Sandusky's wife comes to his defense
Jerry Sandusky arrives on Tuesday at the Centre County Courthouse for the sixth day of testimony in his trial. The defense continued presenting its case.
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- On the second day of presenting its case, the defense in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse trial appeared to make headway Tuesday in its effort to discredit the allegations of some of the eight people who say Mr. Sandusky molested them as boys.
There was Dorothy "Dottie" Sandusky, the defendant's wife, testifying that one of the victims, long after the alleged abuse occurred, brought his girlfriend and newborn baby to the Sandusky home and had pleasant conversation with the couple and a friend of theirs on the deck while eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. Her testimony was corroborated by the friend, right down to the KFC.
Earlier, Megan Rash of Milesburg, another character witness who knew that accuser, testified that "he was a dishonest person and embellished stories."
There was a tape that lead defense attorney Joseph Amendola offered as evidence that police coached the same accuser, identified as Victim 4 by prosecutors, by telling him what others were saying about their encounters with Mr. Sandusky. After telling the man that nine others were alleging sex abuse including oral sex and an incident "classified as rape," a state police corporal tells the would-be accuser "we need you to tell us that this is what happened."
There was a witness who testified that the mother of another accuser, identified as Victim 1, expected to get rich in a civil lawsuit against Mr. Sandusky, and that the accuser himself expected to get a new Jeep in the process.
The degree of Mr. Amendola's success may be known fairly soon in the fast-moving trial before Senior McKean County Judge John Cleland. The defense is expected to wrap up by midday today -- whether Mr. Sandusky will take the stand remains in doubt -- and the jury could get the case sometime Thursday.
Mr. Sandusky, 68, is charged with 51 counts of sexual abuse over a 15-year span.
In her much-anticipated testimony, Dottie Sandusky denied ever seeing her husband inappropriately touch children. Speaking with a mostly steady voice with an occasional quaver, she told the jury that children frequently visited the Sandusky home, including several who are among the eight who have accused the former Penn State University assistant football coach of molesting them.
She contradicted the testimony of two accusers, one of whom said Ms. Sandusky had entered a bathroom area of a hotel room while Mr. Sandusky was trying to engage in a sex act during a trip to the Alamo Bowl football game and the other who claimed to have screamed out when Mr. Sandusky made sexual advances in a basement bedroom of his home.
She testified that the incident at the bowl game was actually an argument between Mr. Sandusky and the child over plans to go to a luncheon that was related to the game. The child had said he wanted to go but then refused after the Sanduskys bought a $50 ticket, she said. "He was yelling," she said of her husband.
She never heard a scream from the basement, she said, despite having good hearing.
She also testified about a 1998 investigation after a parent complained that Mr. Sandusky had showered with her son, a case that resulted in no charges at the time. "It was investigated. A few days later we received a letter from the state" clearing Mr. Sandusky, she said.
Ms. Sandusky testified to having a closer relationship with many of the victims than the victims described in their testimony. She was on the witness stand for less than an hour, with cross-examination lasting about 10 minutes.
She has stood by her husband of nearly 46 years, posting his bail, accompanying him to court proceedings and issuing a statement in December that proclaimed his innocence and said that accusers were making up their stories.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Amendola called state police Cpl. Scott Rossman and retired Cpl. Joseph Leiter in a bid to show jurors that investigators led the accusers to make up stories about alleged abuse. He played a tape of an April 21, 2011, interview in which Cpl. Leiter tells the man who later would become known as Victim 4 that he was not the first person interviewed, that there were nine others, and that their stories were similar.
"There's a pretty well-defined progression in the way he operated and still operates I guess to some degree," the officer said. He went on to tell the would-be accuser that in some cases, Mr. Sandusky allegedly went beyond touching or fondling children. "There have been acts of oral sex that have taken place," and an incident "classified as rape."
"I don't want you to feel ashamed because you're a victim in this whole thing. What happened happened. He took advantage of you. We need you to tell us that this is what happened. We need you to tell us as graphically as you can what took place," the corporal said.
Under questioning by the lead prosecutor, Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan, Cpl. Leiter defended his method and said he never intended to elicit anything but the truth from the interview.
Mr. Amendola also called Victim 4's civil attorney, who was present at that interview, and asked him whether a guilty verdict against Mr. Sandusky would be advantageous to him in a subsequent civil lawsuit. "We haven't even discussed filing a civil case," said Harrisburg attorney Benjamin Andreozzi.
A defense claim that Mr. Sandusky suffers from histrionic personality disorder, which causes "excessive emotionality and attention seeking," produced a bit of a sideshow in the proceedings.
Judge Cleland instructed the jurors, with agreement by the prosecution and defense, that the evidence was offered only to explain a series of letters Mr. Sandusky wrote to some of the accusers that have been described by one witness as "creepy love letters." He told them the diagnosis, by expert witness Elliot Atkins, a psychologist, was not offered to explain or excuse any other conduct. But lawyers on both sides treated the issue as a battleground. That, and the lengthy answers of Mr. Atkins, appeared to annoy the judge, who has kept the trial on a fast track.
The prosecution offered its own expert, psychiatrist John Sebastian O'Brien, who said Mr. Atkins' diagnosis was wrong. The jury learned that Mr. Atkins was getting $375 an hour to testify, and Dr. O'Brien $450 an hour. As questioning dragged on for what seemed like a peripheral issue, Judge Cleland signaled his discontent. Mr. McGettigan began to rise from his seat to object to a defense question but didn't get the word "objection" out his mouth before the judge growled out, "Sustained."
Defense witness Joshua Fravel of Lock Haven testified that the mother of the accuser known as Victim 1 boasted in 2008 that she was going to own Mr. Sandusky's house and on another said she intended to buy "a big house in the country with a white fence where her dogs can roam."
Mr. Amendola also called several more character witnesses Tuesday who said Mr. Sandusky enjoyed a strong reputation in the community.
It was Elaine Steinbacher, now residing in North Carolina but a friend of the Sanduskys for 47 years, who corroborated Ms. Sandusky's testimony that Victim 4 had visited the couple with his girlfriend and baby. She said she and Ms. Sandusky went out for KFC so the visitors would have something to eat. "It was very amicable, just a lovely afternoon," Ms. Steinbacher testified.
"We all just revere Jerry and think the world about him," she said.
"A class act," said Lance Mehl, former Penn State and National Football League linebacker, who was another character witness.
The trial is in the Centre County Courthouse and enters its seventh day today. The defense has called 24 witnesses and the prosecution 22 thus far.
Correction/Clarification: (Published June 21, 2012) The name of Joshua Fravel, a defense witness in the Jerry Sandusky trial, was misspelled in Wednesday's editions.
First Published June 20, 2012 12:00 am