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Welcome to my nightmare
A book review
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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
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Sandusky victim offers startling insights into the mis-prosecution of his case
It turns out Jerry Sandusky wasn't the only user and abuser in the room
Inside The Crystal Palace
Editor's note: The public and the press for the last year have spoken vaguely about a single state trooper, and a narcotics agent, involved in the Jerry Sandusky investigation. There were equally vague reports that Gov. Tom Corbett refused to properly investigate the case. "Tom didn't want to do it."
With the publication of Silent No More, much more detail about the case is now thrown into public view, and much more light now shines on one of the darkest corners of Pennsylvania history.
Aaron Fisher would like to welcome you to his nightmare.
"The nightmares came a little bit during the abuse but more so after the abuse ended and I got away from Jerry," Fisher recounts in his remarkable and important new book, Silent No More (Ballantine Books, New York, 2012).
Silent No More: Aaron Fisher
Buy Silent No More
The book is a much-needed, indispensable, and revelatory primary source for understanding the Jerry Sandusky case.
Silent No More begins as Fisher's first-hand, if sketchy, account of his long-running abuse at the hands of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
But the book quickly evolves into a very detailed account of Fisher's neglect at the hands of self-aggrandizing Pennsylvania officials, most notably Pennsylvania Attorney General (and now Governor) Tom Corbett.
Sandusky, it turns out, was not the only user or abuser in the room.
"Here's the thing -- those nightmares were my reality," Fisher writes.
His nightmare -- both at the hands of Sandusky and state officials -- has now become our common nightmare.
When Fisher was growing up, he writes, he liked to watch cop TV shows. Someday he's like to be a state cop himself, and "protect people."
But why were the Pennsylvania state police slow on the uptake to protect Aaron? It turns out the state police for years had their hands tied by higher-ups in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office.
Those officials in the AG's office had more pressing political concerns than the rape of children.
Aaron Fisher co-wrote Silent No More with his mother, Dawn Daniels, and his psychologist, Michael Gillum. Gillum works for Children and Youth Services in Lock Haven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania.
Fisher's mother writes that Aaron, growing up, suffered with her through numerous bad and broken relationships. One of three kids to different fathers (Aaron's father was never around), Aaron eventually moved back with his mother and his siblings to small town Lock Haven, PA, to live with Dawn's parents.
Dawn wanted a better life for her kids, she writes, and didn't want more men around who would hurt them.
It was in Lock Haven, when Aaron was in fourth grade, attending McGhee Elementary School, that guidance counselor Nancy Bruckner suggested Dawn enroll the boy in the Second Mile Charity for disadvantaged youth.
Aaron explains how he came to meet Jerry Sandusky, and how it led to years of secret sexual abuse. He was so young he didn't realize he was being abused.
By the time he was fifteen, Aaron had had enough of Sandusky and the abuse. He tried to get away, but Sandusky kept showing up at Aaron's home and school, "acting like a clingy girlfriend."
Finally the awful truth of years of sexual abuse began to emerge.
Dawn Daniels, overcome by the growing suspicion that something was not right with Sandusky's relationship with her son, struggled with what to do.
Problem was, Sandusky wasn't only bothering Aaron at home.
Sandusky kept showing up at Aaron's school. Steve Turchetta, the school's athletic director, football coach and assistant principal, kept turning Aaron over to the child predator.
Jerry would call the school whenever he pleased and Turchetta would just hand Aaron over.
Aaron's mom at first complained about Sandusky's odd behavior to Aaron's school principal, Karen Probst, saying something didn't feel right.
Principal Probst told Dawn that Sandusky had "a heart of gold," but suggested Aaron talk to a Mrs. Smith, the guidance counselor.
Probst called back a few hours later, sounding as if in tears. Aaron had spilled the beans to his school officials: he was a victim of sexual abuse. His predator was Jerry Sandusky.
Dawn drove over to the school.
Probst told Dawn that Aaron had something to tell her. Aaron started to cry, and said, "I had to stop it. I just had to stop it."
Dawn asked Principal Probst what they were going to do now. Would they call police? Probst said everyone was too emotional, that Dawn should go home and collect herself. After everyone had time to think, Probst told her, they could figure out what they wanted to do, and how to handle it.
But Dawn wanted to immediately call the police.
There was nothing to think about, she told the principal and the guidance counselor. This man had hurt her child. But they told her the man in question was Jerry Sandusky, that he spent lots of time with lots of kids, and that Dawn needed to think about "the repercussions."
Dawn dug in her heels. She insisted they call police. But the principal still said no, they they'd decide what to do the next day, when everyone was calmer.
Things wouldn't calm down for a while. Things have yet to calm down.
