Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach sentenced to prison for 30 to 60 years, asked a court to throw out his conviction for child sexual abuse.
Prosecutors failed to produce enough evidence to support their claims against Sandusky and there was insufficient time to prepare for the case, defense attorney Norris Gelman told Judge John Cleland during a hearing yesterday in state court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
Sandusky, who will turn 69 on Jan. 26, was transported from prison for the proceedings. He was found guilty in June by a jury of abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period and convicted on 45 counts. He was sentenced in October and will serve at least three decades in prison before he’s considered for parole.
The abuse took place at Sandusky’s home and various locations on Penn State’s campus in State College, Pennsylvania, including a football locker room. During a two-week trial in June, prosecutors portrayed Sandusky as a serial child molester who used a charity he founded to recruit victims, befriending them with gifts, trips to Penn State football games and money.
Sandusky’s trial team lacked the time to prepare for the case after prosecutors turned over a “vast amount” of documents in the months leading up to the trial, Gelman said. The defense has argued in court filings that Cleland’s denial of Sandusky’s requests to delay the trial interfered with his constitutional rights.
Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s lead trial attorney, testified yesterday that he received more than 12,000 pages of so-called discovery documents from prosecutors from January to May 2012. Amendola, who is now a consultant in the case, said under cross- examination by lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan that he wouldn’t have altered his trial strategy even with more time.
“So what’s the prejudice? What’s the harm?” Cleland asked Gelman.
Sandusky was brought to the 90-minute hearing from a maximum-security state prison in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, almost 200 miles from Bellefonte. He looked frail in a red prison jumpsuit and had little interaction with his attorneys. His wife, Dottie, sat in the front row on a bench with one of his sons and two other people.
Cleland didn’t indicate when he would issue a ruling in the case. McGettigan said after the hearing that he expected a decision in about a month.
The defense “was grasping at straws,” McGettigan said. “It was something they had to do but as the hearing reflected their points had no merit.”
The Sandusky case tarnished Penn State’s image and a university-commissioned investigation concluded that a “culture of reverence” for the school football led officials to coverup allegations against the coach.
Sandusky played and coached under Joe Paterno, Penn State’s legendary head football coach, for more than 30 years before retiring in 1999. Prosecutors began investigating allegations against him in early 2009 but didn’t file charges until November 2011, almost three years after the probe began.
Paterno, who died in January 2012, and former Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired as a result of the case and the school was sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Spanier and two other school officials also face criminal charges tied to a 2001 abuse allegation against Sandusky.
The NCAA fined the school $60 million for its failure to prevent the abuse less than two weeks after an investigation found evidence of a coverup among top school officials including Paterno. That fine was the subject of a lawsuit last week by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett who accused the NCAA of overstepping its authority.
The case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Sandusky, CP-14-2422-CR-2011, Court of Common Pleas, Centre County, Pennsylvania (Bellefonte).
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