HARRISBURG, Pa. — First it was a criminal case. Then it enveloped a university athletic program. Now the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal has infiltrated the realm of politics.
Pennsylvania's new attorney general is set to name a special prosecutor in the coming days to investigate Gov. Tom Corbett's handling of the case, specifically why nearly three years elapsed before criminal charges were brought.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat elected in November, confirmed her plans in an interview here. She suggested that when he was attorney general Corbett, a Republican, slow-walked the investigation of a longtime football coach at the center of the scandal while campaigning for governor.
Corbett, who was elected in 2010, has flatly rejected the suggestion that he delayed the case.
But polls show that a majority of Pennsylvania voters are critical of his handling of the investigation, and Kane's inquiry is likely to cast a shadow over his bid for a second term in 2014.
Corbett, 63, recently returned to the Penn State matter, an unhealed wound for many Pennsylvanians even after last year's conviction of former coach Jerry Sandusky for molesting eight boys. In early January, the governor sued the NCAA to lift the stiff penalties imposed on Penn State as a result of the episode.
The suit seeks to rescind a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason football games and the forfeit of 112 Penn State football victories over a dozen years. It was filed six months after Corbett called on Pennsylvanians to accept the punishment, and it was widely viewed as calculated to win support from the legions of alumni who bleed Penn State blue and white.
Corbett declined to be interviewed for this article. He has denied delaying or mishandling any aspect of the investigation.
"The governor is happy to talk to anybody about it, including Kathleen Kane," said his spokesman, Kevin Harley. "The proof is the conviction of Jerry Sandusky on 45 of 48 counts, and he will spend the rest of his life in jail because of the work of the men and women in the attorney general's office and the state police."