Sandusky seeking new trial
BELLEFONTE – The attorney who led the defense in Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse trial last year testified Thursday there was not enough time to prepare his case and asked that Sandusky be granted a new trial.
Attorney Joseph Amendola of State College said that the defense team received more than 12,000 pages of documents from the attorney general, from the grand jury that recommended charges against Sandusky and from subpoenas issued to various agencies.
In addition, the defense received many computer disks and hard drives that had to be reviewed.
In Centre County Court, Amendola testified that the defense asked for at least three continuances to more thoroughly study the material, but the requests were denied by Senior Judge John M. Cleland, who was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to preside over the trial.
Amendola said he reviewed the material but didn’t have time to analyze and undertake follow-up investigations.
As the June trial date approached, Amendola and his co-counsel, Karl Rominger, asked to be released as Sandusky’s attorneys because they were allegedly not prepared. Cleland refused that request also.
In an unusual move Thursday, Amendola took the witness stand to testify about the tough time the defense was having as the trial approached.
He was questioned by a new member of his team, attorney Norris Gelman of Philadelphia, who then argued to Cleland that the lack of time sent Amendola and Rominger blindly into the courtroom to try the sexual abuse cases that Sandusky faced.
Under cross-examination from the chief prosecutor in the Sandusky case, Joseph McGettigan, Amendola said since the trial, he has been able to study all of the documents and wouldn’t have altered the defense strategy or his cross-examination of Sandusky’s many victims who testified last June.
He agreed with McGettigan’s conclusion that most of the material he had to review was not relevant to the criminal charges.
That admission, however, didn’t take the wind from the defense argument. Gelman told Cleland that a suspect going to trial “has a right to counsel who is prepared. When a vast amount of material comes in at the 11th hour, your ability to prepare suffers and suffers greatly.”
He said the defense’s inability to review all the material was a “structural” defect, meaning it was a violation of Sandusky’s Constitutional right to counsel.
Cleland pointed out that time has shown that Sandusky did not suffer prejudice, and he questioned whether the defense argument was strong enough to warrant a new trial.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, who helped to prosecute Sandusky, stated after the 90-minute hearing that Sandusky did not suffer prejudice and he said that the defense Sandusky received was “very professional, well thought out,” and that Amendola was a “legal technician who knew how to cross-examine.”
Fina and Amendola said that Cleland will most likely rule on the request for a new trial within 30 days.
Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years at the State Correctional Institution at Greene.
He was brought into the courtroom by Centre County sheriff’s deputies. He was wearing a red Centre County Correctional Facility jumpsuit with a winter coat issued by the state correctional institution.
Attorney Tom Kline of Philadelphia, who represents Victim 5, one of the young boys whom Sandusky molested, said Sandusky is a changed man after six months in prison.
He said Sandusky on Thursday looked “gaunt and frail and very thin.”
He remembered when Sandusky was first arrested in November 2011, he was physically stocky with a thick neck for someone in his 60s. He said that Sandusky appeared Thursday “inanimate” in that he barely moved.
Amendola disagreed with Kline’s description, pointing out Sandusky exercises an hour a day in prison. He agreed Sandusky did appear thinner after months in prison.
Sandusky smiled a great deal when first brought in the courtroom, and waved to his wife, Dottie, and others. As the hearing began, he paid rapt attention, barely moving and placing his right hand on his chin as if concentrating.
Gelman presented several issues to the judge beyond the argument that the defense lacked time to prepare for the trial.
He complained that Cleland did not provide an instruction telling the jury to consider that the lack of prompt reporting of the sexual abuse by Sandusky’s victims was a factor it could consider in weighing their credibility.
During the trial, Cleland refused such an instruction because child abuse is a crime that is often not reported by children until many years after the event.
The failure to give that instruction “can be devastating [to the defense],” Gelman retorted.
He pointed out that Sandusky’s victims waited for up to 14 years to report his abuse – well into their adult years.
Cleland responded that the lack of prompt reporting may be relevant in some cases but questioned if it was relevant in the Sandusky case.
Gelman said the relevancy should have been a question for the jury.
Fina answered that argument by stating it was not relevant in Sandusky’s case because the stories told by the young victims – all adults now – turned out to be “shockingly similar.”
Another issue was McGettigan’s statement during his closing argument, pointing out Amendola permitted Sandusky to be interviewed by sports broadcaster Bob Costas.
Gelman argued that McGettigan’s statement was meant to sway the jury, by noting Sandusky did not testify during his trial.
This implication, if true, would violate Sandusky’s right to a fair trial because a suspect has the right to remain silent.
Fina replied that the statement was simply about the Costas interview, of which portions were aired during the Sandusky trial.
The defense also complained that it was unable to use a jury consultant because of Cleland’s failure to grant a delay in jury selection, and that it was unable to use the professional services of a sexual behavior expert from Johns Hopkins Hospital because he didn’t have time to review the material.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.