Sandusky lawyers raise appeal issue on timing
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) – Jerry Sandusky’s lawyers said they tried to quit at the start of jury selection in his child sex abuse trial because they weren’t given enough time to prepare, raising an argument on the trial’s speed that could become the thrust of an appeal.
And one of the jurors who convicted Sandusky of 45 child sex abuse counts said Saturday he was swayed by the “very convincing” testimony of eight accusers who said the retired Penn State assistant football coach molested them for years.
“It’s hard to judge character on the stand, because you don’t know these kids,” juror Joshua Harper told NBC’s “Today” show. “But most were very credible – I would say all.”
A day after Sandusky’s conviction, his lawyers disclosed Saturday they felt too unprepared to adequately defend him because of how quickly the case was brought to trial. Experts have said the seven months between Sandusky’s November arrest and trial was fast-paced by Pennsylvania standards.
“We told the trial court, the Superior Court and the Supreme Court we were not prepared to proceed to trial in June due to numerous issues, and we asked to withdraw from the case for those reasons,” attorney Joe Amendola told The Associated Press.
The issues included a scheduling conflict with a defense team member and the need to read a cache of documents produced by a lengthy grand jury investigation. Judge John Cleland denied their request.
The attorneys raised other issues that could be part of the future appeal, saying a mistrial was sought and denied over a repetition at trial of a brief part of a November interview Sandusky had with NBC’s Bob Costas.
Jurors in the two-week trial convicted Sandusky of 45 of the 48 counts against him, meaning Sandusky, 68, likely will die in prison.
Harper said the accusers who testified one by one of horrific abuse at Sandusky’s hands were each believable, “but then also the fact that we saw this corroborating story between all of them. It was very convincing.”
Then Sandusky’s impassive face when the verdict was read was confirmation for the jury, he said.
“I looked at him during the reading of the verdict and just the look on his face. No real emotion,” he said, “because he knew it was true.”
Harper said jurors had some issues with the testimony of Mike McQueary, a then-assistant who said he saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers in 2001; jurors acquitted Sandusky on one count relating to the incident.
The case is poised to move to an investigation of university officials’ role in reporting the charges; two ex-school administrators face trial on charges they didn’t properly report McQueary’s account of the suspected abuse in 2001.
Almost immediately after the verdict, Penn State President Rodney Erickson signaled an openness to quickly settle potential civil lawsuits arising from the convictions, saying the school “wants to provide a forum where the university can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims.”
The university recently reported a $1.8 billion endowment. But both sides have reasons not to want to go to court, said Jason Kutulakis, a Harrisburg-area lawyer who specializes in child welfare and juvenile law. Victims are reluctant to get on the stand and have their credibility attacked, he said.
But “Penn State’s got so much egg on their face, they probably just want to make it all go away,” he said.
For now, the school is facing one lawsuit from an accuser, Travis Weaver, who was not among those represented in the criminal case against Sandusky.
Lawyers for McQueary, who testified against Sandusky, have signaled their intent to sue, along with a lawyer for one accuser, so-called Victim 5.
Jeff Anderson, who represents Weaver, said that he represents more victims of Sandusky’s and that he will ask the court to allow him to begin seeking information from Penn State in Weaver’s case.
The next step is to determine the extent of Penn State’s culpability, lawyers say. In part, that means finding out who in the university’s upper ranks knew Sandusky was preying on boys and could have stopped it.
The former Penn State officials facing charges, athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz, are charged with lying to a grand jury about what they knew of a 2001 incident in which McQueary said he saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in a football team shower.
A separate investigation by ex-FBI director Louis Freeh, who was hired by Penn State’s board of trustees to investigate the university’s handling of the Sandusky allegations, is due later this summer.
Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno was fired for a failure of leadership for not going to the police after McQueary told him about that incident. The scandal also caused the departure of university president Graham Spanier.
Philadelphia-based lawyer Fortunato Perri Jr., who followed the trial, said the jury’s dismissal of the charge involving the 2001 shower incident could help Curley and Schultz’ defense.
“You’ve now had a jury kind of preview your case with respect to the credibility of McQueary, and they didn’t believe him,” Perri said. “Who knows if the next jury would believe him or not believe him?”
But the administrators’ attorneys would probably be precluded from introducing the acquittal evidence at the separate trial, Perri said.
Sandusky’s sentencing is expected to occur in about three months; an exact date hasn’t been set. Because of the severity of the charges and mandatory minimum sentences, he faces an effective life sentence.
Until his next court date, Sandusky is one of 272 inmates at the Centre County Correctional Facility, seven miles from the Penn State campus. He was kept under watch overnight and is allowed access to some personal items including a prayer book, and can get visits from family, friends and attorneys.
Rominger said he planned to visit him on Sunday.
GENARO C. ARMAS and MARK SCOLFORO
Associated Press Writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.
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