Nation's eyes focused on Sandusky hearing
On Monday, television crews film the exterior of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, site of today's Sandusky hearing.
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A walk along the downtown streets Monday revealed that it was anything but a typical day. Television trucks from as far away as Arizona lined the roadways. Wooden police road barriers were piled up on street corners waiting to be set up.
And in the grass patch called the Diamond that sits in front of the Centre County Courthouse, orange and white spray paint marked where each broadcast outlet would be allowed to set up its cameras -- trained on the comings and goings from inside Courtroom No. 1.
The preliminary hearing in the child sexual abuse scandal involving former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is scheduled to get under way at 8:30 this morning.
The story has captivated public interest and generated national headlines in the 5 1/2 weeks since a grand jury reported its findings against Mr. Sandusky.
"This Sandusky thing is all over the world," said Carol Walker, owner of the Victorian Rose, a store located near the courthouse on South Allegheny Street that specializes in Christmas gifts and home decor. "It's going to bring a lot of attention to Bellefonte.
"I just hope it brings good attention because Bellefonte is such a nice community to live in, and I want it to stay that way."
At 6 p.m. Monday, police closed two stretches of downtown to traffic to reserve parking for media. Twenty-nine satellite trucks are expected.
According to the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, there were approximately 200 media requests for credentials, including 80 from newspaper reporters and 120 from broadcast outlets.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts received almost 1,400 requests from members of the public to get seats inside the courtroom. A lottery awarded 100 seats.
Bellefonte, a borough of 6,187 people, is located about 12 miles northeast of the Penn State campus in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania.
"We're not used to something like this around here," said Endi Lu, whose family has owned the Bellefonte Wok restaurant, next to the Victorian Rose, for more than 20 years. "Normally, if we have murders or homicide cases, we have a couple satellite trucks out front.
"But not nearly as many as we have now. And they have never closed the streets before out front. This is kind of surreal."
Some local businesses were hoping to take advantage of the huge influx of people.
The Bellefonte Dairy Queen, directly across the street from the courthouse, was passing out fliers Monday afternoon, offering a free small cone as well as a special breakfast menu of doughnuts, bagels, juice and coffee beginning at 6:30 this morning.
And Mr. Lu expects Bellefonte Wok to be especially busy today.
"The normal turnover for a customer is 20 to 25 minutes," Mr. Lu said. "I think it's going to take a lot longer than that [today], but we will work as quickly as we can."
The nearby Bellefonte YMCA on West High Street has opted to close for the day. Ms. Walker is not sure if the Victorian Rose will attract much business at all.
"I'm not happy about all this," she said. "We're here all year long. It's our busy time of the year. It's just one big media frenzy here."
Mr. Sandusky, 67, faces 52 criminal counts of sexual abuse against young boys from 1994 to 2009.
The fallout from the Sandusky scandal cost Hall of Fame football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier their jobs four days after the grand jury presentment was returned last month.
Athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz, who oversaw the university's police department, were charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury that investigated Mr. Sandusky.
Mr. Curley remains on administrative leave and Mr. Schultz has retired. Their preliminary hearing is set for Friday in the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg.
Today's hearing is expected to include the testimony of a number of the boys -- many of whom now are young men -- who accused Mr. Sandusky of abuse. Although it is expected to be lengthy, the hearing should conclude today.
The community continues to talk about what it sees as a cover-up, which has damaged the image of the state's flagship university.
"There are just a couple individuals who have ruined Penn State's reputation," Mr. Lu said. "At the same time, there are a lot of locals here who are loyal to Penn State and are going to support the university no matter what happens."
"I'm saddened by the whole thing," Ms. Walker added. "I think a lot has been covered up that shouldn't have been covered up. And if it would have been exposed when it happened, it never would have come to this day."
First Published December 13, 2011 12:00 am