December 14, 2011

Sandusky backs out

He waives hearing and forgoes facing accusers

By Mark Scolforo and Maryclaire Dale
Associated Press / December 14, 2011
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky stunned a packed courtroom when he waived a preliminary hearing at the last minute yesterday, avoiding a face-to-face confrontation with accusers who his lawyer said were just trying to cash in by making up stories of child sex abuse.
Sandusky pleaded not guilty and vowed afterward to “stay the course, to fight for four quarters.’’
His lawyer, Joe Amendola, then took the defense to the courthouse steps and spoke before dozens of news cameras for an hour, saying some of the 10 men who accuse Sandusky of molesting them as children were only out to profit from civil lawsuits against the coach and Penn State.
A prosecutor said about 11 witnesses, most of them alleged victims, were ready to testify at the hearing.
An attorney for one called Sandusky a “coward’’ for not hearing his accusers’ testimony and derided the arguments that they were out for money, saying many were too old to sue Sandusky under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.
“It makes my blood boil,’’ said Harrisburg lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who read a statement by his client, identified in a grand jury report as Victim 4, who was said to have become a fixture at one point in the Sandusky household.
“All the money in the world isn’t going to bring them back to where they were before the sexual assaults.’’
Sandusky, 67, faces 52 criminal counts for what a grand jury called a series of sexual assaults and abuse of 10 boys dating to the 1990s, in hotel swimming pools, the basement of his home in State College and in the locker room showers at Penn State, where he coached football until his retirement in 1999.
Amendola told reporters that Sandusky is an emotional, physical man - “a loving guy, an affectionate guy’’ - who never did anything illegal. The lawyer likened Sandusky’s behavior to his own Italian family in which “everybody hugged and kissed each other.’’
The lawyer accused the unidentified victims of seeking to cash in through false accusations and said the preliminary hearing would not have allowed him to delve into the witnesses’ credibility.
Amendola said he decided to waive the preliminary hearing late yesterday after concluding that the evidence would be one-sided, and after prosecutors agreed to give early warning of any further charges and to keep Sandusky’s bail at $250,000.
A spokesman for the prosecutors said Sandusky’s bail conditions were adequate.
Amendola and state prosecutors confirmed that no one had started plea bargain talks.
“There will be no plea negotiations,’’ Amendola said. “This is a fight to the death.’’
Sandusky also waived a January arraignment and requested a jury trial, his lawyer said. A pretrial conference was set for March.
“If he wants to change his mind at the last minute, that’s his prerogative,’’ senior deputy attorney general E. Marc Costanzo said.
Veteran Pittsburgh defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said waiving the hearing was not surprising - because the prosecution’s burden of proof is much lower than at trial, and because the longer a witness waits to testify, the more cynical a jury might be.

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