Extremely upset, Dawn and Aaron left the school and drove directly to Children and Youth Services in Lock Haven, Clinton County.
Aaron was interviewed by Mike Gillum, the staff psychologist who would end up co-writing Silent No More.
Gillum writes the County Children and Youth Services (CYS) hired him in 2005 as a contractor because he was good at talking with kids.
Until that day, he writes, he'd thought he'd seen it all.
Along with his harrowing account of his often frustrated attempts to help Aaron personally, while also shepherding Aaron's case through a glacial and often outright hostile justice system, Gillum provides an invaluable timeline for anyone interested in following the Sandusky case's many delays.
The book explains that Gillum's first interview with Aaron Fisher occurred sometime in November 2008, before Thanksgiving, almost three years before Sandusky would be arrested in November 2011.
As well as filling in many points on the timeline, Gillum sheds light on the revolving door of law enforcement personnel assigned to the stalled case by the state attorney general's office.
It turns out, for example, there wasn't just one state trooper assigned to the case, as has been often misreported.
There were actually, over the next three years, four state troopers assigned to Aaron's case,one after another, in all-but serial fashion.
'There wasn't just one state trooper assigned to the case, as has been often misreported. There were actually four state troopers assigned to Aaron's case, one after another.'
Making matters worse for Aaron, as each trooper was first assigned and then pulled from the case, the traumatized boy had to start from scratch with the telling and retelling of his painful story.
Gillum writes that he and CYS had a meeting with the Pennsylvania State Police a few days after his first meeting with Aaron.
The police venue becomes important to the story. Sandusky lived in Centre County, while Aaron lived in somewhat distant Clinton County.
Gillum writes that he filed his initial report to the state police because the initial abuse happened in Sandusky's home, away from the jurisdiction of the local Lock Haven police.
But once Gillum filed his report, sometime before Thanksgiving 2008, the state police responded slowly to talk with Aaron.
An interview was scheduled with Aaron some weeks later, on December 12, 2008.
But the moment the State Police interviewers showed up, Gillum noticed something unusual. Instead of the usual single state trooper who would normally come to the agency, there were two troopers he'd never dealt with before.
Gillum's CYS office usually worked with a regularly assigned female trooper named Patterson, he writes, who was good with kids.
But now, instead of Patterson, here was Trooper Joe Cavanaugh from the Lamar Barracks and Trooper Akers from the Montoursville Barracks. They were big, middle-aged guys who looked like they'd come out of the military. Gillum writes he wondered why friendly Trooper Patterson hadn't been assigned to the case, as she normally would have been.
Out of the gate, at this early date, Gillum writes he suspected the complaint was getting some sort of special treatment.
Had the report gone through the normal channels at the state police? he writes he wondered. Or, "Did it go straight up the chain of command so that someone in a higher position took over?"
Worse, he'd prepared Aaron to talk to the friendly woman trooper, and now the boy seemed to freeze up. Under the cold gaze of the two brusque and untrained troopers Aaron was "scared to death," and froze up.
In front of the military-like troopers, Aaron confirmed the report only in the most vague of terms.
It was almost two months later when Gillum heard back from the state police.
Gillum writes that he didn't hear anything back from the state police until sometime in January 2009. The chain of command, he writes, "was more like a barbed wire fence."
"If this had been any other child, abused by any other perpetrator under the same or similar conditions, the time from intake at CYS to arrest of the sex offender would typically be within two or three weeks," he writes.
Jerry Sandusky wouldn't even be called for an interview until January 15, 2009.
Sandusky, meanwhile, "lawyered up and denied everything, seeming almost sorry for Aaron and this fantasy he had evidentially created."
"Who was calling the shots?" Gillum writes he wonders.
Gillum recounts he spent "quite a bit of time" with Aaron after the first unfriendly and tardy interview with Troopers Cavanaugh and Akers. Aaron was a mess, and there was much damage to undo.
Suddenly Gillum was informed, without explanation, that a Trooper Lear would now be handling the case, and that Troopers Cavanaugh and Akers were mysterious removed from the already glacial "investigation."
Trooper Lear interviewed Aaron on March 19, 2009: four months after the initial complaint was filed. Aaron, having to tell his story from scratch, again had a very difficult ordeal.
A significant amount of time had passed from the first interview, and Aaron kept asking Gillum when Sandusky would be arrested and put in jail.
That would be the question they would be asking themselves for the next two and a half years.
About the same time Aaron and Gillum were informed of the shuffle of the state police troopers, they were told of another mysterious yet important shuffle of the deck.
On March 12, 2009, the very same day he first had contact with the newly assigned Trooper Lear, Gillum writes, CYS was informed that the state attorney general's office would be supervising and handling the case.
