his suicide, Treasurer Dwyer wrote a letter to the US Senate and House Judiciary Committees to ask for an investigation of the CTA scandal. Dwyer wrote, "bribes had been offered to... members of governor Thornburgh's staff."
The leaked FBI documents bear this out.
The FBI documents suggest that Gov. Thornburgh and his top lieutenants knew about the bribery conspiracy from the get go, as they themselves were offered bribes. Rather than report the bribery conspiracy to law enforcement officials to stop the crime from happening, Thornburgh and his minions suggested that the conspirators take their scheme to Treasurer Budd Dwyer, in an obvious effort to set him up.
In the summer of 1983, conspirators Smith and Torquato contacted newly appointed state Republican Chairman Bob Asher for help with landing the Social Security recovery contract from the Thornburgh administration. One FBI document reads:
Asher had only taken office in June, 1983, and was attempting to set up some rules and regulations. Torquato advised he told Asher there was one-half million dollars available for the Republican coffers if CTA could get the contract to do what the state was presently doing.
The next meeting in this regard was a meeting held in the governor's office attended by Torquato, Smith, Asher, John Pierce of the governor's staff and another unidentified man. Originally the meeting was to be with Jay Waldman of (Governor Richard Thornburgh's) staff, but he canceled out of the meeting at the last minute. He recalled Asher was very angry about Waldman's cancellation. This meeting was a get acquainted and informative meeting and although some indirect comments were made, no direct offers of political contributions were mentioned. Torquato and Smith next met in Asher's office and they decided to more actively pursue the state employees' FICA recovery contract. Asher assisted them in setting up a meeting with Ron Charnock.
The FBI documents relate that Ron Charnock was "Director of Data Processing for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Charnock works for the Governor of Pennsylvania in the Budget Office and is also head of the National Political Resources, Inc., in Alexandria, Virginia." The document continues:
Smith and Torquato met with Charnock in an office located in the Finance Building in the capitol complex at Harrisburg. Torquato stated that this was a definite "pitch" meeting and Smith utilized Asher's name on several occasions. Torquato had already determined how far along the FICA recovery was. Torquato let Charnock know that he knew how politics were played and would make sure the right contributions were made. Smith was more specific and offered a substantial amount of money to the Republican Party if CTA got the contract. Charnock acknowledged this offer but did not accept or decline it.
So Thornburgh's man was offered a bribe, which was not reported to law enforcement. But he did pass along the bribe offer to Thornburgh's staff, documents show.
The Thornburgh administration from the start knew that Smith and Torquato were up to no good, but did nothing until the moment Dwyer fell into the trap. And then they moved fast to ensnare their political enemy, Budd Dwyer, in the criminal conspiracy they'd known about all along.
"Thornburgh and his staff said it to everyone," Bob Asher told me in 1991. "They said it openly. 'We're gonna get the fat fuck'"
"Everybody knew what was going on," former state chairman Robert Asher told me in a 1991 interview for my book Maybe Four Steps. Asher was convicted in the CTA conspiracy along with Treasurer Dwyer.
I first spoke with Bob Asher in 1988, when his appeal was pending. Then he seemed like a man burdened with troubles; then he was cautious about talking. When I interviewed him again in 1991 it was the difference between night and day. The burden clearly lifted from him, he spoke freely, animatedly, emphatically, with the air of a man who'd put much of it behind him.
Asher said he had spoken with many members of the Thornburgh administration about the possibility of Torquato and CTA getting a contract. "They all knew what was going on." He said he'd told top Thornburgh staffer Murray Dickman about Torquato's desire for a contract and Dickman told him, "Be extremely careful. The guy's no good. We prosecuted his father."
Former state party Chairman Asher said it was also no secret in Republican circles why Dwyer was prosecuted. Thornburgh and his staff "hated Dwyer," he said. "He embarrassed Dick's wife and kids." Asher said that Thornburgh and his staff used to call Dwyer "the fat fuck." "They said it to everyone. They said it openly. 'We're gonna get the fat fuck.'"
