Sandusky jury could get case Thursday, judge says

Posted: June 19, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Friends and former colleagues described Jerry Sandusky as a "local hero" and an exemplary role model as his lawyers began presenting his defense against child sex-abuse charges Monday.

With prosecutors resting their case and Sandusky's attorneys moving through their first witnesses at a fast clip, Judge John M. Cleland estimated that jurors could begin their deliberations as soon as Thursday. They will be sequestered once those discussions begin, he said.

That announcement overshadowed what was otherwise a subdued day in Centre County Court as lawyers for the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach tried to counter prosecution claims of serial sexual abuse.

Sandusky, 68, has denied charges that over 15 years he molested 10 boys he met through the Second Mile, a charity he founded for underprivileged youths.

His attorneys left many questions surrounding their side of the case unanswered Monday, chief among them whether their client would take the stand.

Instead, lawyer Joseph Amendola called a string of character witnesses, all of whom spoke of Sandusky's high profile in the community and sterling reputation before his arrest last year. None spoke specifically to any of the allegations, including claims that he molested boys in Penn State locker-room showers.

"I saw a mutual admiration between Second Mile youth and Jerry," said David Pasquinelli, a State College political strategist who volunteered with the charity. "Jerry had a unique way — and a lot of us were inspired by this — of getting to youth of all ages down at their level."

Booker Brooks, a retired Penn State assistant football coach who played with Sandusky in college and later worked with him on the team, described Sandusky's reputation as "exemplary, top-notch."

Another former colleague, offensive coach Dick Anderson, said that given the job's demanding schedule, he found it unlikely that anyone involved in the university's football program would have time for the afternoon racquetball games and outings with children several of Sandusky's accusers described.

"Our schedule was pretty tenuous — Jerry's more than most, being the defensive coordinator and having a national name," he said.

Asked whether they thought it unusual for coaches to shower with younger boys, both men said they often bathed with men of all ages at Penn State's athletic facilities and their local gyms. Anderson said he had often seen Second Mile boys in the team locker rooms showering with Sandusky and thought nothing of it.

Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan was quick to pounce on that answer.

"If someone took your grandson into a shower and hugged him naked, you're saying you wouldn't have a problem with that?" he asked Brooks.

"Well, no," Brooks responded. "If it happened like that, I would."

Also Monday, Sandusky's lawyers issued subpoenas to several of the lawyers representing the accusers in civil cases.

The documents asked for any fee schedules worked out between alleged victims and their lawyers and any communications the lawyers had had with reporters.

"You think that given the gravity of the charges and the barrage of testimony last week, that the defense would be focused on things other than serving a subpoena to counsel," said Thomas Kline, a Philadelphia lawyer representing the man identified as Victim 5.

Before the start of the defense case Monday, prosecutors withdrew one of the 52 counts against Sandusky, saying the law upon which it was based was not passed until a year after the alleged abuse. Cleland also denied another request from the former coach's lawyers to dismiss all charges.

But while Sandusky's wife, Dottie; an adopted son; and family members of the revered former head football coach Joe Paterno were named as potential defense witnesses on a list shown to jurors before the trial, none was called to the stand Monday.

The day's most compelling testimony came from one final prosecution witness: the mother of an 18-year-old identified in court filings as Victim 9.

Her son testified Thursday that for four years he endured oral and anal rape almost every week while sleeping over at Sandusky's State College home.

But after encouraging his relationship with Sandusky for years, the boy's mother told jurors Monday she could not bring herself now to talk to her son about his alleged abuse.

"I just can't imagine," she said, her composure crumbling on the witness stand.

"Do you feel a little responsible?" McGettigan asked.

She replied: "Yes, I do."

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

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