It turned out that the district attorney of Centre County, Michael Madeira, had recused himself from the case, citing a conflict of interest involving one of Madeira's family members and Sandusky.
It's worth noting that the case could have at this point been referred to the Clinton County district attorney. Instead, for reasons unknown, Tom Corbett's AG's office intervened, and took slow charge of the case.
'Eshbach introduced herself as senior deputy attorney general, just a step down from the state attorney general, Tom Corbett, who was campaigning for governor.'
"My attorney general contact was Jonelle Eshbach," Gillum writes. "She introduced herself as senior deputy attorney general, just a step down from the state attorney general, Tom Corbett, who at the time was in the midst of campaigning for governor of Pennsylvania. Jonelle made it clear that neither DA, in Clinton or Centre County, would be handling the case and this would be a state matter. When I asked why the case had been bumped up to the attorney general's office, she stated that she couldn't get into it, but there were a number of reasons why."
At this point, psychologist Gillum displays naiveté about the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.
"When I hung up the phone, I thought, Holy crap, this is even bigger than I thought," he writes.
He adds that he told himself it was a "good sign" that the case had been bumped up to the attorney general's office.
And, "This was the big time."
Gillum didn't know the state AG's office would turn out to be a deep dark hole, a political dustbin that sweeps up hot potatoes like Aaron's case and buries them as if in a dungeon, so that they cannot proceed or ever see the light of day.
In June 2009, some seven months after Aaron's complaint against Sandusky was first filed, Gillum got another phone call from Senior Deputy AG Jonelle Eshbach. She said Trooper Lear was now off the case, and yet another new state trooper had been assigned. When asked why, Eshbach wouldn't explain, and only said a Trooper Scoot Rossman would be contacting them for subsequent interviews.
Former Deputy AG Jonelle Eshbach, from her Facebook page
So Aaron would have to "take it from the top all over again" with a new state trooper.
In any other case within his experience, Gillum writes, an arrest by this time would already have been made, and there might even have been a trial. Something would have been done: an arrest, jail, probation or bail. This case for some reason "was super-slow motion," he writes.
Now a fourth state trooper was involved in the case, the other troopers having been removed by the AG's office.
Aaron now had to adjust to Trooper Rossman, and Gillum writes that the boy was growing increasingly upset.
Aaron's interview with the fourth trooper came on June 8, 2009, Gillum reports.
By this time Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett was setting the stage for his formal entry into the governor's race on September 14, 2009.
Candidate Corbett would manage to tie up the case for almost another year and a half, until his election as governor in November 2010. Meanwhile, gubernatorial candidate Corbett would collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from Penn State alums and Second Mile Charity board members, state election records show.
Trooper Rossman, meanwhile, told Gillum that he wasn't "at liberty" to say why all the disruptive changes were made in the case, only that he'd been sent in by the "attorney general's office."
Gillum complains that Rossman, like the other troopers, was not a trained sexual abuse officer accustomed to dealing with sexually abused kids.
At one point, Gillum complains, Rossman asked Aaron, "Did he ever try to put his dick in your butt? I mean his penis in your anus?"
AG Corbett made no attempt to assign the case for quick resolution to his office's well-trained Child Predator Unit, as similar cases are usually assigned.
Instead, on June 16, 2009, Aaron was dragged before his first statewide investigative grand jury.
Aaron writes there were about 30 grand jurors in the courtroom. The faces of the jurors made Aaron extremely anxious. When he was asked about "the sexual stuff" he started to cry. He felt betrayed by Deputy AG Eshbach. She hadn't prepared him for the questions she would ask, including questions about oral sex. The boy couldn't believe that anyone in the grand jury room was on his side.
A few days after this first disastrous grand jury incident, Gillum writes, Trooper Rossman asked to perform a wiretap with Aaron. The plan was to put a tap on Aaron's phone, and have the boy call Sandusky to see if the coach would admit to his crimes.
Gillum writes that he told Rossman this was a bad idea since Aaron was far too fragile to do this sort of heavy-duty police work.
Nevertheless, behind his back, Rossman gained permission for a bungled wiretap attempt from Aaron's mom. (Gillum writes that he was "stunned" that law enforcement and the AG's office ignored his professional advice.)
On the day of the planned wiretapping, June 22, 2009, Gillum writes, he just so happened to phone Aaron's mom. Dawn told Gillum that she couldn't talk, as Trooper Rossman and an agent from the attorney general's office, Anthony "Tony" Sassano, were in her home with a wiretap team to perform the ill-advised wiretap.
Sassano, Rossman, and their higher-ups in the AG's office, however, predictably bungled the wiretap attempt.
