An investigator who looked into a 1998 complaint against former Penn State University football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky says there wasn’t enough evidence to take action then -- and he is sorry it took so long to bring charges against the man now accused of molesting eight boys from 1994 through 2009.
Jerry Lauro, who worked for the state’s Public Welfare Department, reviewed a complaint about Sandusky showering with a boy in a university locker room. Lauro dropped the case after concluding that while Sandusky’s actions at the time were inappropriate, the boy didn’t make allegations of sexual abuse and there wasn’t yet a pattern of complaints, he said.
“You ask yourself, ‘Did I do everything I could at the time?’ Yeah,” Lauro, 58, who retired in 2006, said in an interview. “You make your decision based on available evidence at the time.”
Pennsylvania investigates and acts on fewer child-abuse cases than the national average, Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Harrisburg-based Protect Our Children Committee, said by telephone yesterday.
The state probes 8.3 complaints for every 1,000 children in the population, compared with a national rate of 40.3 per thousand, according to a 2009 report from the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Pennsylvania determines there is abuse in 1.4 cases per thousand, compared with the U.S. average of 9.3 per thousand, the report said.
Corbett Expects Change
Governor Tom Corbett, who helped lead a new investigation of Sandusky when he was attorney general in 2009, said he expects the state’s lawmakers to toughen scrutiny of child abuse before the end of the year. The Legislature may pass a joint resolution next month creating a bipartisan commission to make recommendations for changes in state law, said Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus.
“One of the lessons that we need to learn from this is that when people see something like this, or hear about something like this, you need to investigate right away,” Corbett said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” last week. “We have lost the focus of what’s in the best interest of the child.”
Detectives from the police departments of Penn State and the town of State College, Pennsylvania, also investigated the 1998 allegations against Sandusky, and the local district attorney declined to file charges, according to a grand-jury report. Sandusky went on to abuse other boys, including sexually assaulting one in a shower at the Penn State football complex in March 2002, the report said.
The inconclusive 1998 investigation shows that Pennsylvania needs to change its narrow definition of what constitutes child abuse and when it must be reported, said Jennifer Storm, executive director of the Dauphin County Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg.
“This to me would have been a really good criminal case,” she said. “Why didn’t this go to court? Unfortunately, we may never know the answer.”..read more