Rich Hofmann: Nice-guy defense won't work for Sandusky

A few nice words about Jerry Sandusky aren't likely to lead to an acquittal. DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A few nice words about Jerry Sandusky aren't likely to lead to an acquittal. DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: June 20, 2012

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — After four days of searing testimony from eight alleged victims, as well as witnesses to two other alleged sexual assaults, Jerry Sandusky's attorneys have begun the task of defending the former Penn State football coach. If Monday is any indication, they are wasting everyone's time.

We heard from two former Penn State assistant coaches who have known Sandusky since the 1960s. Dick Anderson and Booker Brooks both stated that Sandusky had an impeccable reputation — you know, before this — and that in their world of athletics and YMCAs, men showering with children is not uncommon.

Of course, when asked if he had ever hugged a boy in a shower, Anderson said, "I did not."

Other people testified. Six minutes for an Iraq War veteran in a wheelchair who said that, beginning more than 20 years ago, he attended camps organized by Second Mile, the charity started by Sandusky, and that he visited Sandusky's home about five times. Five minutes for a Penn State professor who authenticated an application form for a golf-mentorship program that one of the alleged victims signed. Ten minutes for a political consultant who worked on fundraising for Second Mile. Nine minutes for a schoolteacher and former Second Mile counselor.

For the most part, there was acknowledgment of Sandusky's stellar reputation in his work with children — you know, before this.

David Pasquinelli, the political consultant, said: "I saw a mutual admiration between Second Mile youth, boys and girls, with Jerry. I saw a lot of goofing around. Jerry had a very unique way — many of us were inspired by this — how he could relate to youth of all ages, get to their level and communicate."

They were very nice words. How they related to 51 specific charges (one charge was dropped Monday) involving 10 alleged victims was not obvious. What is coming next is not obvious, either. Judge John Cleland unexpectedly recessed the trial just before 2 p.m. Monday because, as he told the jury, "there are some technical issues that we have to resolve regarding some other witnesses."

The judge said that he anticipates the defense will rest by Wednesday at noon, and that he expects to charge the jury and send them off to what will be sequestered deliberations on Thursday. It is all happening very quickly now. Four main questions remain:

Will the defense pursue the claim that Sandusky suffers from something called histrionic personality disorder? Because if it does, the prosecution will be able to offer, as a rebuttal witness, the prosecutor's psychiatrist, who reportedly spoke with Sandusky on Sunday. That rebuttal testimony could be devastating.

Will there be an attempt to diminish the testimony of Mike McQueary, the Penn State assistant coach who said that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a university shower in 2001? And will it be done by attempting to call former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier to the stand?

Will Sandusky's wife, Dottie, testify? She has been absent from the trial because she has been identified as a potential witness. More than one alleged victim says she was in the house when Sandusky assaulted them. One said that he screamed from the basement but that she did not respond. Another said she walked into a hotel room while her husband and the boy were in the bathroom together.

Finally, will Sandusky take the stand? His attorney, Joseph Amendola, suggested during his opening statement to the jury that Sandusky would testify, but the wording was subtle. The Associated Press reported that Sandusky refused to answer, simply staring, when asked a shouted question about testifying after the trial recessed Monday.

That last question is the only question, really. After the prosecution's disturbing, emotional case, all of the character witnesses in the world will not convince this jury that Sandusky is innocent. Neither will his wife. But to put Sandusky on the stand is to invite disaster. He is a terribly inept advocate for himself, as was proved when Amendola put him out in the media in the months before the trial.

His NBC interview with Bob Costas is the gift that keeps on giving to the prosecution, which has already played clips for the jury. On Monday, it was reported that these Sandusky quotes were among those edited out of the original NBC report:

" ... Many more young people who would come forward and say that my methods and — and what I had done for them made a very positive impact on their life. And I didn't go around seeking out every young person for sexual needs that I've helped. There are many that I didn't have — I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."

There could be more clips for the jury being prepared. If you think that reads badly for Sandusky, imagine what it would sound like coming out of his mouth. Now imagine him under the pressure of cross-examination, answering the specific allegations for hour after hour: Tickle Monster, blowing raspberries on their bellies, squeezing their legs, the creepy love letters, what McQueary saw, what the janitor saw, the basement, the sauna, the showers, the hotels, the 10 separate victims.

Imagine.

The charge to the jury cannot come soon enough.


Contact Rich Hofmann at hofmanr@phillynews.com, read his blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich, or follow @theidlerich on Twitter. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/RichHofmann.

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