With the wiretap equipment hooked up, Aaron called Sandusky and asked the coach to "apologize."
"Well, we can't talk about that stuff now," Gillum reports Sandusky told the anguished boy and the recording equipment.
The bungled call lasted no more than a minute, Gillum writes.
"Now eight grueling months without justice had gone by since I first met Aaron; Sandusky was still a free man," Gillum summarizes. "Something wasn't right. As a matter of fact, something was terribly wrong."
What Aaron and Gillum did not know (and what the book does not explain) was that AG Tom Corbett at the time was misusing the resources of the AG's office in his bid to run for governor.
Corbett had not only failed to assign Aaron's case to the tested Child Predator Unit, he had also tied up hundreds of agents in the criminal investigations bureau -- and the grand jurors -- in his political "Bonusgate" prosecutions.
By December 2009, Corbett would order, for example, all the agents in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to drop whatever they were doing to perform background checks on potential "Bonusgate" jurors.
As well, agents were tied up performing well-publicized "arrests by news conference" to help Corbett's campaign for governor.
Arrests by new conference: AG Office investigators were tied up performing background checks on potential 'Bonusgate' jurors and performing 'arrests by news conference' to help Corbett's campaign for governor
Corbett was blatantly converting the AG's office into a political power base while Aaron's case languished with the Keystone Kops.
Narcotics Agent Sassano's supervisor, Randy Feathers, told the Altoona Mirror in June 2012, "During the 'Bonusgate' investigation, we had a shortage of investigators in Harrisburg."
So Sassano and Feathers were not much help for Aaron, however they'd come on to the case.
For the next five months, "not much happened," Gillum recounts. The game plan, he writes, was changing, though the promises remained false. And now with Eshbach and Rossman there was a new player: narcotics Agent Sassano.
(The mysterious assignment of narcotics Agent Sassano to the Sandusky child abuse case first came to public attention last January, when I wrote the article "Busted: Narcotics Agent Nabs Jerry Sandusky.")
Sassano himself didn't shed much light on his mysterious role in the case when he testified at Sandusky's trial on June 14, 2012. Parts of Sassano's court testimony appear to be at odds with Gillum's account in Silent No More.
"Did there come a time in your employment with the Office of Attorney General that you were assigned to this matter?" Sassano is asked on the witness stand.
"Yes," Sassano answers.
"Do you remember exactly -- do you remember approximately when that was?"
Sassano answers, "April, May of 2009, somewhere in that area. I
(Gillum writes that Sassano didn't show up on Aaron's case until the day of the wiretap on June 22, 2009.)
Sassano, on the witness stand, then is asked, "After it was transferred to your office, did there come a time when it was placed in the grand jury? ...Do you remember approximately when that was?"
Sassano replies, "... I don't think we testified until June of 2009."
Sassano's memory appears revisionist, even under oath. Author Gillum makes no mention of Sassano's presence at the June 16, 2009 grand jury. Gillum writes he wasn't even aware of Sassano's existence until a week later, on June 22.
Sassano's bad memory notwithstanding, what exactly did the malapropos narcotics agent do in the case for the next year and a half? Not much.
At Sandusky's trial, Agent Sassano is asked, "Now, can you tell us, after it went into the grand jury, whether or not a lead or a discovery led you and other investigators to Mr. McQueary?"
McQueary, of course, is the now-famous red-haired Penn State assistant coach whose eyewitness testimony was ignored or deep-sixed by everyone in this scandal for almost ten years.
"Yes, there was something that broke that led us to Mr. McQueary," Sassano testifies. "An anonymous e-mail was sent to Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. She forwarded that to the trooper I was working with at the time, Scott Rossman, and he forwarded it to me. And essentially that e-mail indicated from an anonymous individual that -- reference to the Sandusky investigation -- we needed to speak to Mike McQueary, that he had some information."
"And did that subsequently occur?"
"It did," Sassano testifies.
But Sassano doesn't bother to mention that he and Trooper Rossman didn't interview McQueary until November 2010, a year and a half after he was supposedly hard on the case, and several weeks after his boss, Attorney General Corbett, was elected governor.
(McQueary, on the stand, testified he was first interviewed by Sassano and Rossman on November 22 and 23, 2010.)
Gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett: 'Corbett was ultimately the one holding this up'
Here's the central question: what exactly was everybody doing on Aaron's stalled case all that time, other than watching Tom Corbett run for governor?
Not much, except leaking to the press, and offering excuses.
After the botched June 16, 2009 grand jury experience, for the next year the case dragged on with nothing much happening, except that Aaron grew increasingly depressed, and even, at times, suicidal.
Aaron would be called to two more disastrous visits before a grand jury, on November 16, 2009, and again on April 11, 2011.
