On Current Events

I try really hard not to comment on trials in the public eye.

A lot of people ask me privately what I think of specific cases that they’ve heard of on the news.

I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology. I have a law degree. I’ve spent ten years as an assistant prosecutor (even though I’m doing a different kind of job at the moment), including three years that I spent handling felonies, sex abuse, and child sex abuse. In other words, yes, I might have a bit of an informed opinion about these kinds of cases.

Even so, I try really hard not to comment about trials and investigations in the news. Even if the news media has every single detail correct (and in most cases they really do), they don’t report every single detail. They simply do not have the room, in column inches, or in video segments, to cover every nuance, every detail, every scrap of information, that a lawyer or an investigator or a police officer, or a private investigator, if one is involved, might pry out of a case file. And case files on major cases can be thick files, sometimes contained in multiple boxes and shelves. It’s just not possible to know enough about a case that I’m not handling to form an opinion over whether someone is doing something right, doing something wrong, or try to make some prediction as to the outcome of a case.

That said, Mr. Amendola, defense attorney to Jerry Sandusky, needs to apologize to every single investigator, police officer, social worker, prosecutor, or other public employee ever to work a sex abuse case.

He has blamed a “conspiracy” on the investigators and prosecutors and police and social workers, based on the hope of gaining a big payout. He’s mentioned civil suits that they “hope to cash in on.”

On what planet does a police officer or prosecutor get a cut of a civil trial brought by a private citizen? Because I’ve never heard of happening on EARTH, much less in any state in the USA. Now I’m not licensed in Pennsylvania…but I’d think that this one would be big news in public employee circles these days…since there are so many layoffs and benefit cuts in the public sector. There’s been not a whisper of this. Anywhere. Ever. You know why? Doesn’t exist.

As a matter of fact, it’s harder and harder to pay for the kinds of resources to handle these cases…in these days of budget cuts and cut backs. The Sandusky case has probably cost the people of Pennsylvania hundreds of thousands of dollars…and that’s not in making the people doing the work wealthy…it’s in court costs, security concerns, lab fees, and transcriptions. It’s in investigation hours, it’s in witness fees and jurors in seclusion. It’s in hours and hours of interviews and supplies and transportation and all the other costs I’m probably not thinking of at the moment. The resources to pay for this kind of case aren’t readily available in a state office anymore….if they ever were. And other than asking Mr. Sandusky to pay court costs, the State does not have a way to recoup this money. Those “court costs” don’t even put a dent in it.

Mr. Sandusky owes more than an apology to his victims. I can’t begin to describe what he has taken from them, and I wish them all the very best in trying to put their lives back together after this circus, after going through not just his abuse, but the microscope of coming forward. I commend your bravery, and I hope that others look at your courage and find the strength to stand up and say NO to another predator in the future.

This is not about the victims. I could spend hours, and many many words talking about my beliefs in victims’ rights, or in how such a trial can affect their lives. No judge, and no jury can unring the bell…not one of them can make this like it never happened. The hope here is that your strength and courage carries through and inspires others to speak out rather than stay silent.

Mr. Amendola on the other hand, I am speaking to you. I do not know the people involved in this case, but I have handled cases of this nature. The sheer scope of this case means late nights away from families, many times without overtime or hourly billable time, it means worrying about the victims even after they go home, lying awake at night worrying about the next step in the case, about how to protect them from the storm that they know is coming. It means sometimes having to tell a victim that they cannot go forward, even though they believe a crime occurred, because the evidence isn’t enough to prosecute, which breaks one’s heart. It means being called out of holiday gatherings to interview a victim at a hospital, it means constantly looking at the children in your life and having to draw a line between work and personal or going completely mental. These people do these jobs because they care. They aren’t getting rich. And these days, they’re handling larger case loads with lower salaries, or more expensive benefits, or fewer resources to help get it all done…because they no longer have the staff that they once did.

It means stress and worry and work and a million and one other things. Being in that role means that your job is to find the truth in the situation presented first, to act as an ethical officer of the court, to only go forward in cases that the evidence warrants, and to represent the public interest. What part of that includes getting a cut of a private civil case?

Cases like Mr. Sandusky’s are big in the media. But for the investigators and prosecutors? It means twenty hour days. It means little to no sleep. It means worrying every minute about every minute detail of everything. They don’t make any extra money for any of it.

AND THEY HAVE NO STANDING TO GET MONEY IN A CASE BROUGHT BY A PRIVATE CITIZEN FOR MONEY DAMAGES.

Mr. Amendola, I am not saying that all cops or prosecutors or lab techs or social workers are saints. What I am saying is….

(I have deleted this line so many times that if I was using pencil and eraser, I’d have long since put a hole right through the paper.)

You owe an apology so huge, I’m not even sure you are capable of making one that is adequate.

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