Sandusky judge denies accusers’ bid for pseudonyms
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Alleged victims of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky will have to testify using their real names, and tweets or other electronic communications by reporters will not be permitted during the trial, the judge ruled Monday.
Meanwhile, Sandusky’s hopes for a last-minute delay in his trial on charges he sexually abused 10 boys were dashed when the state Supreme Court issued a one-paragraph order that denied a sealed motion but did not disclose the justices’ reasoning.
That sets the stage for the start of jury selection Tuesday morning at a central Pennsylvania courthouse.
Lawyers for several of the accusers had asked that their clients be allowed to testify under pseudonyms, a rarity in criminal cases. Cleland said they must use their real names, but that he and lawyers will “cooperate when possible” to protect witness privacy and personal information.
“Arguably any victim of any crime would prefer not to appear in court, not to be subjected to cross-examination, not to have his or her credibility evaluated by a jury — not to put his name and reputation at stake,” the judge wrote. “But we ask citizens to do that every day in courts across the nation.”
Media organizations, including The Associated Press, typically do not identify people without their consent who say they were sexually abused.
Sandusky, 68, faces 52 charges he abused the boys over 15 years, allegations he has repeatedly denied. He remains confined to his home as he awaits trial.
Ben Andreozzi, who represents one of the alleged victims, said the ruling won’t stop his client from testifying, but that having his name made public in open court could make it harder for him to live his life.
“It’s almost as if he’s being branded with a scarlet letter,” Andreozzi said. “This is something he may not ever be able to escape from — ‘Oh, he’s one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims.'”
Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, has argued that more time was needed to wade through information turned over by prosecutors, and to help make defense experts and witnesses available for trial. But he lost recent delay requests at the county, Superior Court and Supreme Court levels.
Cleland wrote last week that “no date for trial is ever perfect, but some dates are better than others.”
Amendola said Sandusky will be present for jury selection.
Also Monday, Cleland denied a request by Sandusky’s lawyer to order the attorney general’s office to turn over information it has collected about potential jurors. Cleland said there was not enough evidence to warrant a hearing on the matter, and noted that prosecutors have said they have only done what a diligent defense attorney would do.
“Even if the commonwealth collected the information in this case in the manner the defense asserts and which the commonwealth denies, I do not believe that the information is constitutionally required to be turned over to the defense,” Cleland wrote.
The basis for the defense request was an anonymous letter that claims to list the information prosecutors have collected. The motion itself has been sealed.
“A motion filed by counsel must be supported by allegations of fact backed up with some credible basis to believe the allegations to be true,” Cleland wrote. “Otherwise the court and counsel can be engaged in chasing chimeras.”
Cleland has not ruled on defense motions to have some or all of the charges thrown out.
Cleland previously had said he would allow electronic communication, but not photographs or the recording or broadcasting of any verbatim account of the proceedings while court is in session.
The AP and other media groups sought clarification on Friday, particularly whether verbatim quotes would violate the rules. In response, Cleland rescinded permission for any electronic communications from inside the Centre County courtroom or a media annex when court is in session.
“It is readily apparent from the allegations in the media’s motion … that the standard I applied in my definition is confusing to reporters, unworkable, and, therefore, likely unenforceable,” the judge wrote.
The rules Cleland put in place are typical for Pennsylvania trials. He noted a state criminal procedure court rule that prohibits transmission of proceedings in session by phone, radio, TV, or “advanced communication technology.”
At least 250 reporters have registered to attend the trial.