(Like many other facts, the dates of these secret grand jury appearances were unknown before the publication of Silent No More.)
In recent months some in the media have inaccurately suggested that AG Corbett put the case on a "slow walk."
No, the book's authors report, the case repeatedly was knocked backwards to square one, was now at a dead stand still, not even a crawl, and certainly not a "slow walk."
Joseph Roux once observed, "There is a slowness in affairs which ripens them, and a slowness which rots them."
As the case dragged on, the authors came to smell something rotten, and not ripening, as Gov. Corbett now contends.
In the last months of 2009, Corbett had formally entered the governor's race, Aaron was traumatized, and Gillum was making telephone calls almost daily in failed attempts to nudge the stalled case along.
By the November 2009 grand jury appearance, Gillum notes, almost a year had passed since Aaron's first complaint with Lock Haven CYS.
Gillum writes that he, Aaron and Dawn were "floored" that after Aaron's "tortuous" testimony before the first grand jury, and the "useless" Sassano wiretap, Sandusky was "not even close" to an arrest.
Gillum writes that he believed Sandusky could have, and should have, been arrested by this time, and taken off the street. Perhaps Aaron's courage in coming forward would prompt other victimized boys to come forward, he posits. (This is how the Child Predator Unit in fact handles most cases.)
But Deputy AG Eshbach still refused to make an arrest.
By the time Aaron was called to the second grand jury in November 2009, Gillum writes that he was beyond frustrated: he smelled a rat.
"I was positive that this second grand jury was a purely political move. How could they possibly think they would get ideal testimony out of a victimized child?" he asks.
While testifying before the grand jury in November, Aaron "literally collapsed," Gillum writes.
After the second grand jury, Gillum writes, Deputy AG Eshbach assured them an arrest "was imminent." On February 2, 2010, he notes, he even had a conversation with Eshbach about how the announcement of Sandusky's promised "imminent" arrest should be made to the media.
But the arrest of course didn't come. Everyone, and everything, was ready, except for candidate Tom Corbett.
Parties in the AG's office meanwhile had their own ideas about how to handle the press: Corbett was now in full stride running for governor, and information about this and other cases would be leaked to the media.
While they pretended to have concerns about keeping things under wraps, and carefully building a case, for the next year and more Corbett and his political operation were in reality leaking like a sieve.
By this time, February 2010, the AG's office finally got around to subpoenaing the Second Mile, though by now important documents would be missing.
"Still, Jonelle promised that there would be an arrest in the middle of the third week of March. At that point, I was really pinning her down because this had gone on long enough. She said there would absolutely be an arrest unless one of her supervisors stopped the process.
"I asked who that supervisor would be.
"You know who my supervisor is," Gillum writes Eshbach told him. "It's Tom Corbett."
"She was right: I did know: I knew that he was the same Tom Corbett who was running for governor."
'Eshbach promised there would be an arrest unless one of her supervisors stopped the process. She said her supervisor was Tom Corbett'
March 2010 rolled around and Gillum writes that he expected an arrest by the middle of the month, "as Jonelle promised."
But no arrest came. Gillum writes he tried "relentlessly" to call and email Deputy AG Eshbach, with no response.
Eshbach finally called back to say the second grand jury didn't feel Aaron's testimony had been strong enough to make an arrest.
I'll note, however, that the prosecutors control the grand jury, which can, and often does, as the saying goes, indict a ham sandwich.
It is the attorney general (Corbett) who approves the charging document, called in Pennsylvania the presentment, not the grand jury.
In fact, Gillum writes, Eshbach telephoned again in the last week of March, 2010 to say "the arrest was further delayed. She sounded uneasy as she explained that there was no reason other than that her presentment summarizing the evidence from the grand jury still had to be approved by her boss. There it is again: Tom Corbett, the guy at the highest level, running for governor."
False promises were "piling up," Gillum recounts. "I couldn't help but feel that (Eshbach) was putting me off, that she was talking out of both sides of her mouth. She had a situation on her hands, hands that were very much tied, and my gut said that Corbett was ultimately the one holding this up."
By way of corroborating Gillum's account, as I wrote last January, Deputy AG Eshbach told her fellow employees in the AG's office that, "Tom didn't want to do it."
Corbett was the obstacle here, everyone agrees. Not the cops. Not Eshbach. Not the grand jury. Not the evidence. Not the law.
Tom Corbett was obstructing the course of justice, and ignoring the safety and well-being of kids, to help win his governor's election.
Candidate Corbett continued to refuse to bring charges. The governor's election was now six months away.