The leaked FBI documents bear this out.
At the time I was given the above-mentioned FBI documents concerning the CTA case, I was handed another enlightening FBI document. This FBI document implicated Zimmerman in an earlier public corruption investigation from the late-1970s that had been covered up at the time by Zimmerman's local cronies, presumably so that he could run for state attorney general.
LeRoy Zimmerman as Dauphin County DA
The FBI document given me was a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation between the Harrisburg chief of police and his assistant police chief. The Harrisburg police and their supervisors were under investigation for taking money from gamblers. The FBI had secretly recorded the conversation on December 7, 1979. At the time, Zimmerman was district attorney of Dauphin County, in Harrisburg, and was about to launch his ultimately successful campaign to become the state's first elected attorney general.
In the FBI recording, the Harrisburg police chief is heard to say, "I can't see it. I mean, Jesus Christ, they can get LeRoy Zimmerman, they can get any of them guys, if they want to. Look at the money them guys took from gamblers and everything else. Christ, Gekas, look at that money he took from gamblers. Paul Grant and that gang."
George Gekas, alluded to in the recording, at the time was a sitting Republican U.S. congressman.
So, it turned out, the Harrisburg FBI agents and their supervisors in the U.S. Attorney's office had planted a listening device on the chief of police and had dug up a very hot potato. How hot? The recording wasn't even transcribed by the FBI agents for nearly two years, until November 1981 -- almost a year after Zimmerman had been elected state attorney general.
Zimmerman's cronies would then prosecute the police chief and the assistant police chief.
The chief prosecutor would be one of DA Zimmerman's former assistant DAs, Andrew Smyser. Smyser by this time was an Assistant U.S. Attorney. AG Zimmerman, it should go without saying, would not be investigated nor prosecuted by by his crony, AUSA Smyser, for the same offenses for which the police chief and the assistant chief were prosecuted. Today, in 2012, Smyser is a magistrate judge in the federal court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where he continues his function of fixing cases and protecting other party elite.
The retired investigator who handed me the FBI transcript simply told me, "You are young and clean. Don't fall in with these guys and turn out like them."
Sounded like good advice to me.
This incident was interesting for several reasons. It sheds light, and has bearing, on the current political environment and mentality of the state's elected attorney general's office from 1980, all the way to the present. It also shows how the protective crony system assembled by Thornburgh and other prosecutors works.
'AG Zimmerman would not be investigated nor prosecuted by his crony, AUSA Andrew Smyser, for the same offenses for which the police chief was prosecuted'
It would also be the first time I'd be contacted by a frustrated public investigator unable to bring corruption to light, or the bar.
I suspected at the time that I'd been handed the FBI transcript because my father was the governor's chief of staff. The frustrated investigator presumed I could do something to bring this troubling matter to light.
For the next quarter century I'd be contacted by frustrated public investigators.
And I'm always willing to lend an ear.
Back in 1987, when I was given this cache of leaked FBI documents, I was young Mike McQueary's age. My impulse was to do what Mike McQueary did: I told my father.
When my father learned I had been handed the FBI transcript(s) he hit the roof. I wrote about it at length in my 1988 book The Sins of Our Fathers, which I co-wrote with my collaborator Rick Kearns.
"You've only been on this story for a week and already you've got a restricted FBI document!" my father fumed at me.
Here I'd come to my father with a transcript of an FBI bodytap in which a former chief of police alleged that the state attorney general had received money from gamblers, and was being protected by cronies in the justice system. My dad hurriedly scanned through the FBI document. He noted with alarm that the cover sheet said it was FBI property and "not to be distributed."
"Look," my father tells me, "I don't think we should be talking about this. I'm telling the governor's counsel we've spoken about this but we've agreed not to talk about it anymore." My father told me to seek legal advice.
