Sandusky case headed to trial
Jerry Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, arrive Tuesday at the Centre County Courthouse for his preliminary hearing.
News crews linger on the lawn of the Centre County Courthouse after Jerry Sandusky waived his preliminary hearing.
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- It was the most highly anticipated court hearing in Pennsylvania in years.
And then it wasn't.
In a move that surprised almost everyone, three minutes after it started, the court appearance for former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in a child sex abuse case was over.
He waived his preliminary hearing Tuesday morning before Senior Magisterial District Judge Robert E. Scott, moving his criminal case to Centre County Common Pleas Court.
Mr. Sandusky, who appeared to be dazed and overwhelmed as he entered the courtroom, quickly exited from the rear of the building, accompanied by his wife, Dottie, and his attorney, Joseph Amendola.
He addressed reporters briefly before he got into his attorney's BMW sport-utility vehicle.
He again reasserted his innocence.
"We fully intend to put together the best possible defense and stay the course for four full quarters," he said.
The next date scheduled in the case is Jan. 11 -- Mr. Sandusky's formal arraignment, although Mr. Amendola said his client will not attend.
In a wide-ranging media appearance that lasted nearly an hour in sub-freezing temperatures, Mr. Amendola described his client as being "depressed and overwhelmed."
Since the charges were filed, media have been ever-present outside his home.
"If Jerry Sandusky is innocent, maybe he's being victimized," Mr. Amendola said.
The defense lawyer called the decision to waive the hearing a "tactical measure," which was reached late Monday after what he described as the first "meaningful discussions" with prosecutors with the state attorney general's office.
"It had nothing to do with cowardice or gamesmanship," said Mr. Amendola, who was flanked by Cumberland County attorney Karl Rominger, who recently joined the case. "We knew no matter which way we went there'd be fallout."
The payoff in waiving, his lawyer said, is that prosecutors now will provide to the defense evidence in the case more quickly than the required 30 days from the date of the arraignment. The prosecution also agreed that in the event that new charges are filed against Mr. Sandusky, the attorney general's office has agreed not to ask for any increase in bond. He remains free on home electronic monitoring after posting a $250,000 bond.
The attorney general's office said it is an ongoing investigation.
In the weeks since Mr. Sandusky was charged Nov. 5, his attorney has repeatedly insisted that he would not waive the preliminary hearing.
However, Mr. Amendola said it was clear to him in speaking with prosecutors that they would object to his questioning the credibility of witnesses during Tuesday's hearing, which he said was most important to the defense since he would not have been permitted to call his own witnesses.
"It would have left us the worst of all worlds," Mr. Amendola said, referring to the re-airing of all the alleged victim accounts on the national news at the conclusion of the hearing.
The prosecution planned to call about 11 witnesses, including several alleged victims who had already testified before the grand jury.
Ben Andreozzi, a civil attorney who represents the person identified as Victim No. 4 in the presentment, read a statement he said his client scrawled on a legal pad shortly after the hearing.
"I can't believe they put us through this until the last second to waive the hearing," the young man wrote. "Nothing has changed, and I still will stand my ground and speak the truth."
He described it as "the most difficult time of his life," and that it has affected him both "physically and mentally."
Standing off to the sides of the speakers, a handful of activists stood quietly, holding homemade signs with the words, "Protect Kids Now."
"I hope to stand in support of the victims and let them know they are not alone," said Matthias Conaty, founder of the Delaware-based Child Victims Voice.
Mr. Amendola, who anticipates a trial date in late summer or fall of 2012, spent much of his time speaking with the media addressing witness credibility. He focused particularly on Mike McQueary, whose believability, the attorney said, was "in grave issue."
Mr. McQueary, an assistant football coach who is on leave, told the grand jury that he saw Mr. Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a locker room shower in 2002.
Mr. Amendola reiterated the timeline from the grand jury presentment, which states that Mr. McQueary went to former football coach Joe Paterno the next day and told him what he saw in the locker room. The incident was later relayed to athletic director Tim Curley and now retired university vice president Gary Schultz, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Amendola described those three as "good men [who] care about kids," saying it would be "naive" to think they would not have taken stronger action if Mr. Sandusky had been sexually abusing boys.
Mr. Amendola was critical of the several versions that have been reported of how Mr. McQueary described what he witnessed to Mr. Paterno.
"What's his motive? I don't know. We'll find out. But we didn't need to find out today because we have enough inconsistencies at this point to totally wipe him off our case," Mr. Amendola said. "He was the commonwealth's centerpiece. To the extent that we destroy his credibility, I think we put everybody else's credibility into question in this case."
What he thinks will strengthen his case is that several of the alleged victims have already retained civil attorneys.
"What greater motivation could there be [than] to say, 'I'm a victim,' than money?" Mr. Amendola asked.
"The commonwealth has a big job to do."
Michael Boni, the civil attorney who represents the person identified as Victim No. 1, said his client was prepared to testify Tuesday, despite the stress associated with it.
He saw the waiver of the hearing as a possible signal in the case.
"I hope it's an indicator a plea deal is down the road, but I have no knowledge if that's the case," Mr. Boni said.
Mr. Amendola later said that there have been no plea negotiations, nor will there be.
"This will be a fight to the death," he said. "This is the fight of Jerry Sandusky's life. ...
"This is the game of his life."
First Published December 14, 2011 12:00 am