Candidate Corbett instead busied himself by raking in contributions from Second Mile directors, Penn State alums, and others, even while he loudly prosecuted his political enemies in the "Bonusgate" case.
Gillum, for his part, repeatedly and in no uncertain terms lays the blame squarely at the feet of candidate Tom Corbett. He writes that Deputy AG Eshbach repeatedly told him that Corbett was holding up and dragging out the case.
'I was convinced that Corbett felt that arresting Sandusky would interfere with his chances of being elected governor.'
In June 2010, Gillum writes, he was in Harrisburg for a psychological association meeting, and he used the opportunity to drop by Eshbach's office in Strawberry Square because "she wasn't returning my phone calls again."
"I just charged in there," Gillum bluntly recounts. "And I had done some research. Until I did my digging, I really didn't know any facts about Corbett and his relationship with the Second Mile and Penn State. I was now far better schooled in the Penn State culture and Corbett's affiliations.
"Corbett was a former member of the Penn State board of trustees, and I firmly believe that as he waged his campaign for governor he was afraid to alienate Penn State fans and alumni -- all of whom were his voters, constituents, and campaign donors. I was convinced that Corbett felt that arresting Sandusky would interfere with his chances of being elected; it seemed to me that justice for a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Jerry Sandusky was being put on a back burner."
By August 2010, nearing the general election, Aaron was badly depressed, Gillum writes. Aaron was hospitalized with panic attacks and could barely breathe. Disillusioned and in pain, Aaron began to consider suicide.
It was about two months before the general election.
The case, Gillum notes with no surprise, didn't really get going until November 2010, after Corbett's election as governor.
It was now almost two years since Aaron had filed his complaint.
What finally got the AG's office off the stick to prosecute the case? Gillum provides a few tantalizing clues.
Gillum writes that by this time, mid-August 2010, he was repeatedly calling Deputy AG Eshbach, who still wasn't returning his calls. Finally Eshbach called back to say, again, that her "hands were tied."
Gillum told Deputy AG Eshbach that they'd given up on the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. They would now contact the FBI, he informed her. Sandusky had transported Aaron across state lines to Maryland, which should give the feds jurisdiction, Gillum reasoned.
Eshbach asked Gillum to give her twenty-four hours to get back to him. But she called back the next day to say nothing had changed: "They had no arrest date. It was still up to Corbett."
So Dawn, Aaron's Mom, picked up the phone and angrily reported the mess to the FBI office in Philadelphia. She told a FBI agent that Attorney General Tom Corbett was dragging his feet with the child abuse case because he was running for governor, Gillum writes.
In other words, Tom Corbett was obstructing justice for personal political gain.
But the FBI refused to do anything. The agent told Dawn that the bureau couldn't get involved while the state attorney general sandbagged the case.
Things meanwhile got worse with Aaron. In late October 2010, Aaron lost control of his car and drove into a tree, almost killing himself. The state police examined the car, fearing tampering.
Aaron, suicidal and fearing for his life, "was getting angrier by the day at the attorney general's office," writes Gillum.
"I hardly thought it was a coincidence that after Election Day, November 2, 2010, when Tom Corbett won his campaign for governor of Pennsylvania, we suddenly heard that witnesses were coming forward," Gillum reports.
Still, the stalled case dragged on. By this time, late 2010, Gillum writes, narcotics Agent Sassano was "now a key player."
But, rather than arrest Sandusky, the AG's office called Aaron to yet another grand jury, this time on April 11, 2011.
"Think about it," Gillum writes. "Aaron first appeared in my office in November 2008. Not only was there another grand jury, now the jurors were different. The terms of the last thirty jurors expired and this was a brand-new group of people who wanted to hear testimony. Aaron had to take it from the top again."
"When Aaron heard that he had to testify in front of an entirely new grand jury, he hit a real low... He felt betrayed, completely let down, all but abandoned."
'Corbett may not have wanted to publish the grand jury's presentment, but that didn't stop him or his cohorts from leaking facts to the media about victimized kids'
At the April 11, 2010 grand jury appearance in Harrisburg's Strawberry Square, Aaron feared being confronted by a mob of reporters.
They suspected the media knew that Aaron had been called to testify at the supposedly secret proceeding. The prosecutors, the cops, or both, obviously were leaking to the press. (This recalls the "arrests by news conference" favored by Corbett in his run for governor.)
(During Sandusky's trial, inexperienced Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim was made to stipulate in court that she had visited potential witnesses and passed out contact numbers for AG office investigators. An odd job for a reporter, to be sure.)
"There was a definite leak somewhere," Gillum writes, asking the obvious questions. "Aaron's name must've been leaked -- but by whom? If the reporter was Ganim, who was her source and where was the leak?"