My colleague Kearns and I called an attorney who said that the law was vague about possessing the leaked FBI transcript. One thing seemed clear: somebody had handed us what appeared to be a legal case. And, once again, it felt like I had been left to do the thinking.
In an inspired moment of youthful idealism and naivety, Rick Kearns and I decided to turn the transcript in to the Pennsylvania State Police.
Penn State's Mike McQueary has been widely criticized for not calling the police. In Pennsylvania, here's what happens when you go to the police with sensitive information about a prominent person:
In 1987 my collaborator Rick Kearns and I made an appointment with Captain Joseph Blackburn, the director of the Internal Affairs Division of the Pennsylvania State Police. At the appointed hour we arrived at Blackburn's office in state police headquarters with the FBI transcript. We explained the situation. Blackburn immediately picked up the phone and called Major Francis Lynch, Chief of Criminal Investigations. Blackburn accompanied us over to Major Lynch's office.
'"You have to wonder why somebody just didn't pick up the phone and call the police," I told the state police major. He had to shake his head to that.'
Major Francis Lynch of the Pennsylvania state police was a straight shooter. He was a tall, serious looking man in a blue pinstripe suit. He got up from behind his desk, shook hands, and I dutifully handed him the FBI transcript in which the chief of police implicated the state attorney general in illegal activities.
We showed Major Lynch the place in the transcript that read, "they can get Leroy Zimmerman, they can get any of them guys, if they want to. Look at the money them guys took from gamblers and everything else."
I went on to tell Major Lynch and Captain Blackburn that I couldn't rule out the possibility that I'd been given the transcript because I was the son of the governor's chief of staff.
Major Lynch seemed to freeze. Here was the son of the governor's chief of staff turning in an FBI transcript accusing the state's attorney general of possible criminal activity. At the time I didn't realize the bind in which I'd placed Major Lynch. The state police, you see, report to both the attorney general and the governor. Major Lynch stood there for a moment holding the transcript out away from himself.
"Reading about the CTA case," I told Major Lynch, "you have to wonder why somebody just didn't pick up the phone and call the police."
Major Lynch and Captain Blackburn had to shake their heads to that. Lynch promised to get back to us as soon as possible, and with that we bid him a good day.
The next morning I heard back from Major Francis Lynch of the Pennsylvania State Police. He phoned to say he had discussed the matter of the FBI bodytap with a state police deputy commissioner. They could find no indication of wrongdoing on the bodytap. So what if Harrisburg's chief of police said the attorney general took money from gamblers? But there was another problem.
The transcript of the bodytap was FBI property, Major Lynch said. It was illegal for anyone outside the bureau, even the state police, to possess the transcript, he said. Possessing the transcript kind of put the state police in an awkward position, he said. The deputy state police commissioner wanted to know if Rick Kearns and I would kindly take the evidence back. I got the impression I was asked this only because I was the son of the governor's chief of staff. Lynch seemed to be saying that all this could be kept among family if only we would come and pick up the stinking FBI transcript. We could all pretend the whole thing never happened. He obviously didn't want to log in the receipt of the transcript.
We were outraged. It didn't seem very normal for the police to ask someone to take back evidence. Did they have other evidence they wanted us to have? Perhaps stolen cars, or maybe a house?
We refused to take back the transcript. We'd given the damn thing to the state police, and now it was the state police's problem what they did with it. Lynch suggested that he would take the transcript to Acting US Attorney James West. Lynch warned us that he would have to tell the acting US attorney that Kearns and I had supplied the transcript. Fine, I told him. We asked Lynch to give our regards to Mr. West.
In other words, we placed ourselves at risk because we went to the police. And, when you go to the police, someone could be tipped off. Someone, in fact, likely will be tipped off.
In fact, not long after I turned the transcript in to the state police, my father, the governor's chief of staff, mentioned an unusual encounter he'd had with LeRoy Zimmerman. The attorney general had come to the governor's office on unrelated business and, on his way out, had stopped to ask the chief of staff about his eldest son, Bill. And what was Bill up to these days? AG Zimmerman wanted to know.
