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Sandusky’s resentencing hearing scheduled

Former PSU coach to appear in court May 17

When Jerry Sandusky’s Williamsport attorney in early April filed a federal appeal of his conviction and 30-year minimum prison sentence for the sexual abuse of young boys, it was recommended by a U.S. magistrate judge that the petition be dismissed because Sandusky’s sentencing in Centre County had not been completed.

That situation is about to be corrected, according to a representative of the Centre County Office of Court Administration, who indicated Thursday that Sandusky is scheduled for a resentencing hearing on the morning of May 17.

The hearing was ordered almost a year ago by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which upheld his conviction on 45 counts related to child sexual abuse incidents involving several young boys.

The appeals court, however, ordered his case returned to Centre County for a resentencing hearing because of questions surrounding a restitution order of $95,047 imposed by Judge Maureen A. Skerda of Warren County, who was presiding over his sentencing hearing on Nov. 30, 2019.

The Superior Court order questioning restitution in the Sandusky case was issued on May 13, 2021.

In early April, Sandusky’s current attorney, Edward J. Rymsza, filed a federal petition in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania challenging Sandusky’s convictions and the 30- to 60-year sentence that was initially imposed after his 2012 trial.

Skerda was appointed to resentence Sandusky in 2019 because the former Penn State assistant football coach had been subject to several mandatory sentences that were declared unconstitutional following a 2012 U.S. Supreme court decision.

In his recent federal petition, Sandusky and his defense attorney seek a new trial based on a variety of issues including ineffective trial counsel and prosecutorial error.

Just three days after the filing of the federal petition, Magisterial District Judge Joseph F. Saporito in Williamsport recommended that it should be dismissed because it was prematurely filed.

The magistrate judge stated that federal appeals cannot proceed until all issues in the state court are settled, and, as he pointed out, Sandusky’s sentence had been vacated based on the restitution question.

Rymsza objected to the dismissal recommendation, asking that the case be put on hold until resentencing could occur.

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Malachy E. Mannion rejected the magistrate judge’s recommendation that the Sandusky petition be dismissed.

Instead, the district judge ordered the petition be stayed, or held in abeyance, pending Sandusky’s resentencing.

The defense attorney, in arguing for a stay instead of dismissal, cited prior decisions in which federal cases were stayed when filed prematurely.

The Superior Court in referring the restitution issue for review, he explained, was only concerned about a “ministerial issue” and not Sandusky’s conviction and 30- to 60-year prison sentence, which the defense was challenging.

Mannion went a step further in his analysis, pointing out that the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act has a one-year time period for a state inmate to file a petition for federal review of his case.

The judge raised the question — based on a 2019 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia — whether the time deadline for the part of the Superior Court decision that upheld Sandusky’s long prison sentence would begin to run upon the issuance of the state court decision even though the restitution question remained outstanding.

“Accordingly, based upon (3rd Circuit case law) and out of an abundance of caution … the court will grant the petitioner’s request to stay his (federal appeal) and hold it in abeyance until after he is sentenced, and it will not dismiss the petition without prejudice as recommended,” Mannion wrote.

“In short, (Sandusky’s) claims regarding his counts of conviction and prison sentence may be exhausted even though he is to be resentenced on the restitution that was also imposed as part of his sentence,” the federal judge concluded.

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