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Alleged Sandusky Victim Presses for Felony Charges in Court Hearing

by on October 22, 2015 2:20 PM
Bellefonte, PA

An alleged sexual abuse victim wants Jerry Sandusky to stand trial for a host of new felonies, but first he has to convince the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General to file charges.

Attorneys for Anthony Spinelli met with OAG staffers in a Centre County courtroom on Thursday morning, where both sides pleaded their case in front of President Judge Thomas Kistler.

Spinelli is appealing the OAG's decision to deny a criminal complaint against Sandusky that Spinelli first tried to file in 2011.

The question isn’t whether or not the OAG buys into Spinelli’s allegations that Sandusky sexually abused him in June of 1988 at a Penn State football camp. The question is whether the OAG is legally able to file charges within the statute of limitations.

Daniel Kiss, an attorney for the 43-year-old alleged Sandusky victim, told Judge Kistler the statute of limitations for sexual abuse has been updated several times since the alleged 1988 assault, opening the door for the OAG to file charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, corruption of minors and misdemeanor indecent assault.

Laura Ditka, an attorney with the OAG who has “made a career out of prosecuting sex abuse cases, and [is] very sympathetic to the plight of abuse victims,” disagrees. She said the statute of limitations has expired, and that Kiss’ arguments to the contrary are based on a misunderstanding of state law.

The issue is complicated by the fact there is no established precedent on this issue in Pennsylvania law.

“This is a very difficult and convoluted issue,” Kiss told reporters after the hearing. “This is novel ground with almost no case law, so the court definitely has its hands full.”

Kiss argued in front of Judge Kistler that there have been several changes to Pennsylvania law that extended the statute of limitations until next year. The crux of his argument hinges on a specific piece of law that allows victims to press charges within a longer window if their abuser was a public employee.

Kiss argued that Sandusky, who remained a professor emeritus with a Penn State office until 2011, should be considered a public employee until his arrest, meaning there’s still room to file charges from the alleged 1988 assault.

But Ditka argued that Kiss is stretching the public employee exception past what’s written in the law, essentially trying to apply it twice to the statute of limitations on Spinelli’s case.

Judge Kistler said he would review the arguments, as well as a vaguely similar case involving the statute of limitations on a fraud committed by a public official, before making his decision. If he rules in Spinelli’s favor, the case would go back to the OAG to press charges and move forward.

“Legally, the issue here is about the statute of limitations, but really, it’s more than that,” Kiss said after the hearing. “What we have here is a victim who had to stand up for himself to try to get the justice that’s promised in our criminal justice system.”



Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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