In July, when Jerry Sandusky knew a grand jury was investigating charges he had sexually assaulted boys, the former Penn State football defensive coordinator issued a dinner invitation to two young men who were subsequently identified as victims by the grand jury.
The lawyer for one of those invited, a man who is named as Victim 6 in the grand jury presentment, said the dinner given by Mr. Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, raises questions about the conduct of the former coach who has been charged with 40 counts of sexual assault. The grand jury said in its presentment that the victims were boys involved with The Second Mile, a charity founded by Mr. Sandusky, during the 15-year period the assaults are said to have occurred.
The dinner was billed as a Second Mile reunion, according to Howard A. Janet, the lawyer for Victim 6, but only his client and a man named as Victim 2 in the grand jury presentment were there.
"Was it an effort to tamper with these kids?" said Mr. Janet. "And if it wasn't an effort to tamper with their testimony, then was it an effort to use the fact they attended this dinner for the very purpose his lawyer is now attempting to use it -- to influence the public, to influence the jury pool?"
Joseph Amendola, Mr. Sandusky's lawyer, contested that characterization.
"Jerry had no idea witnesses #6 and #2 had been questioned by investigators related to the [grand jury] when he and Dottie decided to have dinner with them at a local restaurant last July," Mr. Amendola said in an email response to a Post-Gazette query about the dinner. "Jerry says he, Dottie and 2 maintained regular contact socially once 2 returned to this area last May."
There was no discussion of the grand jury investigation, according to Mr. Amendola.
"Dottie and Jerry both say their dinner meeting with 2 and 6 was totally social in nature and was pleasant. Neither of them had any knowledge 2 or 6 had been or were going to be questioned by GJ investigators, and no one even mentioned the GJ investigation during their dinner meeting," Mr. Amendola wrote in the email.
Mr. Janet declined to say whether he thinks Mr. Sandusky's continued contact with the young men after he knew he was being investigated rises to the level of witness tampering or another criminal offense.
Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the state attorney general, could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Mr. Janet said that after his client received Mr. Sandusky's invitation, he immediately contacted the police. He said he was too nervous to wear the electronic surveillance wire they offered, but reported back to them about what was discussed at the dinner.
According to the grand jury presentment, Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, witnessed Mr. Sandusky raping Victim 2 in a Penn State football locker room shower in 2002, when the boy was about 10. Mr. McQueary testified before the grand jury that he later reported it to Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who has been fired.
In 1998, according to the presentment, Mr. Sandusky showered with Victim 6 and bear-hugged him from behind while naked. Although Mr. Sandusky admitted to his behavior and admitted it was wrong when interviewed by an investigator from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and by a detective for the University Police, then-district attorney Ray Gricar declined to press charges and the public welfare department took no action,
Six other boys also were sexually assaulted, according to the grand jury, and a ninth came forward after the allegations became public. A 10th has filed a civil suit against Mr. Sandusky, Penn State and The Second Mile, alleging more than 100 incidents of sexual abuse at Penn State facilities, at the Sandusky home and during bowl game trips.
Second Mile officials have said the organization took steps to keep Mr. Sandusky away from children beginning in 2008. Efforts to contact Second Mile about whether it knew of the July dinner with the two young men were unsuccessful.
Two other people named as victims by the grand jury also have had voluntary contact with Mr. Sandusky in recent years, according to Mr. Amendola.
To Mr. Janet, ongoing voluntary contact by some neither bolsters Mr. Sandusky's claim of innocence nor reveals anything about his alleged victims' view of him.
It's obscene, he said, to suggest that the young men who attended the dinner in July -- a dinner they thought would be a reunion of their friends from The Second Mile -- provides any support to his claim of innocence. Sexual predators, like other abusive people, are successful in abusing their victims precisely because they are skilled manipulators who can maintain control over the relationship, Mr. Janet said.
That manipulation doesn't necessarily stop once the crime is reported, he said.
"How often does that battered wife stay with that husband? How often does a child abused by a parent stay in that family?"
Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: 412-263-1719 or email@example.com .