Seven months to the day after child sexual abuse charges against former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky were made public, his trial is set to start Tuesday.
If jury selection is successful, the allegations that made worldwide headlines and shook the foundation of the powerful Pennsylvania institution will soon be aired anew.
Starting Tuesday, the jury will be picked from rural Centre County, the home of Penn State, and testimony could start as early as June 11. The trial could take until the end of June to complete. If enough impartial jurors cannot be chosen, they will be selected from another county and brought to the county seat in Bellefonte, a move that would likely delay the trial by a month or more.
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State prosecutors contend Mr. Sandusky, 68, sexually abused 10 boys over a period from 1994 to 2008. The 32-year coach at Penn State and founder of The Second Mile, a charity for at-risk youth, has denied the charges. His attorney said Mr. Sandusky characterized his interactions with boys he met through the charity as "horsing around."
Mr. Sandusky's arrest and the disclosure of a grand jury report put the university under the microscope and it faced mounting criticism over its failure to report one of the purported assaults to law enforcement. That prompted the board of trustees to fire longtime football coach Joe Paterno and accept the resignation of university president Graham Spanier.
Two other officials, athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz, stepped down from their positions. Both men are charged with perjury and failing to report one of the alleged assaults to law enforcement.
The grand jury report described a wide-ranging pattern of sexual misconduct against boys whom Mr. Sandusky met through his involvement with The Second Mile. Grand jury testimony by several of his accusers outlined a pattern in which he would befriend them and then assault them repeatedly for years. Mr. Sandusky usually met his victims, the grand jury report said, in their second year at Second Mile camps at the Penn State campus, when they were 7 to 12 years old. They would often stay over at the Sandusky home, sleeping in the basement, and attend Penn State football games with him. He would then provoke sexual encounters with the boys in a basement room of his home, in Penn State locker room showers and other athletic facilities, it said.
The case, though high-profile, will likely have parallels with other child sex abuse trials, chief among them that adult witnesses may have trouble clearly remembering events from their childhoods.
Even then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, a key witness, wasn't certain of the date he says he saw Mr. Sandusky assaulting a boy in a Penn State shower, and prosecutors had to amend the charge to move the date from March 2002 to February 2001. Prosecutors have failed to track down two of the alleged victims, one of them the boy in the McQueary matter.
McKean County Senior Judge John M. Cleland last week denied defense motions to delay the trial. The judge has repeatedly dismissed other defense attempts to delay it and to have all or some of the charges dropped. Five of the eight known accusers in the case have filed motions seeking anonymity in the trial.
Judge Cleland ruled reporters may tweet and blog from the trial but are not permitted to air verbatim transcripts.
Public access to the courtroom will be limited during jury selection but when the trial starts there will be 85 seats for the public and 85 for credentialed reporters. A satellite courtroom for 100 more reporters is in the courthouse annex.
Members of the public will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis and issued admission cards good for that day only.
Tim McNulty: email@example.com or 412-263-1581. First Published June 3, 2012 4:00 AM