Sandusky victims, identified in court, now named in online transcripts despite attorneys' protests
Attorneys for a number of the victims testifying against former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky said they were displeased with the court's decision to release the trial's transcripts on the Centre County website, complete with the victims' full names as they were read in court.
Senior Judge John M. Cleland, who was specially assigned to Mr. Sandusky's trial, had already denied a pretrial request from several of the victims asking to testify using pseudonyms, which attorneys now say was the gateway to the posting of unredacted transcripts.
In the same June 4 order, however, Judge Cleland said the court and counsel would "cooperate when possible to protect the privacy of all witnesses."
For their attorneys, the court's posting of transcripts last month reflected an unnecessary hit to their clients' privacy. The lawyers said it had no positive public purpose and, if anything, would hamper victims from coming forward in the future.
"I was blindsided by the fact those transcripts were posted with the names not redacted," said attorney Jeffrey P. Fritz, who is part of a legal team representing the man known as Victim 4.
The attorneys could not say it was common practice to redact transcripts in rape trials, but were adamant that, if there ever were an exceptional case to protect a victim, this was the one.
Mr. Fritz added that he has worked on at least a dozen cases in which some party, whether it was the state or private attorneys for the victims, made a motion to use pseudonyms in the transcripts and only once did the court reject it.
None had been as closely followed as Commonwealth v. Sandusky.
"No case has ever been followed this closely in human history," Mr. Fritz said.
Apparently, at least one attorney tried to get the court to take the records down.
When the court posted the transcripts two weeks ago, on Sept. 21, State College-based attorney Justine Andronici telephoned in, according to a court spokesman.
Jim Koval, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, said Ms. Andronici requested a court administrator ask Judge Cleland if he would take the transcripts offline until the following Monday, when she could file a motion.
Judge Cleland, according to Mr. Koval, declined to pull the unredacted transcripts in lieu of the motion, apparently because he had already ruled on the anonymity issue in the aforementioned pretrial order.
Ms. Andronici, who is part of a legal team representing a number of Mr. Sandusky's accusers, including some who testified at trial, declined to comment for this story.
Ms. Andronici's team includes Philadelphia plaintiffs attorney Matthew Casey of Ross Feller Casey, who said the jury's guilty verdict on 45 counts of sex abuse is even more a reason why Mr. Sandusky's accusers should be able to remain anonymous.
"Back in June, there was a trial yet to take place," Mr. Casey said. "Today, in contrast, they are proven victims. The jury has found them, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be victims of sexual abuse."
Attorney Michael J. Boni, who is part of a legal team representing the man known as Victim 1, was also nonplussed.
"I don't know why," Mr. Boni said. "I don't know what the motivation is for this judge, but he insisted on it ... I'm just baffled by the judge's decision."
Two attorneys specializing in criminal law, however, said the court never promised anonymity to the witnesses, while noting the strong policy against tampering with a trial's transcript in any fashion.
Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Michael J. Engle said he has encountered cases, albeit rarely, in which a victim has been allowed to testify using a pseudonym. Accordingly, the transcripts have followed suit.
But once the victim's name is aired in open court, Mr. Engle said, the victim's expectation of privacy, to a certain extent, is lost.
"The need to redact the transcripts at that point goes out the window," Mr. Engle said.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as with the Legal Intelligencer and most media outlets covering this and similar trials, does not publish the names of rape or sexual abuse victims.