Writing. The same as usual, the chief of staff said he told the attorney general.
"Mighty peculiar," the elder Keisling said, describing the encounter.
There were several important lessons I took away from this. First, in a politically corrupt environment, suffering as we do in Pennsylvania from systemic corruption, going to the police is not the remedy that most people suppose it to be. In the Sandusky case, I personally understand why going to the police might not have been young Mike McQueary's best option. It may in fact not have been an option at all.
'Con. Gekas said people like himself and the attorney general are never investigated. Their reputations prevented them from being investigated, he said.'
Second, and this is important, and is difficult for most people to understand. When you're dealing with important people who have connections to the politically prominent, you are no longer talking about the law. You are talking politics. And strange things that seemingly defy comprehension have a habit of happening when politics interferes with upholding the law, as it often does these days in Pennsylvania, and as it did in the Sandusky case.
The most important thing I took away from this incident was that the entire system was going bad. Government officers, particularly in the courts and the justice system, are no longer governed by the rule of law, but by the protections and machinations of the old boy network. Options to turn these guys in get smaller and smaller. Soon there is no place to turn.
As a young writer, I wanted to get into the heads of these public servants to try to understand their mentality, and to try to comprehend how and why they end up protecting each other.
On the FBI transcript we had been given, Harrisburg Police Chief Bruno Favasuli is heard to complain that they could not arrest a known gambler in his place of nefarious business because Congressman George Gekas was often present in the establishment playing pool.
"They tell me... (Congressman) Gekas is... in there playing, shooting pool every day. Gekas. They just shoot pool in there every afternoon. You go in there at 12:00 and you'll see Gekas in there shooting pool. But they had to brick up the one side. And here they're playing poker. On Saturday nights, when ever the poker games starts, he makes sure everybody's out of there. And if he doesn't know you, he won't let you in the game."
So, as I recount in The Sins of Our Fathers, we called Congressman George Gekas to ask him for his take on this mystery. The congressman met me at the food court of Strawberry Square, in downtown Harrisburg.
Con. George Gekas
At the time, in the late 1980s in Republican central Pennsylvania, Republican George Gekas was a popular politician. While I interviewed the congressman men came over and shook his hand and women pecked his cheek. I got right to the point. I asked the congressman if he had been interviewed by the FBI concerning the police chief's allegations that, by playing pool in a downtown pool hall, he'd prevented the Harrisburg police from arresting a known gambler.
The congressman at first seemed puzzled.
"The FBI? Why should the FBI interview me?" he asked.
Con. Gekas dismissed Police Chief Favasuli's recorded assertions as "Bald allegations."
I pointed out that all allegations remain bald until they are investigated. Again I asked whether the FBI interviewed the congressman. Two veteran cops were ruined over the bodytap and if the feds took the information on the recording seriously enough to ruin the lives and careers of two lifelong cops shouldn't they have at least looked into what the recording said about the attorney general and others?
The congressman was growing angry. He said he didn't know why the FBI should have interviewed him. "I don't know why they should have," he said. He said he didn't know what this was about.
I said he didn't know either.
Congressman Gekas repeated his assertion that the FBI bodytap contained only "bald allegations." He said that the investigators probably dismissed the chief of police's allegations "out of hand." As had the state police officials I'd encountered.
Then came the interesting part: Congressman Gekas said people like himself and the attorney general are never investigated. Their reputations prevented them from being investigated, he explained. Their reputations would be besmirched if there was even any hint they were being investigated, he said. So all allegations against them, it followed, naturally had to be dismissed out of hand, he said. He said he was sure that's what had happened in this case, that the prosecutors and the FBI agents, knowing himself and Roy Zimmerman as well as they did, simply dismissed the chief of police's bald allegations out of hand. The crux of his argument seemed to be that investigations are never conducted against people like AG Zimmerman and himself, that as administrators of the law they were above it.
