That talk had been fueled by a three-hour, previously unannounced meeting Tuesday that included Sandusky, his lawyer, state prosecutors and Cleland. But in open court on Wednesday, Sandusky's attorney, Joseph Amendola, spoke with the confidence of a lawyer preparing to vigorously defend his client.
Cleland, a McKean County Court judge brought in to preside over the case, noted in his order that the secrecy surrounding Tuesday's meeting was necessary to protect an ongoing grand-jury investigation on which Amendola based his request for a postponement.
"While I certainly do not doubt the sincerity of defense counsel in requesting a continuance, the reality of our system of justice is no date for trial is ever perfect, but some dates are better than others," the judge wrote.
Sandusky, 68, has denied charges that he molested 10 boys he met through his charity for underprivileged youth between 1994 and 2006.
Two of those purported victims, however, remain unknown to prosecutors. Amendola asked Cleland on Wednesday to throw out those cases because they rely primarily on hearsay evidence.
The first - involving a boy identified in court filings as "Victim 2" - has come to define the Sandusky scandal since the coach's arrest late last year.
In grand jury testimony, Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary said that in 2002, he walked in on Sandusky raping a young boy in the university's locker room showers. He later reported what he had seen to head football coach Joe Paterno but did not immediately call outside authorities. No victim in that case has come forward in the years since.
Amendola argued Wednesday that McQueary's story has changed several times since and is unreliable without corroboration. In previous testimony, a family friend, Jonathan Dranov, told grand jurors that he repeatedly asked McQueary just hours after the shower incident whether what he had seen was sexual in nature. Dranov quoted McQueary, then a graduate assistant, as saying no, according to court filings.
The second case, involving a boy identified as "Victim 8," purportedly took place six years after the episode described by McQueary. According to court documents, James Calhoun, then a Penn State janitor, told his coworkers that he spotted Sandusky in the showers performing oral sex on a boy who looked to be 11 to 13 years old.
Calhoun now suffers from dementia and is no longer able to testify, prosecutors have said. None of his coworkers on duty that night say they saw the alleged abuse but at least one reported seeing Sandusky and a boy of that age that night. Again, the boy in question has not come forward.
Prosecutors argued on Wednesday that despite those limitations, they could still prove the two alleged incidents occurred. Fina, the assistant attorney general, compared the case to a car wreck in which multiple witnesses heard the screeching tires and saw the speeding cars but only one saw the impact.
"The evidence we will produce will be equivalent to people observing the before and after" of the crash, Fina said. "It will be circumstantial evidence that can prove the event occurred."
Amendola disagreed, urging the judge to throw out counts related to those incidents before trial rather than after proceedings have begun.
"The more charges that are presented to the jury, the likelihood is that they are going to feel that something must have happened," the defense lawyer said.
Cleland did not immediately make a ruling Wednesday, but assured both sides he would decide before jury selection begins on Tuesday.
He must also rule on requests from five of Sandusky's eight known accusers, who have asked the judge's permission to take the witness stand under assumed names when they are called to testify at trial.
Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @jeremyrroebuck.