Corbett may not have wanted to publish the grand jury's presentment, but that didn't stop him or his cohorts from leaking facts about victimized kids.
The corporate press and Corbett's staff were in bed with each other.
Aaron meanwhile had no one but his mom, and Gillum.
Following the April 2011 grand jury appearance, and with Corbett safely in the governor's mansion, Gillum writes that Deputy AG Eshbach informed him there would finally be a task-force of six attorney general office agents as well as state police officers dedicated to the case.
"I wanted to ask her why Corbett had dragged his feet but I knew the obvious answer," Gillum writes. "Now that Corbett was governor and there was no risk antagonizing anyone who might have interfered with his election, there was a whole new mindset in the attorney general's office."
Gillum adds, "suffice it to say that there was a huge credibility gap between me and Jonelle at that point. I'd believe an arrest when it happened."
But, of course, nothing happened.
"By three months later, come August 2011, I'd had it," the psychologist writes.
Gillum demanded a meeting with Corbett's appointed replacement, interim AG Linda Kelly. Deputy AG Eshbach countered that that wasn't possible, and instead arranged a meeting in Strawberry Square with Aaron, his mom, Gillum, and an intermediary supervisor in the AG's office, Frank Fina.
The three were picked up in a van with blackened windows and driven to "a secret building" inside AG headquarters in Strawberry Square, called by staff The Crystal Palace, to meet Fina in his office.
Outside, they couldn't help noticing, in Strawberry Square, the place was overrun by reporters who'd obviously been tipped off by someone connected with the AG's office.
"This time the media presence outside was obvious," Gillum writes. "So much for secrets. Reporters were hanging around ready to pounce."
The meeting with Fina lasted three hours. Also attending was Eshbach, and narcotics Agent Sassano.
But, "It was the same old song and dance. ...I demanded an arrest date. Fina was getting steamed, too."
Gillum, exasperated, threatened to go to the media. Problem was, since he'd been subpoenaed to appear before the first grand jury with Aaron two years earlier, Gillum feared he'd be arrested for breaking grand jury secrecy rules, and lose his license to practice. The irony then would be that he'd be arrested by the AG's office, and not Sandusky.
Gillum grippingly describes what happened next in the meeting with Eshbach, Fina and narcotics Agent Sassano:
"Dawn said that she could go to the media, and then I said that they were all just covering their butts again at Aaron's expense. The kid is going to end up dying from all this, so what's the point of your task force and investigation?
"That was when Aaron stood up. Until that moment, he was just sitting there, seemingly taking it all in. Now he looked them all in the eye and said, 'I'm out.'
"Aaron looked them all in the eye and said, 'I'm out.'"
"They sang like a chorus: 'What do you mean?'
"'That's it,' Aaron said. 'I'm not going to be your witness anymore.'"
"In that moment, Aaron went from frightened little boy to a young man with incredible courage."
Fina was "pissed off," Gillum recounts, but said that Sandusky would be arrested by "the end of the year."
Aaron Fisher had stood up to Jerry Sandusky, and now he was standing up to the governor of Pennsylvania, and the politicized attorney general's staff.
Three months later, in November 2011, Jerry Sandusky would finally be arrested.
Several months earlier, in the summer of 2011, Gov. Corbett had approved a $3 million state grant to Sandusky's Second Mile Charity.
Now, only days after Sandusky's arrest, Gov. Tom Corbett responded by loudly forcing the resignation of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, saying that Paterno had not done enough, quickly enough, to help victims like Aaron.
As I mentioned, agents working for the attorney general's office for years have called the executive office in Strawberry Square "The Crystal Palace."
He who live in glass house: Strawberry Square in Harrisburg, headquarters of the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, also called The Crystal Palace by AG office investigators
Why was that? I recently asked.
"It's from the phrase, 'He who lives in glass house shouldn't throw stones.'"
The suspicion has long been that many towns plagued by endemic political corruption -- towns like State College, York, Hershey, Wilkes-Barre, and Harrisburg -- would collapse like a condemned building should anyone take a serious look past the facade.
A town gone bad is a rickety thing.
One uncovered corrupt player and practice leads to more, and more, until the whole town and its way of life are exposed.
Questions would begin to be asked. How had this gone on for years? What sort of political environment allows these sorts of activities to persist?
In a town gone bad, to knock the down the door means the whole rotten structure might collapse. As we now see.
The fear at the AG's office for years has been that such a loud collapse would cause a political backlash against the attorney general, the political establishment, the courts, and other compromised state agencies and politicians who'd tolerated the corruption for years. As we now see.
So, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" has been the unwritten creed in The Crystal Palace, and with AG office staff.
