Mike Missanelli: Sandusky should have taken plea deal

Attorney Joe Amendola is defending Jerry Sandusky in the ex-coach's child-sex-abuse trial.
Attorney Joe Amendola is defending Jerry Sandusky in the ex-coach's child-sex-abuse trial. (   TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 18, 2012

If Jerry Sandusky cared anything about Penn State University and the children who once trusted him as a father figure, he would have willingly taken a judicial bullet - a plea bargain of jail and rehabilitation and reparations that would have helped all recover from another troublesome tale of the evil that some men do.

Instead, there is a trial, the details of which make us recoil. A university that has worked diligently to move past a scandal that rocked it to its core. Kids and families who cling to the hope of only being able to carry on and live normal lives are dragged down once again by this national scandal.

When self-important pundits and the princess of pious, CNN's Nancy Grace, are digging their claws into a subject, all you can feel is humiliation and shame.

The Sandusky case is like a pigeon shoot, with scattering birdshot tearing holes into the wobbly principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty.

(Full disclosure: I wrote a book about Penn State's unbeaten 1986 team and interviewed Sandusky on that subject. I didn't get any weird impressions, and I don't know him personally).

We hear the testimony of witnesses labeled "the victims" and we wonder how it's possible that the accused, Sandusky, can possibly think he can be absolved of this mess. Or how his attorney, the bombastic Joe Amendola, can even fathom fostering a line of defense that points to innocence.

Amendola is arguing that these kids, who mostly have grown into adults, are making the whole thing up and that they are motivated only by future civil suits that would bring them great wealth.

But how can this attorney expect these folks to make up such detail of their abuse? Writers can do that because that's what their imagination has been trained to do, not kids who have zealously tried to eliminate those details from their memories. Every word that comes out of these witnesses must feel like a stab wound to them. They speak with emotion-triggering tears.

You can't coach this; certainly any defense attorney worth a salt would be able to bust up that kind of a charade with sharp cross-examination. These witnesses have taken the stand, and forced to deal with their past, details have flowed from them as if a pressure valve were released.

Anyone online can find the profile of a sociopath. It tells us they are manipulative and cunning, that they never recognize the rights of others, and they see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They have a grandiose sense of self, feeling entitled to certain things as their right. They have no problem lying and can create and get caught up in a complex belief about their own powers. They don't see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims or accomplices who end up as victims. When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love or compassion, it is more feigned and usually serves an ulterior motive.

Within that profile, I believe that Sandusky truly, in his head, believes he did nothing wrong.

And that shifts the burden to the attorney he hired to defend him.

Amendola read the charges, the allegations, and the depositions. He knew what these kids were saying Sandusky did. So if Sandusky tells a different story, what's an attorney to do?

The Professional Code of Responsibility says that lawyers must give zealous representation to their clients. Once Amendola agreed to take on Sandusky as a client, he could pass no moral judgment.

Perhaps Amendola discussed the possibility with Sandusky to take a plea agreement. Perhaps the client turned him down, maintaining his innocence. At that point, a lawyer has no choice but to foster a defense - to make a motion to excuse himself from the case all but announces to the world the client's guilt.

In a legal world where the Professional Code of Responsibility also restricts lawyer advertising, make no mistake about it - at the end of the day, the Sandusky case, a high-profile, national legal spectacle, is a huge advertisement for Amendola.

But I wonder how this lawyer can possibly expect that, after hearing this kind of testimony from victims - predatory sexual allegations - a jury could possibly acquit Sandusky. Keep in mind that several members of this jury are parents, with children of their own, who might in deliberations be emotionally wrenched, imagining that it was their kids who were similarly abused.

To those who assume that Penn State-shirt-wearing jury selectees would favor Sandusky's side because of his vast service to the football program, consider that those connected in any way to Penn State are also sickened by the pall this man has cast on a proud and fine university.

Last week reports, said to have come from materials of a special investigation headed by former FBI head Louis Freeh, revealed that Graham B. Spanier, the Penn State president, questioned - along with the school's vice president and head of student affairs, Gary Schultz - whether it was "humane" to report Sandusky to outside authorities. Schultz, in fact, kept a file on Sandusky's questionable activities. And yet no one acted, a stirring reminder of how the football program under Joe Paterno was kept so sacrosanct.

Paterno is gone now. And at a time when a new president tries to repair the immense damage, when a board of trustees tries to gain back trust through a reshuffling, when a new football coach attempts to have a new program build more respected roots, the Sandusky case is here to blow everything up again.

A friend of mine covering the trial told me the other day that Sandusky, in the courtroom, has appeared oblivious as to why he is even there.

As reporters and attorneys and the accused were milling around their seats with the proceedings about to start, Sandusky turned back to several reporters.

"I guess you guys are stuck with me for the next few days," he said, incredulously attempting a quip.

Not if he had taken the legal bullet. It's just a shame.


Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic.

Contact him at mikemiss@975thefanatic.com.

We invite you to comment on this story by clicking here. Comments will be moderated.

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|