BELLEFONTE - The emotion of the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse case spilled from the courtroom Friday to the spacious grounds outside the Centre County Courthouse with Sandusky himself defending his requests to have visits with his grandchildren and permission to take his dog into his backyard.
Sandusky's six children favor visits with the retired Penn State assistant football coach, but the ex-wife of Sandusky's son, Matt, Jill Jones, opposes the visits.
Sandusky is out on bail on house arrest, and he is not permitted visitors.
Former Penn?State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, charged with sexually abusing young boys, says the only thing his grandchildren want for their birthdays is to see him. Sandusky is out on bail on house arrest, and he is not permitted visitors.
He also wants to be allowed to take his dog onto the back deck of his home on Lower Grandview Drive near State College, but neighbors and others said the sight of Sandusky frightens the children who live in the area and who attend the Lemont Elementary School, which borders the Sandusky property.
Sandusky said his wife, Dottie, comes home from visiting the grandchildren and the kids say all they want for their birthdays is visiting with him.
"I am sensitive to that," he said.
Sandusky spoke as he stood at a podium outside the courthouse after a 90-minute pretrial hearing.
"My home has been open for 27 years to all kinds of people. Hundreds of people have stayed there. I have communicated with thousands of young people over the years," he said.
He said the people who have turned on him and complained about his trips to the back deck are people who in the past visited his home with their children, attended parties there, brought their kids to ride sleds in his backyard and walked through his yard on the way to school.
He and his attorney, Joe Amendola, said he is not a danger to the children or the neighborhood.
Standing just inside the courthouse door was a young mother, Amy Lloyd, who took issue with Sandusky.
Lloyd's 7-year-old daughter attends an after-school program at the Lemont Elementary School.
She said her daughter is very concerned for her own safety because she often sees Sandusky from the school.
She knows about Sandusky. The 52 child sexual abuse charges against him have been explained to her in terms the child understands, Lloyd said.
Lloyd is one of the people who have complained about Sandusky's sojourns out of his house.
"I understand he has rights," she said.
But his rights end where the children's rights begin, she said.
The children, said Lloyd, "need to feel comfortable and safe so they can learn."
During the hearing before Senior Judge John Cleland of McKean County, Attorney General Agent Anthony Sassano said a Sandusky neighbor, Paul Kletchka, was also concerned about Sandusky's outdoor appearances.
He said Kletchka feared for Sandusky's safety, the safety of his children and the neighborhood children.
Kristy Williams who supervises as many as 36 children in the Lemont after-school program told Sassano that the children know that Sandusky is looking in their direction and it disrupts the classroom.
Cleland was asked by prosecutors Jonelle Eshbach and Joseph McGettigan, to bar Sandusky from taking his dog onto his back deck.
The judge was presented videos of Sandusky outside his home. They will be reviewed by Cleland.
The hearing involved a series of issues, from a prosecution request for an out-of-county jury to requests for discovery.
Cleland said he will quickly rule on the issues because the case is scheduled to trial by May 14.
That trial date may not be realistic in view of all the information that must be reviewed by the defense, but Amendola concluded, "If the judge says it, it is reality."
Amendola said he would like to see the judge push the trial date back a little bit. Deputy Attorney General Mark Costanza said the trial could be held in May or June.
McGettigan asked that the jury come from outside Centre County.
Stating he wanted a fair trial for both sides, McGettigan speculated that a third of the 150,000 people in Centre County are either students or faculty members of Penn State, where Sandusky worked for 33 years and has many connections.
He said other county residents had a connection to The Second Mile, the organization Sandusky founded.
Many prospective jurors also would know people who attend Penn State, the veteran prosecutor stated.
The people also know the places that will be discussed in the testimony, and many may even know Sandusky's alleged victims who are to testify, McGettigan argued.
In an unusual move, the judge asked Sandusky to take the witness stand - his first appearance under oath.
Sandusky, expressing himself with a nervous laugh at times, said it was "correct" that he wanted the jury selected from Centre County.
The key question was if he knew he was giving up his right to protest the issue. If for instance, he goes to trial and is found guilty he will not be able to request a new trial based on fact the jury came from Centre County, Cleland explained.
He said he understood the judge's explanation.
Sandusky was then asked if he was taking medication. He said he was, but he told the judge he took only the recommended dosage and that it did not undermine his ability to understand the discussion about the jury-selection process.
Amendola, speaking outside the courthouse, said there have been no plea discussions.
He said Sandusky has proclaimed his innocence since the beginning and he concluded there is no reason for people to "live in fear" of Sandusky.