Six on stand in defense of Sandusky
Senior deputy attorney general and lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan, left, and deputy attorney general Frank Fina enter the Centre County Courthouse on Monday.
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BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- David Brent Pasquinelli testified that he agreed to help raise money for The Second Mile, the agency for troubled children founded by former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, because "it was a good cause."
"I've always been a sucker for good causes," said Mr. Pasquinelli, a political consultant testifying on Mr. Sandusky's behalf on Monday. "I did it on the basis of Jerry's reputation in the community. Jerry was a local hero."
With an office next to Mr. Sandusky's at the charity's headquarters in State College, Mr. Pasquinelli said he saw him interact with children. "I saw a mutual admiration between The Second Mile youth, boys and girls, with Jerry. I saw a lot of goofing around. Jerry had a very unique way and many of us were inspired by this, how he could relate to youth of all ages and get to their level and communicate."
Mr. Pasquinelli was one of six witnesses called by the defense in the trial of Mr. Sandusky, who is charged with 51 counts of sexual abuse of children over a span of 15 years. The prosecution has accused him of using the charity to meet, befriend and ultimately abuse 10 boys.
The case shrank a little on Monday as prosecutors withdrew one count, unlawful contact with a minor. Testimony in the case showed that the incident occurred before the statute defining the offense became law in 1997.
Senior McKean County Common Pleas Judge John M. Cleland rejected a defense motion to dismiss other charges as the state attorney general's office completed its case.
The 21st and final witness was the mother of a boy the state calls Victim 9, who said she was initially gratified in 2005 when Mr. Sandusky introduced himself and said he would like to spend time with the boy, then 12 or 13 and a participant in The Second Mile's summer camp.
"He was Jerry Sandusky. He was a very important person," the woman testified. Her son spent weekends at the Sandusky home for about four years and received athletic gear and other gifts from him, she said. But over time he grew reluctant to continue having Mr. Sandusky pick him up to spend time with him.
"I'd make him go anyway," the woman said. "Several times?" asked the prosecutor, Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan. "Yes," came her reply, uttered with a sigh.
She recalled going to the Sandusky house late one night after the boy called and said he was sick. He was waiting at the curb for her, wearing no shoes. Later she began to notice behavior changes. In addition to stomach problems and difficulty in using the bathroom, "he just started slacking off, not caring about his school work. He started to isolate himself," she testified.
And there was his laundry, she said. "I always wondered why he never had any underwear in the laundry. He'd say he had an accident and threw them out."
The boy was placed in contact with authorities after the initial set of charges against Mr. Sandusky was made public. His allegations were later added to the case. But before that, his mother said, Mr. Sandusky, in late-night calls to the boy, asked him to give an affidavit or statement attesting to Mr. Sandusky's character. "Why would he call my kid after he was being accused of this?" she asked.
Breaking into tears, she said she never tried to find out exactly what had happened to her son at the Sandusky residence, and when Mr. McGettigan asked if she felt responsible, she said, "Yes, I do."
The prosecution rested, and when it was defense lawyer Joe Amendola's turn, his first group of witnesses included two former Penn State assistant football coaches and others who testified about Mr. Sandusky's reputation before the charges became known. While saying he was well-regarded as a football coach and for his work with children, the witnesses did not appear to poke any serious holes in the prosecution's case.
Former coach Richard Anderson testified at length about how busy things are during the football season, with meetings, practices, team meals and more meetings. The inference was that there wasn't much spare time for the sort of extracurricular activities that prosecutors say Mr. Sandusky used as a prelude to sexual abuse. If jurors drew that inference, the prosecution moved quickly to try to erase it on cross-examination, reshowing a series of photographs of Mr. Sandusky and Second Mile children at out-of-town football games and at Toftrees resort, where Penn State footballers stayed the night before home games.
"Jerry did bring various kids to bowl games," said Mr. Anderson, who played and coached at Penn State with Mr. Sandusky. "It was common for him to involve Second Mile kids in a lot of these activities."
Mr. McGettigan asked Mr. Anderson if he ever brought young boys to Toftrees on the nights before games. He said no but said he would have considered doing so "if there was a need for special support in some way, emotional support." Would he sleep in the same hotel room as the boy, as prosecutors have accused Mr. Sandusky of doing?
"Would I do that? If necessary," Mr. Anderson insisted.
Mr. Anderson said it was "not uncommon" for Mr. Sandusky to shower with Second Mile children after workouts and said he didn't consider that inappropriate. Mentioning YMCA programs, he said he showers alongside children "all the time. Still do."
Now sparring with the witness, Mr. McGettigan asked Mr. Anderson if he had ever been prohibited from bringing boys to the Penn State campus.
Did he know Mr. Sandusky had been?
"Are you surprised?"
The other former assistant who testified, Booker T. Brooks Jr., also defended the practice of grown men showering with boys after workouts or other athletic activities. "You go into your local YMCA, you're going to see people of many different ages showering at the same time," he said. As a youngster in Akron, Ohio, at YMCA summer camps, "I showered with adult men who were not relatives of mine all the time," Mr. Brooks said.
He described Mr. Sandusky's reputation as "exemplary" and "top-notch."
Brett Witmer, a second-grade teacher in the Bellefonte Area School District, said that he knew one of the accusers, identified as Victim 4, when the boy was participating in The Second Mile's programs.
"Jerry seemed to be an important part of his life," Mr. Witmer testified, saying the youngster was excited about the opportunities to interact with the Penn State football team.
Judge Cleland recessed the trial early, telling jurors he needed to meet with the lawyers about unspecified "technical issues" with upcoming witnesses. He said he expected the defense to complete its case by midday Wednesday, and that closing arguments, his final legal instructions to the jury and the start of deliberations could occur on Thursday.
First Published June 19, 2012 12:00 am