For years the state attorney general simply sat in The Crystal Palace, collecting complaints like Fisher's, but doing nothing. That was business as usual.
Until Aaron Fisher came along.
In Silent No More, a 15-year-old kid not only takes out Jerry Sandusky, but also the governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, and the business-as-usual staff of The Crystal Palace.
Silent No More, for all these reasons and more, is an amazing book, with a vital message.
It's the sort of book that, a decade ago, would never have been written, let alone published.
I suspect that, in the past, before the rise of the Internet, this trio of first-person writers would never have been allowed to write, let alone publish, this book. They would have been tightly owned, and edited, by some newspaper hack or publisher trying to control the story. Their story would have been told in some one else's voice. Thankfully, not now. Not this time.
That's not to say the book is perfect.
Children and Youth Services psychologist Gillum at times seems to wear his own set of blinders.
He writes, for example, that, at one point, his boss at CYS "discontinued CYS's informal relationship with the Second Mile."
For years, state and local Children and Youth agencies (and local schools) referred kids to Sandusky's charity. Thousands of kids, I'm told, were referred to predator Sandusky by these agencies. Not much mention of that is made in Silent No More.
Gillum wonders if Aaron may have received better or speedier justice had he been born to wealth. The implication is that only the poor kids are "at-risk" kids. But all children are at risk today in Pennsylvania. Family courts are big business for Pennsylvania's lawyers.
Gillum nonetheless puts his finger on something important.
Cops, courts and prosecutors "don't follow psychological recommendations on how to deal with children," he writes.
That, in my experience, is precisely the problem.
We've come, at the end of the twentieth century, to a time of great scientific advances and understandings of brain chemistry and human behavior, yet our backward courts time and again endanger children by playing political boss, ignoring sound science, and modern medicine.
So what about Aaron Fisher?
Aaron makes clear he's no longer "Victim 1."
"My name is Aaron," he writes. "I am the boy they used to call Victim 1."
On the road to his healing, he writes, "I didn't want to be known as a victim, because I wasn't one anymore."
And that, among other reasons, I suppose, is why Fisher's remarkable book has received a relatively muted and even dismissive response so far from the corporate media.
For one thing, Silent No More lingers hardly at all on the abuse suffered by Aaron at the hands of Sandusky, but consumes hundreds of pages on the obvious political corruption in the state AG's office.
For another reason, corporate media love victims. They love photos and videos of crying helpless victims. They're not interested in legal papers.
Nor are they much interested in a town's, or a state's, descent into the twilight darkness of all-out political corruption, as we see here.
After all, the corporate media stood idly by while these communities, over the decades, slid into unspeakable corruption. They certainly don't want culpability for that now.
A little-discussed sad fact is that the hundreds of media representatives who descended into Bellefonte to cover Jerry Sandusky's sex abuse trial are not coming out in such numbers to cover the related corruption trials of Penn State officials.
"Why is that?" I asked one NBC TV crewmember at a sparsely attended hearing for Penn State officials in Harrisburg.
"There are no victims," he whispers at me. "We really need shots of the kids, and they're not at this trial."
Aaron Fisher makes plain he is not just Silent No More: he's also a victim no more.
As it should be.
Auschwitz survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude."
Fisher's attitude is that he chooses not to be a victim anymore.
Who then is author Aaron Fisher?
He's a good athlete. He likes to run track, and says he wants someday to be a cop, to really protect others. A catcher in the rye.
"I have a lot of plans, backup plans, and dreams. I'm going to chase my dreams, and all the nightmares be damned," he writes.
I'm reminded of the Kipling poem:
"If you can keep your head when all about are you are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too ...
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!
So if one day you happen to meet a Pennsylvanian named Aaron Fisher, look him square in the eye, and shake his hand.
You will be shaking the hand of a real man.
-- Bill Keisling
Posted November 20, 2012
This review, in slightly different form, was oringally published in Newslanc.
No Sanctuary: In a Pennsylvania county where a 7-year-old Russian boy recently died, officials and judges often ignore serious mental illnesses and don't heed the sound advice of doctors or psychologists
Keisling v. Renn: Ignored federal court complaint
Want to know more? Read these Yardbird bestsellers about Pennsylvania attorneys general:
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We All Fall Down A Chronicle of an Impeachment Foretold: "In We All Fall Down, writer William Keisling tells the story of the impeachment of Pennsylvania state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, a once-popular Pittsburgh jurist. Larsen is prosecuted by corrupt Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernie Preate, shortly before AG Preate's own conviction on federal mail fraud and corruption charges. Keisling's account suggests that Larsen's impeachment was a blemish on democracy that should concern all Americans. Keisling describes the breakdown of nearly every democratic institution in the state that cradled American democracy."
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