I became angry. "You're not saying you're above the law, are you?"
The congressman and I sat staring at each other, both angry. Gekas thought about it for several seconds longer than I would have preferred.
"No," the congressman finally said.
This exchange goes a long way to explain why it took investigators almost a decade to get around to investigating Mike McQueary's troubling allegations against Jerry Sandusky, and his Penn State and Second Mile associates.
Jerry Sandusky would not be seriously investigated by the state attorney general's office for alleged pedophile activities because, in this mentality, even a hint of an investigation would ruin Sandusky, sink the Second Mile gravy train, and likely as not destroy the Penn State athletic department in the bargain. And the resulting blow-up would damage the attorney general's chances of being elected governor, and collecting contributions.
The reputations of these insiders, and their associates, become more important than any law, or crime they may have committed, no matter how heinous.
As well, underlings in the justice system naturally fear their careers will be destroyed if they dare investigate their higher-ups and patrons. You don't bite the hand that feeds you.
So they aren't investigated. In recent state history, this category of uninvestigated offenders includes state judges, and a supporting cast of go-alongs who've committed terrible crimes against children.
Their untested integrity and reputations are more important than laws, reporting rules, children, or any one child.
It would turn out that AG Roy Zimmerman had an interesting skeleton in his closet that I think also sheds light today on the AG's office failure to investigate Jerry Sandusky.
"The vice cop says it was an unwritten rule that whenever the police had evidence on a relative of a politician that the politician would first be told about it to prevent 'embarrassment'"
When he was growing up, I'd learn, Zimmerman had an infamous uncle, Johnny Magaro, who'd been arrested multiple times for gambling and prostitution offenses. When Zimmerman got into the county district attorney's office in the 1960s as an assistant DA, the vice arrests of his uncle stopped, even though it was known by the vice cops that the uncle was actively selling numbers from the family peanut shop.
A retired city vice detective, Walter Brodhecker, explained it to us like this (in The Sins of Our Fathers):
Johnny Magaro, Brodhecker tells us, sold numbers in the family store through the 1960s. He did so with what amounted to the protection of his nephew, LeRoy Zimmerman, who as district attorney worked a block and a half away at the courthouse. Beginning in the early 60s the city vice unit started receiving complaints from neighbors about Magaro's numbers operation. "We'd get complaints," he tells us. But, "we knew the connection" the uncle had to the DA's office. Brodhecker says it was customary -- an unwritten rule -- that whenever the police had evidence on a relative of a politician that the politician would first be told about it to prevent "embarrassment."
We ask him why this was done. He laughs at us. "You want to live, you want to retire, you play ball," he laughs. "Whenever we got evidence we thought we could do something with" they went to the DA's office. At the time Zimmerman was still an assistant DA working for DA Marty Lock but "we knew the connection." They knew there'd be no sense arresting Johnny Magaro if the DA's office would not press charges. DA Marty Lock told them "lay low, we'll take care of it," Brodhecker remembers. But Johnny Magaro kept selling the numbers. Then, when Lock died and Zimmerman became DA, "we just gave up" trying to stop Magaro, since they knew Zimmerman wouldn't lift a finger against his uncle. "When Zimmerman got in there we knew he wasn't going to do a thing about Johnny Magaro," Brodhecker says. Brodhecker laughed, sitting in his cozy retirement home. That was why Johnny Magaro's lifelong appearance on the police rap sheet ended when LeRoy Zimmerman got into the courthouse, Brodhecker points out.
When the top dog in a prosecutor's office doesn't want to actively pursue a case, the investigators working for him damn well know it. The investigation, for all intents and purposes, stops.
In the case of Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Second Mile, investigators knew AG Tom Corbett was impeding an investigation. So the investigation stopped. Later, Gov. Corbett would falsely and desperately blame the investigators, the grand jury(s), and Coach Joe Paterno.
