Sandusky defense seeks new trial, cites lack of time to prepare

Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky (right) in the doorway of the Centre County Courthouse with County Sheriff Denny Nau.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky (right) in the doorway of the Centre County Courthouse with County Sheriff Denny Nau. (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Posted: January 12, 2013

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - An attorney for Jerry Sandusky told a judge Thursday that he had not had enough time to fully review thousands of pages of investigative material handed over by prosecutors in advance of his client's trial.

As result, Joseph Amendola contended, Sandusky should be granted a new trial. When pressed, he added that his posttrial review of the documents revealed nothing that would have changed his defense strategy.

"Did we look at the material? Yes," Amendola said. "We glanced over it."

His statements came as Sandusky returned to a Centre County courtroom for the first time since his sentencing last year to a minimum of 30 years in prison for the sexual abuse of 10 boys.

In seeking a new trial, Sandusky's lawyers argued that the deluge of discovery material made it impossible to fully prepare a defense for the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach in the seven months between his arrest and his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sex abuse.

Defense lawyers also pointed to other alleged trial missteps, including Judge John M. Cleland's refusal to address with jurors the years it took many victims to report their abuse and purported hearsay evidence that was presented in the case.

Throughout Thursday's 90-minute hearing, Amendola described the harried few weeks before trial as consumed with a futile effort to catalog and study an ever-growing morass of digital files, paperwork, video, and grand jury testimony provided by prosecutors.

In all, he said, the material took up more than 12,000 pages.

At one point in June, Amendola said, he and cocounsel Karl Rominger asked to be removed from the case because they did not feel prepared to provide an adequate defense. That request was denied.

"The root of the right to have counsel is to have counsel that is prepared at trial," defense lawyer Norris Gelman said. "When a vast amount of material comes in a month before, your ability to prepare is compromised."

Cleland did not rule on the defense lawyers' request Thursday. But prosecutors - and occasionally Cleland - interjected to challenge their arguments.

Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan seized upon Amendola's concession that nothing in the material would have changed the defense's approach. Later, Cleland had questions of his own.

"What was the prejudice?" the judge asked. "What was the harm? That's where I'm hung up on this one."

When Gelman questioned whether jurors inappropriately relied upon hearsay evidence to convict Sandusky on charges stemming from a 2000 sex assault witnessed by a Penn State janitor who did not testify at trial, Cleland cut in once again.

He raised the possibility that he might throw out the jury's conviction on those counts without requiring a new trial or changing the 30- to 60-year sentence he imposed in October.

Throughout Thursday's proceedings, Sandusky sat quietly in a red prison jumpsuit, his head sunk in his hands.

He bounded into the courtroom at the start of the hearing, looking significantly thinner than he had three months earlier and flashing a broad grin at a group of family members.

Contact Jeremy Roebuck

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