Sandusky subject of background investigation before sentencing
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As is typical in a criminal case, the judge who presided over the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky ordered that a pre-sentence report be completed before he metes out punishment to the man convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of children Friday in Centre County.
That means that over the next 90 days, a full background investigation of Mr. Sandusky will be completed that will likely include interviews with him, his family members, character references and the victims involved in the case.
McKean County Senior Judge John M. Cleland has not yet set a date for sentencing, but on Monday he ordered that Mr. Sandusky be evaluated by the State Sexual Offender Assessment Board to determine if he is a sexually violent predator.
Thomas Young from the Centre County probation office did not return a phone call seeking comment. However, Alan Pelton, a manager for the Allegheny County Adult Probation Department, which is not involved in the Sandusky case, explained the process.
He said the way a pre-sentence investigation is handled has nothing to do with the crimes a person has been convicted of or how high-profile the case might be.
"They're all conducted in the same manner and cover the same information," he said. "Everybody's entitled to the same privileges of the court."
Generally, a pre-sentence report can range from as few as four to five pages to as many as 30, depending on how much information is provided, Mr. Pelton said.
The report -- provided to the judge to aid in sentencing -- will include the nature of the crimes and summation of events and charges leading up to conviction.
It also will include a detailed background of Mr. Sandusky, including his education, family social history -- including that of his childhood and relationships with his parents -- his military history, employment, any mental health treatment, and relationships with his wife, children and siblings.
"It covers just about anything," Mr. Pelton said.
One of the first steps in the process is to interview the offender, although it is not mandatory that the person cooperate.
Even if the defendant does not participate in questions, Mr. Pelton said, he can provide as many references as he likes to be interviewed.
Attorneys who have been involved in pre-sentence reports in the past have mixed feelings about whether a defendant should participate in the interviews.
Criminal defense attorney Veronica Brestensky said sometimes the reports are not helpful, especially if a client has a lengthy criminal record or no history of employment.
In that case, it likely will only make the defendant look bad.
In a case like Mr. Sandusky's -- even with a stable career, family and no criminal record -- she's unsure that it will be helpful for him, either.
"I don't think that's going to be very moving in Sandusky's specific case," she said of his stable background and good reputation. "There are some crimes that are so heinous ... Sandusky's repeated history of these assaults will not bode well.
"Everybody thought Jerry Sandusky was a wonderful guy. To say he had all these good attributes does not negate or lessen what I'm guessing will be a harsh sentence."
Ms. Brestensky said if she were representing him, she would not allow Mr. Sandusky to talk about the charges against him -- only about his personal history.
"You have to be very careful. If you say the wrong thing in a pre-sentence report, you can jeopardize your appellate rights."
Daniel Konieczka, who served as a prosecutor in the Allegheny County district attorney's office for 23 years, said the pre-sentence report can be helpful to the sentencing judge because it contains a lot of detail in one place, instead of having to search through a comprehensive court file.
Still, much of the information a judge will use to reach a decision on punishment was learned during a defendant's trial, Mr. Konieczka said.
In addition, he continued, the defense will likely present its own character witnesses and information at sentencing that could offer mitigation, while the prosecution will likely present victim impact statements.
First Published June 26, 2012 12:08 am