The other lesson I took away from interviewing retired vice cop Walter Brohecker is that decades sometimes must pass before the true story emerges.
Attorney General Roy Zimmerman would not be seriously investigated nor prosecuted for any of the allegations leveled against him in the FBI documents, or other court documents mentioned here. He'd serve out the rest of his elected term, until 1989.
He would, however, be washed up in elective politics, and would never again run for office.
Former Governor Dick Thornburgh, through his intermediaries, would spend years denying he'd played any part in the prosecution and suicide of his personal and political enemy, fellow Republican state Treasurer Budd Dwyer.
Trouble was, the voters didn't believe him. Those bears are educated, and they do vote.
Budd Dwyer with .357: Another gun was hidden in his boot
Budd Dwyer was one of the last moderate Republicans elected to high office in Pennsylvania. Dwyer was an old-fashioned retail politician. He'd never in his life taken a political contribution larger than $5,000. Moderate Republican voters were deeply offended at what they perceived to be Thornburgh's unexplained role in the set-up, prosecution, and violent death of the likeable state treasurer.
When Thornburgh stood for election to U.S. Senate in 1991, his base deserted him, and even worked against him; Thornburgh too was retired from elective politics.
From this we see that political problems in Pennsylvania are solved in the political arena.
Attorney General Tom Corbett spent three years protecting Jerry Sandusky, and unjustly blamed and sacked Coach Joe Paterno.
These are strange lumps under the carpet, indeed.
These strange lumps under the carpet pose a political problem for Governor Corbett. In the real world, outside of Pennsylvania, they would also pose a legal problem for Corbett. But, like it or not, Corbett is protected by the legal system, as I've explained.
Tom Corbett's problem now is political. Gov. Corbett's convoluted, scapegoating stories about Jerry Sandusky simply are unbelievable. Voters know this.
By further striking out at revered Joe Paterno, and sacrificing Paterno in a rush to judgment to take the fall for him, Corbett has just as foolishly fired a missile into his own base of support.
He is attacking not just the Nittany Lions, but also the educated bears.
Following LeRoy Zimmerman's enlightening tenure as the state's first elected attorney general, three Republicans attorneys general won election to succeed him: Ernie Preate, Mike Fisher, and Tom Corbett.
AG Ernie Preate: indicted by feds for taking bribes from organized crime figures
To varying degrees, by nature of the elected office, each of these three would be preoccupied with a toxic stew of elective and partisan politics, patronage, and the seeking and the receipt of tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Many of these campaign contributions come from lawyers and law firms having business with the AG's office. I'd end up writing books about each of these AGs.
In 1995 Attorney General Ernie Preate would go to jail for selling his offices to gamblers in return for illegal campaign money. These bribery practices involving underworld figures started when Preate had been district attorney of Lackawanna County, in Scranton, in the 1980s. His corrupt practices continued while he raised money to run for state attorney general in 1988.
Attorney General Preate was brought down only because of the independent Crime Commission, established by Gov. Ray Shafer in the 1960s. In their report to the General Assembly dated April 8, 1994, Crime Commission members wrote:
"The Crime Commission has conducted an investigation into allegations that during 1987 1988, while serving as District Attorney of Lackawanna County, the present Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Ernest D. Preate, Jr., engaged in an arrangement to secure campaign contributions from persons who owned and operated illegal video poker gambling machines. It was further alleged that in return for such contributions, the then District Attorney would maintain a 'hands off' or non-enforcement policy. This investigative report reflects the conclusions of the Commission with respect to these allegations."
'Preate would carry his hands-off policy with him into the state AG's office'
Preate would carry this "hands-off" policy with him into the state AG's office. In other words, in return for campaign cash, the attorney general simply did not investigate nor prosecute crimes. Many of these crimes, believe it or not, involved what is called "the Mafia."
Let me restate this: organized crime figures, aka the Mafia, were now controlling the elected office of Pennsylvania Attorney General. They controlled it at least for several years. Perhaps they're still controlling it.
