Sandusky prosecution seeks to move trial

Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State football coach.
Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State football coach.
Posted: February 01, 2012

Overwhelming pretrial publicity and Pennsylvania State University's linchpin role in Centre County will make it impossible to impanel an impartial jury in the case against Jerry Sandusky, state prosecutors said.

In a motion filed Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan urged a judge to seek out-of-county jurors for the former assistant football coach's child sex abuse trial.

"The university and Centre County are inextricably intertwined both philosophically and economically," he wrote. "Prospective jurors . . . would face a Gordian Knot of conscious and even subconscious conflicts and difficulties."

Sandusky's attorney vowed to fight the move.

"We feel there's no better place than Centre County from which to select fair-minded individuals to sit as jurors in Jerry's case," lawyer Joseph Amendola said Tuesday in an e-mail.

The state's argument poses an unusual role reversal. Typically, defense lawyers are the ones to argue that pretrial publicity has harmed their clients' chance at a fair trial.

But as McGettigan noted in court filings, the media scrutiny surrounding the Sandusky case has no "analogue or peer within the history of this Commonwealth."

He compared the publicity to that in cases against industrialists Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie in the early 1900s.

"The complete saturation of the Centre County community by coverage of this matter and, indeed, the unique nature of that community itself requires the jury be selected from another county," he wrote.

His motion comes a week after tens of thousands of mourners turned out for the funeral of Joe Paterno, the university's longtime football coach who was fired in November for what administrators deemed an inadequate response to allegations involving Sandusky.

While 42 percent of respondents to a national survey last week supported Paterno's dismissal, according to data collected by the Seton Hall Sports Poll, the vast majority of those attending three days of public mourning events last week in State College remained harshly critical of university trustees.

That tension exemplifies the unique relationship the community has to Penn State, McGettigan said.

Common Pleas Court Judge John M. Cleland is expected to rule on the state's motion on Feb. 10, at which he will also consider a modification to Sandusky's bail conditions.

Amendola has asked the court to allow the former coach access to his 11 grandchildren as long as at least one parent is there to supervise. Sandusky is confined to his home and is prevented from having contact with anyone younger than 18.

Also Tuesday, prosecutors said they would hand over the names of the 10 alleged victims to Sandusky's defense by Friday.

Sandusky, who served as defensive coordinator under Paterno, stands accused of molesting at least 10 boys he met through a charity for underprivileged children. According to a grand jury presentment unsealed in November, many of the alleged incidents of abuse occurred on the Penn State campus.

University athletic director Tim Curley and a former vice president Gary Schultz have also been charged with lying under oath about their knowledge of allegations against the former coach.

All three men have entered "not guilty" pleas.


Contact staff writer Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

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