Pa. court won’t hear Sandusky petition
Judicial panel refuses to address former PSU coach’s attempt to obtain new trial
The Pennsylvania Superior Court has refused to address Jerry Sandusky’s latest petition seeking a new trial because claims by the defense of newly discovered evidence were not “promptly” brought before a judge.
In an opinion issued Thursday afternoon, a three-judge panel stated that the Sandusky defense team “dithered for one-half of a year before raising these issues in a petition to this court.”
The newly discovered evidence raised by attorneys Philip D. Lauer and Alexander H. Lindsay included a diary that was kept by a member of the Louis Freeh team, the group hired by the Penn State Board of Trustees to investigate events surrounding Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of children that occurred over several years while he was on the staff of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
The report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh was critical of the handling of complaints of Sandusky’s activities by Paterno and members of Penn State’s hierarchy, including former university President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley.
Spanier, Schultz and Curley were charged criminally.
A second piece of after-discovered evidence included summaries of emails between the Attorney General’s staff and the Freeh Group, and emails related to Penn State and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Sandusky’s attorneys argued that had they known about the details of the communications, they would have altered the defense strategy used during his 2012 trial.
Sandusky, 77, was convicted of 45 charges involving the sexual abuse of 10 minor victims that occurred between 1995 and 2008.
The Superior Court opinion written by Judge Mary Jane Bowes focused on the time it took for the defense to request a retrial based on the alleged new evidence.
Bowes wrote that Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure require that a motion for a new trial based on after-discovered evidence be filed “promptly after such discovery.”
The opinion, joined by judges Judith F. Olson and Megan King, explained that the word “promptly” is open to interpretation, but it narrowed the definition to “immediately” after discovery of the evidence.
The panel cited a prior case in which a petition was filed within four days of discovery of new evidence.
In another case the petition for a new trial was filed within 24 hours.
In the Sandusky case, the defense received the diary regarding the Freeh investigation in November 2019. The email summaries were received in February 2020.
The items were reviewed by the defense in March 2020, but a motion for a new trial was not filed until May 2020.
“We are unconvinced that (the Sandusky defense) acted promptly,” the Superior Court concluded.
Because of the lack of promptness, the court stated, “Due to the nature of our holding, we do not address the merits of his (Sandusky’s) allegations.”
The Superior Court also commented on the restitution orders in the Sandusky case.
Sandusky was ordered to pay:
* $1,706 to Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program, expenses incurred for counseling and transportation for the individual known during the trial as Victim 7.
* $95,047, possibly for court costs.
But the Superior Court could not find reference in the record of the trial concerning the reasons for the $95,000 order.
The panel pointed out, “While acknowledging the depravity of (Sandusky’s) convictions, there still must be an evident causal connection between the restitution to be paid and his underlying crimes.”
The record does not show the relationship between the $95,000 and Sandusky’s crimes, so the court vacated it with instructions to return the case to Centre County for clarification.
Sandusky is serving his 30- to 60-year prison sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands in Somerset County.
Sandusky’s defense attorney could not be reached for comment.