Further, and perhaps just as important when we consider the mysteries of the long-running Sandusky grand jury(s), the Crime Commission explained that AG Preate had easily manipulated his staff in the AG's office and the grand jury process to those same ends:
"The investigation also revealed that the foregoing contributions arrangement was not examined for possible criminal violations by the appropriate personnel of the Attorney General's Office. Despite the fact that both prior to the incumbency of Ernest Preate, Jr., as Attorney General and thereafter, during his tenure, investigative leads for that purpose were available, these leads were not pursued. In fact, a statewide Grand Jury staffed by Attorney General Preate's assistants was told explicitly about the scheme. Nevertheless the investigation of the arrangement involving the alleged quid pro quo was not pursued.
This raises serious questions about the administration of justice in the Commonwealth."
In other words, if the attorney general's office was itself converted into a political machine, whose secret doings now included the doling out of rewards for political tasks, and the protection of illegal activities perpetrated by friends and contributors, the AG's staff could not be depended upon to blow the whistle.
The Crime Commission report sheds more light on the attorney general's ability to manipulate, stall or otherwise terminate a statewide grand jury. A section of the report titled "Attorney General Preate Acts to Neutralize Grand Jury Evidence," reads, in part:
"After Mr. Preate assumed office as Attorney General, an investigation by the Sixth Statewide Grand Jury into allegations that he improperly received campaign contributions from video poker operators was terminated.... The Commission determined that investigative leads concerning Mr. Preate's conduct that developed during the Sixth Statewide Grand Jury's proceedings were not pursued by the Attorney General's Office....
The Commission determined that Mr. Preate appears to have breached a duty to recuse himself from the investigation. The attorney assigned to the Seventh Statewide Grand Jury's video poker investigation, Dennis Reinaker, testified ... 'it is just not realistic to think that we in that office were going to be asking questions about our boss.'"
In the early 1990s, Deputy Attorney General Anthony Sarcione, Director of the Criminal Law Division, was asked by the Crime Commission, "Did it never occur to you that the issue of the possible or perhaps criminal behavior of the Attorney General should be explored?"
"I will be frank," Deputy AG Sarcione testified. "The Attorney General hired me. I didn't know him. He showed a lot of faith in giving me such a position.... I didn't see him as a potential criminal."
Again, this shows how and why these political prosecutors create a patronage network for the purposes of protection and concealment of criminality. (Of course, not all relationships are criminal. AG Preate was actually popular among agents in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. The agents felt that Preate "took care of them." Preate would sometimes show up at BCI headquarters in running shoes and go jogging with the agents. Preate was also responsible for creating many of the task forces in the AG's office.)
The Crime Commission also found that it was "not unusual" for attorneys not assigned to a particular grand jury investigation to know details of its workings:
"The fact that Michael Kane, a Deputy Attorney General not assigned to the video poker case, would be aware of the workings of the Sixth Statewide Grand Jury was not unusual," the report explains. "Dennis Reinaker, the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Seventh Statewide Grand Jury investigating video poker testified before the Commission that, '...We in the office, particularly those who work in the prosecution section, generally knew about cases that other attorneys were working on, at least those of some significant nature.'"
Simply stated, everybody knows what's going on, but no one can do anything about it.
As for AG Corbett's phony 2009-to-2011 Sandusky grand jury investigation(s): lots of people in the office knew what was, and what wasn't going on, and why. It was hardly a state secret in the AG's office that Tom Corbett was protecting alleged pedophile Jerry Sandusky.
When Corbett left the AG's office to become governor in 2011, he would leave behind, under the carpet, the telltale strange lumps of a corrupt and dishonest prosecutor.
All this would mystify the rest of the world. Just like my father was mystified when he discovered the cache of granite blocks hidden away up at Fort Indiantown Gap. What was the game they all were playing?
