Judge firm on June 5 Sandusky trial date

Delay rejected in sex abuse case

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The judge presiding over the sexual abuse case of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on Monday rejected a request to postpone the June 5 trial date.

McKean County Common Pleas Senior Judge John M. Cleland offered no explanation for his decision.

The move did not, however, come as a surprise, as the judge has indicated for months that he would move forward with that date for jury selection.

Mr. Sandusky was arrested in November, and additional charges were added weeks later, accusing him of molesting 10 boys during a 15-year period.

His defense attorney, Joseph Amendola, has repeatedly asked for a postponement, claiming he did not have enough time to prepare.

The two sides were still exchanging discovery a week ago, and on Friday, the attorney general's office filed a motion seeking permission to amend the complaint against Mr. Sandusky. Another pretrial hearing on any outstanding motions is scheduled for May 30.

Dave Crowley, the chief public defender in Centre County, who is not involved in the case, said the fact that the trial is being pushed through so rapidly is unfair to the defense.

"I'd be screaming bloody murder," he said. "What's the hurry?

"You say you're protecting the public, but who was protecting the public for 21/2 years while you were waiting for the [investigation]?"

John Burkoff, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who has been following the case, said everyone should want a fair trial.

"I think the judge should err on the side of making sure the defense has all the time it needs to prepare," he said. "These are very difficult charges to defend. Some of the conduct isn't entirely clear. Some of the victims haven't been identified."

Even if the trial goes forward, experts agree the speed of it will not likely give rise to any strong appellate issues.

That's because, Mr. Burkoff said, there still has to be "actual ineffective assistance of counsel."

"You have to show the shortness of time created actual ineffectiveness and actual lapses in defense counsel," he said. "And that's got to be egregious."

Mr. Crowley believes it could be a moot point, as he thinks it will be difficult to get a jury selected from Centre County.

One of the toughest factors, he said, is that Penn State is the county's largest employer, and it will be difficult to find jurors who don't work there or aren't married to someone who does.

"If I were doing the case, it would be part of my criteria," he said.

But then he continued, "The only relevant issue is the impressions people have already formed."

When he has traveled recently, as soon as people learn Mr. Crowley is from State College, they immediately talk about the Sandusky case.

"I think that's the problem. It's been talked about so much, everybody's formed an opinion."

If Judge Cleland finds during jury selection that an impartial panel cannot be seated, he has said he will seek a jury from outside Centre County to try the case. That will likely delay the proceeding by at least several weeks.

Mr. Burkoff rejected the idea that that might be a de facto delay by the judge, because he believes a Centre County jury will be selected.

"There are lots of people who have heard of these allegations vaguely but have forgotten the details," he said.

"People are living their lives. They're not all Sandusky all the time."

education - state - psusports

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published May 22, 2012 12:00 AM


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