This time, the rest of the world would call their mystification by this name: the Jerry Sandusky case.
Pennsylvania Governors Bill Scranton, Dick Thornburgh, and Bob Casey.
AG Preate was indicted in 1995 and sent to jail thanks mostly to the subpoena power of the independent Crime Commission, and its published report, which became the basis for a federal mail fraud conviction. (Preate was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney David M. Barasch, a former Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate, and relative of the great independent American journalist I.F. "Izzy" Stone.)
Even so, before he was indicted by the feds, AG Preate loudly denounced the Crime Commission and successfully campaigned to have it abolished by the state legislature in 1993.
At the time, The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that the Crime Commission's "Freewheeling 'Reports' Helped Prove Its Undoing."
"Preate has denied any impropriety and his supporters have called the probe a political witch hunt. The controversy underscored both the commission's strength and its weakness," the Inquirer reported.
"Influence and access are certainly part of the political process and are not, inherently, improper or illegal. So when should questions about appearances of impropriety, while not in themselves criminal offenses, be examined and presented to the public? And by whom?
"The crime commission's power came not from its ability to indict, but from its mandate to inform.... Proponents of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission say what will be missing is an agency that focuses on the process and those involved in it."
At the time, in 1994, when the Crime Commission released its report, Attorney General Preate was using his office as the state's chief law enforcement officer to seek the Republican nomination for governor.
With the abolition of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission, no other independent state agency would be in the position to examine the state attorney general's office, or the courts. This continued and accelerated under elected Attorneys General Mike Fisher, and Tom Corbett.
Each of these attorneys general have not been predisposed or inclined to fight corruption in an even-handed, thorough manner, "following the evidence wherever it may lead," as they say.
What AGs Fisher and Corbett have been predisposed to do is to protect their entrenched party interests and cronies, raise money, win their party's nomination, and run for governor. That's the conflict.
There would be increasing party patronage, and increasing corruption in the AG's office, and the state courts. With the elections of AGs Fisher and Corbett, and the election of Gov. Tom Ridge in 1994, the ranks of political cronies in the courts and in the AG's office would swell. These highly partisan appointees were by nature more interested in, and predisposed to, protecting each other and their patrons, rather than protecting the public.
Political friends and supporters would be installed as federal and state judges, and others would take control of the disciplinary offices of the state courts. You'd toe the party line, you play ball, or you'd be gone.
As retired Harrisburg vice police officer Walter Brodhecker told me in 1987, "You want to live, you want to retire, you play ball."
These politicians were occupied with putting their party friends in: they were not inclined to take any of them out. Across the state, in many diverse cases, there was a blatant tendency to protect political supporters, donors, and judicial and political patronage hires alike.
And so Tom Corbett would protect Jerry Sandusky, and his Second Mile charity.
Then Gov. Tom Corbett would be forced to protect himself.
Left unprotected would be an unknown number of victimized children. It would always be a matter of priorities.
-- Bill Keisling IV
posted on March 18, 2012
Want to know more? Read these Yardbird bestsellers about Pennsylvania attorneys general:
The Sins of Our Fathers: Moments before shooting himself to death at a news comference, Pennsylvania Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer implicated the Pennsylvania attorney general in a deadly bribery conspiracy. Two young writers investigate, and find dark secrets about their hometown. Read more >
Or buy The Sins of Our Fathers paperback edition now!
Revised Second Edition
with a new afterword
169 pages, perfect bound
The Midnight Ride of Jonathan Luna: A year and a half before the disappearance of Pennsylvania DA Ray Gricar, Baltimore federal drug prosecutor Jonathan Luna mysteriously vanished from his office in downtown Baltimore, turning up dead in a stream in Lancaster, PA, stabbed dozens of times... Is it just us, or does it seem like lots of prosecutors are going missing in Pennsylvania? Read more >
We All Fall Down A Chronicle of an Impeachment Foretold
Cloth cover, Smyth bound, 336 pages.
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